Unconventional and offbeat methods may be worth a try to tag a late season buck.
Certain deer hunting tactics that were once thought bizarre are regularly used today. Hunting from an elevated platform in a tree was unheard of in the 1950s and 60s. Today, a majority of deer hunters wouldn’t hunt any other way. Many hunters use a portable climbing stand, ladder, and tower blind to hunt deer.
And what about clanging a set of old deer antlers together to call in a buck? Back in our granddad’s day, hunters would have thought you were crazy to try something like that. Yet rattling and calling deer are commonplace today.
Going outside the box or against the norm of standard hunting tactics may seem strange at first. Unusual tactics may be the ticket to filling a slot on the empty buck tag. And while many deer hunters may be stuck in a rut, a few pioneering souls could be feasting on venison by season’s end. Try out these three methods for late season hunting success.
Method 1: Stay On the Move with Stand Locations
During the late season, deer (especially bucks) have patterned every hunter entering the woods. The deer know the game plan better than the hunter. A change in stand location is a step in the right direction. That old oak tree hasn’t moved a millimeter all season. A change of scenery is on the horizon.
Also, don’t pay attention to the game clock. While many deer chasers are headed in well before noon for lunch and a nap, you’re still in the game and ready to score. Stay in your stand a little longer and the hunters back at camp may just hear you cheering.
“Stay in your stand a little longer and the hunters back at camp may just hear you cheering.”
“By the late season I’ll sit in my stand until around 1:30,” comments Gene Irvin of Talladega, Ala. “I want to be in the stand when the other hunters are headed into lunch.”
Irvin says he’s not afraid to move his stand to get a better view of where the deer are moving. Oftentimes, bucks will change their travel patterns and hunters should, too. Relocating a stand 50- to 60-yards can make for a whole new outlook in seeing deer movement.
Depending on the locale, Irvin may hunt one spot a few hours in the morning and then change locations for his midday hunt. Then move to another spot to hunt until dark. Changing hunting sites regularly can increase your chances of taking a buck.
With a longer sit time in the stand, hunters may want to bring some water and snacks to help pass the time. Plan on changes in the weather and carry an extra jacket or raingear. Resist the urge to leave the stand. An old buck could appear at any time.
“Around two o’clock, I may go back for some lunch,” Irvin says. “I’ll usually hunt another area for the late afternoon hunt. The other hunters will be coming back to their stands and I want to be in place.” Generally, by late season Irvin will plan on hunting the entire day, especially during the rut.
Method 3: Now is Not the Time to Sleep in
Rainy days are not the time to cuddle down deeper in the sleeping bag. While many hunters will write off a rainy day for hunting, it can be the top time to bag a cagey old buck.
“A light-to-moderate rain is the best time to hunt,” mentions Ken Duncan, formerly of Hokes Bluff, Ala. “Deer will move out of the thickets to feed during a light rain.”
Duncan, a longtime deer hunter has taken many bucks during rain events. He says a quality rain suit or poncho is a must. He will also wear a large brimmed hat to help shed off the falling water. An extra cover may be needed to keep your gun and scope dry until ready to shoot.
While some hunters may bury up in a shooting house during rainy days, Duncan would rather hunt out of a portable climbing stand. A shooting house or blind may keep you dry, but the location may not be near where the deer are moving. Duncan likes to get in close to deer bedding areas for hunting during a rain.
“I’ll scout areas ahead of time where deer are likely to travel during rainy days,” Duncan says. “Look for creek crossings and areas close to a pine thicket or woods.” He says deer will want to get up and move around some even in the rain. Hardwoods or cutover areas adjacent to a large pine stand will have deer close. Deer will usually walk the edges and browse for food. Hunters should also watch for does, a buck can be nearby.
Hunting in the rain has several advantages. One, the rain will help dissipate scent from the hunter. Two, inadvertent noises will be dampened. Also, deer are less spooky. They have grown accustomed to leaves, limbs and tree movement during rainy days. Lower light conditions will have bucks up on their feet.
There are a few concerns when hunting in the rain. The falling water drops can cover the sounds of approaching deer. Hunters will need to remain alert in watching for deer movement. Clouds and rain can make for dark days, especially in the woods. Spotting a deer or small movements will require some diligence.
“You need to look in several directions for approaching deer,” Duncan advises. “Deer can slip in and get by you if you’re not watching.” One season Duncan tagged a big seven-point buck during a monsoon. The deer came in behind him walking the edge of a creek. The buck never knew Duncan was in the woods.
On rainy-day hunts, leave your electronics in the truck. Rangefinders, tablets and other devices have no place in the rain-soaked woods. Keep your cell phone in a watertight case or in a sealed plastic bag. Most quality scopes are water- and fog-proof and should not be a problem in the rain.
Method 3: Find Places Where No One Hunts
Whether public land or hunting lease by this late in the season, it seems every prime-looking spot has been hunted. Don’t bet on it. Many areas get overlooked every season. And there is always some hunter that may wander in and take a nice buck.
“Look for small woodlots nobody else would hunt,” Duncan says. “It doesn’t have to be a big place, just big enough to hold a deer.”
Duncan says a spot no larger than 10 acres can be enough for a buck to hide out. He once shot a good buck on a small plot of land every hunter in the club drove by. No one thought any deer would be in there. But, the buck knew no hunter ever set foot inside the tree line.
How many times have you heard of a buck being taken right across the road from deer camp? Bucks realize the patterns of hunters and oftentimes they hide right under our noses. Never underestimate where a buck might hide.
Also, Irvin says bucks don’t always go nocturnal when hunter pressure increases. They may change their patterns or movement times. But chances are they will remain close.
“I will see bucks slipping along the edge of a cutover,” Irvin says. “They’ll move along thick edges out of sight from where you think they would never walk.”
The places Duncan and Irvin are referring to are small tracts with some cover and escape routes. Late-season deer hunters wanting to fill a tag must scout carefully and look for signs. The deer sign may not be much, but it should be enough to indicate a deer is present.
Hunters should be willing to search out new and oddball places in the late season for hiding bucks. A large deadfall in a small patch of oaks can easily hide a buck. Also, abandoned farm machinery is another spot bucks may hide in plain sight.
Another area Duncan suggests is swamp areas. There is something about water that attracts bucks and swamps are usually a little thicker. One place Duncan says to look for is a spot of high ground. It may be less than a few hundred feet across, but it will be a location above the water level.
A tactic some deer hunters have tried in the past that they say works from time to time is urinating in an old buck scrape. Many hunters will disagree that human urine will alarm deer.
However, some research into deer, human and other mammal urine suggest the deer may only view human pee as that of a predator. But, it is where the predator has been, not where it is now. Also, it doesn’t bolt off every time it smells coyote, fox or bobcat urine.
Late-season hunters with blanks on their tag can’t afford to play it safe. They will need to move outside of their comfort zone and try something new for a chance to have a great day outdoors..