If you can brave winter's worst, deer hunting in cold weather can yield impressive results.
Many hunters call it quits after the rut starts to wind down. While deer hunting in cold weather can be tough, there’s still a good opportunity to make a harvest.
There are varying factors that make late-season hunting different. By this point, deer have been pressured for a few months and are aware of hunters entering the woods. Food sources are minimal. Harsh weather impacts when deer will move and where they’ll go. By taking advantage of what is often viewed by hunters as less than ideal conditions, you can take home a late-season deer.
Focus on the Weather
Winter is defined by harsh weather with cold fronts bringing periods of ice, wind and snow. This influx of frigid weather puts deer on the move. If the weather has been consistent for days or weeks without much change, the movement will often decrease.
Watch the weather forecast and be in the stand the day before a front is set to hit your area as well as the next two or three days after. The deer will be feeding, so you’ll have the opportunity to catch them slipping from bedding areas to food sources. Older bucks, even those with nocturnal schedules, can be caught moving during daylight. Set your stand near the edges of bedding areas with the wind at your face, taking care when entering the woods not to spook any deer.
Find Food and Water Sources
At the beginning of deer season, food is abundant and deer are scattered about the woods, which can make it difficult to pattern a buck. In the winter, however, food is scarce and you can use that to your advantage. The deer will likely be concentrated on what little browse is still available, taking the guesswork out of where to look.
Target late-producing food plots or commercial crops like corn or soybeans, which are high in the carbohydrates deer need to make it through the winter. Look for natural food like oats or honeysuckle as well as common browse near field edges. Also keep an eye out for unfrozen water holes.
Set your stand where the food source converges with a thicket that may serve as a bedding area. It’s possible several deer may use one area to escape the elements, so use caution when approaching.
Avoid Pressuring Deer
Late in the season, the deer have been pressured by the consistent flow of hunters trekking in and out of the woods, making them particularly wary to human presence. Stay out of the woods when you’re not hunting. Check trail cameras sparingly and don’t tromp near bedding areas or food sources unless you are accessing your stand. When you’re heading into the field to hunt, take care to minimize noise to reduce chances of spooking any nearby deer.
Winter in the snow belt is brutal, but even in certain reaches of the South, the mercury can dip to the single digits and snow can dust the ground. You don’t want to have to call it a day early because the cold has gotten to you, so it’s important to dress appropriately to spend as much time as possible in the stand.
Banks Stump blinds are good options for late-season hunting because they are sealed and lined with insulation that reduces noise, keeps warmth in and blocks the wind. You can also use indoor-rated heaters inside a Banks blind to keep you toasty throughout the hunt.
Start with a merino wool or moisture-wicking base layer as well as wool socks. Add on a waterproof layer on top and wear a facemask and gloves. Keep your bulky layers off when walking to your stand to limit how much you’ll sweat. Put on your outer layer once you’ve settled into your treestand.
Hunting late-season deer isn’t easy, but if you can brave the cold and find where they’re congregating, harvesting one isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. Just like the early season, have some patience, put in plenty of time in the stand and make the shot count.