The final few days of November and nearly all of December cover the post-rut period or late season period. In some states the hunting season stretches into January as well making this period quite long in total number of days during the hunting season. At this point in the season many consider this to be one of the hardest to hunt since the deer have been educated throughout the season by hunters actions and mistakes. Nevertheless the stomach of a deer and the weather temperatures makes it possible to kill late season bucks. Bucks can lose up to 25% of their body weight during the rut. To survive the winter months a buck must feed heavily following the rut. The same is true for does, but fawns are the ones even more in need of food.
Bucks battle with their strong desire to avoid hunters and their need to feed during this time of year. Locating buck bedding areas and their nearest food source should allow a late season hunter the best chance for success. Hunting closer to the bedding area will give a hunter the best chance to catch an active late season buck during daylight hours. However areas with lower hunting pressure can offer dynamite hunting directly on food sources. The major factor for late season success is the weather. Major cold fronts will force a deer, even bucks to move during daylight hours. Massive cold fronts often result in bucks moving earlier in the evening to get to food when the weather is severely cold. This is perhaps the best opportunity to kill a late season buck during evening hours when large fronts come through. If you can beat the deer to the food source and put your time in chances for success can be good. Exit from a stand/blind during the late season is a critical factor. Do everything possible to have a sneaky exit route. If you’re unable to leave the stand without spooking deer then the best option is to have someone drive in to pick you up on a four wheeler or truck. Not only are cold fronts critical to getting bucks on their feet in daylight hours in the late season, but equally important is the moon phase. When the moon is overhead and underfoot during the last few hours of daylight and the first few hours of daylight these are great days to catch deer on their feet in daylight. Specially these are the first quarter moon and the third quarter moon or the 50% illumination times of the moon and the days around those periods.
Other weather factors to consider. Colder than average winter days weather may cause bucks to move later in the morning than they normally would. Bucks that need to spend extra time on food sources will be heading back to their beds later than normal. Hunting late-season food sources is tough without bumping deer, so consider hunting the transition from the feeding area to the bedding or possibly even hunt within the bedding area. Another temperature detail to keep in mind is that increase in deer movement may take place when a warm day suddenly arises after unusually cold temperatures. Deer use the warm day following many cold days to feed as much as possible. This allows them to feed without burning as much energy as the would during those extremely cold days. Consider the possibility that during incredibly cold stretches deer may actually move most during the middle of the day (this is not common in most of the whitetails range). This will most likely take place in the northern most part of the whitetails range where winters are especially brutal.
Key in on bedding areas, food sources, and weather patterns to target and kill late season bucks. The favorite late season food sources of whitetails are soybeans, corn, and brassica’s.