Late-season deer hunting separates the men from the boys. It’s cold. Deer sightings can be few and far between. Heck, it wasn’t long ago that pretending to whittle down the honey-do list was more appealing to me than shivering in a treestand.
I was one of those hunters who hung it up after the rut. But I dug deeper into deer management books. I picked the country’s best land managers’ brains and even hired one to run the farm. I also realized Georgia football hasn’t been relevant in the winter months lately. My intent was to extend the hunting season, and each year we’ve been seeing more and healthier deer around the farm during December and January.
Seeing mature deer during the late season boils down to two things: food and hunting pressure. Both require forethought. I can’t give you any tips that will pay off immediately; although, my cousin can talk your ear off about the time he supposedly shot a 12-pointer out his kitchen window in January. He claims the deer came right up the driveway to eat a pumpkin leftover from Halloween. I don’t believe him and think it’s more of an excuse to leave his Halloween decorations up year-round than his so-called “deer supplement plan.” But I don’t doubt deer will travel long and far in their search for high-quality food sources during the winter. If you can plant a menu of hardy winter plots close to protected bedding areas and have the willpower to not hunt over them until after the rut, then you will attract deer during the late season.
The work we do planting food plots in September pays off now. It’s hard for me to do a lot of back-breaking work long before I know I’ll see the value in it, so when Glenn reminds me it’s time to plant each September (he always picks the hottest day), I try to sell him on the pumpkin idea. He nixes it and we end up planting plots of high -carbohydrate and energy sources such as oats, alfalfa, chicory and clovers to complement the corn and soybeans we leave standing. It has worked, and I’m always glad we took the time to think ahead when a tag gets filled before the season closes. Now, if only I can apply this practice to anniversaries and birthdays, I’d be set.
I know guys who spend December weekends rotting in a tree simply because they want to get out of the house. They know they won’t see a deer. After all the acorns have been eaten, and the gun-season party is over—with the sounds, smells and sights that go along with it—every deer risks its life to cross the highway and hightail it off the property. I used to be one of those hopeless late-season hunters. It has been much more fun since we put a lot of stock in cold-season food sources. We’ve been seeing more deer, better retention rates and an overall healthier deer herd.
If you have any questions about our late-season management plan, ask below and I’ll do my best to pawn off Glenn Garner’s advice as my own.