Late archery season can be tough for many reasons, but seasoned hunters consider the late season to be one of the best times of the year to kill a big buck – and here’s why…
Many states kick off the early archery season in mid-September, some states even earlier. Combine two months of bowhunter presence in the woods, nine days of firearms season, and ten days of muzzleloader pressure leading into December and there’s no question the deer have felt the pressure. So how could hunting after three months of pressure equal the best time of the year to kill a big buck?
In the upper Midwest where the Winter Severity Index (WSI) is moderate to severe, deer have bigger things to worry about than a past encounter they may have had with a hunter earlier in the fall, and that’s surviving the harsh winter conditions. The WSI is a measurement designed to gauge how winter weather is affecting deer survival. A WSI rating of less than 50 is considered mild to low depending on how close to 0 it gets, whereas a WSI between 50 and 79 is moderate, and 80 to 99 is harsh, or severe.
With snow falling and temperatures plummeting, layers of ice crust over stubble fields and encapsulate the forage. When food becomes scarce so does the fat buildup on a whitetails body. Their bodies consume their own fat for energy to survive and remain mobile. While deer may not understand the science behind how energy expenditure consumes fat buildup, they are innately frugal and move as little as possible during the harsh winter months. With mobility limited to short travel and regular consumption of carbohydrates and protein required to maintain what body fat remains, hunters can capitalize on the predictability of locating deer close to food sources during the late season.
Now that you understand how cold weather spurs predictable deer movement, it’s time to make your move. The late season can be one of the most effective times of the year to utilize game cameras. Once you’ve located a food source with plenty of sign, place your camera nearby and find out what time the deer are visiting the site. Since food sources are limited during this time of the year, deer “yard up” in numbers, not because they want company and extra mouths feeding on what little food is available, but because they have little choice. Chances are once you’ve found an active food source, deer aren’t bedded too far away.
The evenings usually trump mornings as you’d be more likely to scare feeding deer as you enter your stand site in the morning. Position yourself on the edges of these active food sources in the afternoon to take advantage of predictable deer movement from bedding to food in the final hour of daylight.