Late Season Whitetail, Don’t Give up! In many areas where whitetails reside the rut falls sometime in the month of December, and many folks consider deer season over post rut.
Some of the country’s best deer hunting can be had in the months of December and January, but you can’t give up after Thanksgiving. Prime big buck states like Iowa, Kansas, Illinois and Ohio all have their gun seasons after the peak of rut. All of these except Kansas limit modern firearms to shotguns with slugs, and Kansas, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and many southern states allow rifle hunting in December, and some even into January.
After rut, bucks are run down physically. Some estimates are that they can run 30-40% of their body weight off during the breeding season. So when the rut is over, they simply want to rest and eat. In many locations, they have been pressured and only move at night to feed, for a while anyway.
So how do you hunt these post rut bucks? Simply hunt the food sources, or trails leading to the food. Mark Drury told me once that one of his favorite days of the year was the first high pressure day after the rut. He said that big bucks almost always were on their feet and they seemed to key in on green food sources such as food plot blends, turnips, etc.
I have had good luck on these late hunts hunting over agriculture such as soybeans and cornfields, especially if a bit of the crop has been left for wildlife. It is well worth it in my opinion to pay a farmer to leave a couple acres of standing soybeans to hunt over late season.
In the South and Texas, late season means the rut, so concentrate on where you expect to see does whether that is near or on food sources, or close to doe bedding areas. If you can get close to a doe bedding area and not blow the deer out, you can have bucks coming in all day to check for receptive does.
The late season that allow slug only used to really be a handicap to hunters, but now with advanced slug gun ammunition like Winchester’s RackMaster line, that is no longer the case. These new slugs will shoot accurately out to 200 yards with the help of WinGlide wad stabilizers. The hit like a hammer with a muzzle velocity of 1625 fps, and the advanced hollow point design produces massive trauma on even the largest bodied bucks.
Don’t give up deer hunting just because it is late season. Just modify your tactics, and you may just experience some of the best whitetail hunting of your life.