What do Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio all have in common? Yes, they all grow a lot of crops. Yes, they all grow a lot of big whitetail bucks.
No they cannot “gun” hunt deer in the rut; they all four have their main firearms seasons post rut and primarily in December (depending on the way the calendar falls). All of these top whitetail destinations, except Kansas, also require modern firearms hunters to use slug shotguns. When much of the country has hung up their blaze orange for the year, these mega buck Meccas are just gearing up.
Late season hunting is mostly about food. You should really key in on late season food sources whether they be cut agriculture fields like corn and soybeans, or food plots especially planted for late season. One of my personal favorites is turnips, and I have taken a couple of really nice December bucks in Iowa over turnip plots.
Whitetail guru Bill Winke told me that he treats the late season hunts like most folks hunt the early seasons. Winke explained, “I generally only hunt afternoons, and I key in on food sources where we have seen a lot of deer activity through scouting with trail cameras, or sitting back at a distance and glassing. If you can get some cold weather, hunting can be incredible.”
Bucks are run down from the primary rut and need to build themselves back up in preparation for the long winter looming, and if your timing is right, you may hit a 2nd later rut cycle that finds some bucks still looking for the few receptive does. Either of these scenarios puts mature bucks on food sources regularly. If he is in recharge mode, he will feed often. If he is looking for does, he knows they will feed every afternoon/evening, so he will hit food sources looking for ladies. The reason really doesn’t matter; you just need him to make an appearance in daylight.
The only real drawback is weather. If you hit an unseasonably warm spell during your chosen season, this can cause deer to become more nocturnal as they have heavy winter coats by this time and like to wait until it is cool to move much. If it is cold, and especially if there is snow on the ground covering some food sources, those uncovered will provide plenty of action.
The original purpose in slug gun seasons years ago was to limit hunters’ range. Though your slug gun isn’t going to shoot MOA at 450 yards like a good 7mm, the effective range has certainly been lengthened, and ranges from 150-200 yards are now attainable with today’s high tech slug ammunition.
My personal favorite is Winchester’s Rack Master. These versatile slugs were designed to shoot in shotguns with smooth bore barrels, rifled slug chokes or rifled slug barrels. The hollow point full bore rifled slug hits even the biggest deer like a freight train since it is traveling at 1700 fps, and the WinGlide wad stabilizer is a big part of the reason this offering is so accurate.
These are not the old solid lead slugs of yesteryear when we all hoped we could just hit a deer at 50 yards with our favorite bird gun. These are technologically advanced setups that are efficient deer killers in anyone’s book.
If you have a chance to hunt a December season this year, do your homework and find the most used food source in your area, pray for some cold weather on opening day, and pick up a box or two of Winchester Rack Master slugs. This is a combination that may just add up to your biggest buck ever.