I’m staring at the screen as I write this with an unfilled tag in my pocket. However, I’m not about to give up on my dream of killing a Mature Buck before my season ends on December 31st. To do so I’ve got to change a few of my tactics. If you are in the same boat as me then consider these Late-Season, Mature Buck Hunting strategies.
Find The Cover
If your area is anything like mine then most every deer has been jumped, bumped or shot at by rifle hunters and aspiring bowhunters. And, with the one thing that could bring a mature buck out of seclusion a distant memory (the rut), he likely got pushed deeper into cover. As if things weren’t hard enough already.
Sure, some bucks may show their face in the middle of a micro-managed food plot with plenty of shooting light but that isn’t the real world. The real world means like me you’ve competed with a dozen or more other hunters all vying for the same buck(s). As a result the pressure made that buck even more wary.
The obvious move would be to locate heavy cover that is adjacent to your early season hunting locations and find a suitable tree to hang a stand. There you just might find the late-season mature buck you’re looking for.
Another option would be to hang around the does for just a little longer in the hopes that one of them might come into late estrus and pull a final buck in with her.
Deer Need Food - Find It
Gone is the allure of the opposite sex. Replacing it is the need to survive. That means food. However, there is a good chance that available food sources have changed since the rut began. Maybe not. It depends on the area you hunt (public, private) and the effort put into additional food sources that will grow during the late winter months. Most likely you are hunting public land with no readily available food source.
If that’s the case then consider that some states allow baiting. Where legal, this can be a deadly tactic for luring out a rut-depleted buck that is looking to gain back weight that was lost chasing girls during the rut. Don’t be ashamed to capitalize on that food source even though some may look down on it. If it’s legal then the decision should be totally up to you.
Break Out The Trail Cameras
It is easy to lose focus of trail camera use during the hectic weeks of the whitetail rut. Bucks are here today and gone tomorrow so capturing the image of one doesn’t necessarily mean he will be there when you return. In fact, the odds are good that he won’t be. That’s just the two-sided nature of the rut.
However, as the rut winds down and bucks begin to fall back into a somewhat normal routine, scouting cameras become a much more important tool for you to use; especially if glassing fields from a distance is not an option.
Start by hanging trail cameras near thickets in order to see which patches of heavy cover may be harboring a late-season mature buck. You can also hang multiple cameras in different areas than you are hunting in order to cover as much real-estate as possible. Remember, time is of the essence. You don’t have weeks and/or months to locate, scout and hunt an area. You have to find out where the deer are and move in fast.
Doe bedding areas are also good locations. Monitoring the does can sometimes lead you to the preferred late-season food source. And, as mentioned earlier, if you’re lucky one of them might actually come into estrus and reignite rut behavior from nearby bucks.
Late season can be tough. However, with a little bit of scouting and trail camera use you can quickly put some of the puzzle pieces together in order to hopefully your tag on a mature buck. Best of luck.