Late Season Whitetail Hunting

Ted Lake

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Bowhunting whitetail deer in the late season (December and January) is by far my most enjoyable time of the archery deer season. Many times it has been the best harvests for big racks. Most of the time, I’m trying to fill my freezer with venison, but sometimes that extra bonus comes along with a big rack. Bucks are still on the lookout for that doe that did not yet mate during the first rut. Young does that were born in the early spring, can, and will actually come into estrus during the late season. This gives the bucks a second chance at being able to mate, and you as a bowhunter a second chance at harvesting a nice mature buck.

Normally I wait until a couple of weeks after the rifle season has ended and the deer have settled down to their normal behavior before I start my second archery deer hunt. I’ve noticed that during the late archery season, does are very wary of their surroundings, but the buck is still prowling around for his last chance to spread his seed to a doe who was not caught during the first rut. Hunting one of your rut stands during a calm, cold December morning can result in spotting one of your best cruisers, looking for their last chance of their rutting time.

Very often during the late archery deer season I’ve seen deer gather in cut corn fields or bean fields. I believe the reason for this is, possibly deer prefer the corn or beans left on the ground that have softened up due to absorbing moisture from the ground. After scouting where deer have been coming out of the thickets to the cut fields, I will then place my stand close to these areas. Many times I have seen deer come up to a cut field, stop and look around for a long period of time and then walk straight out to the center of the field without pausing for a second, giving you no shot at all. If you happen to see a mature buck step out into the field a couple of evenings in a row, change and place your stand near that spot. The reason for moving your stand is mature bucks do not always use the same route that the does or smaller bucks will use. Also, the mature buck will often come out to the field late in the evening. Placing your stand deeper into the woods should be considered. This may allow you to see your shooter before it becomes dark or too late.

In the Northern states when the temperature is below freezing or colder, you may want to hunt closer to heavy thickets of pine, cedar or hemlock when possible. Temperatures inside a thicket or swampy area may be 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the tall hardwoods. During late archery season, deer will very often change their habits and move to thermal covers during a cold spell. Choosing a pine tree to set your treestand is also recommended. The pine tree will give your background a better chance of not being seen. If you do not have the pine tree for choice of treestand hunting, then consider hunting on the ground with a well built, hidden ground blind.

When bowhunting in the cold weather, I like to pull my bow back every now and then while on my stand. About every thirty minutes or so, you should pull your bow back to stretch your muscles and to keep your bow from making too many noises. Many times your bow may ice up, especially if it’s snowing or freezing rain.

Staying warm is sometimes a problem. Layering your hunting clothes is essential, but can be a problem when shooting your bow. Newer technology has helped this problem. By using hand warmers and body warmers or using the new long underwear that wicks away sweat can reduce some layers of clothing. Boots with 800 to 1200 grams of Thinsulate is also recommended. Being able to stay out longer without getting cold, could make the difference in being successful or not on your late archery deer hunt.

Archery whitetail deer season in December is one of the most peaceful times of the year. So, get out and enjoy Mother Nature at its best. Bring home a rack that your hunting buddies will wish they had harvested instead of sitting back home next to the fireplace.

Good Luck And Stay Warm

My name is Ted Lake and I'm building a website in memory of my dad Deuaine Lake. This site is all about Archery and Archery Hunting. My dad started me when I was 5 years old (1956) and I've continued to teach both my boys the same respect for the sport of archery. Please feel welcome to visit my free website at


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