With late-season upon us, the temps are dropping and many people are calling it quits before their tags are filled. I’ll be the first to admit late-season hunting isn’t for the faint of heart but it truly can be some of the very best hunting of the year if you’re willing to put in your time. Of course, the level of bitter cold varies across the country, but the key is knowing that all bucks will be run down from the rut, and food becomes their No. 1 priority. I’ve put together a list of my all-time favorite late season hunting things as I probably find more success during the bitter cold than any other time of year.
Heater. I like to bring some sort of heater along if I’m hunting in an enclosed ground blind or hard sided blind. It’s not a necessity but it sure does make the sit much more enjoyable. My go to is a Heat Hog heater. They come in three different sizes, and are super reliable and worth their weight in gold on cold days. The piglet, the smallest model, is easy to break down to travel with or even throw in a backpack. The next size up is a 9,000 BTU, but they also offer an 18,000 BTU. Both of these heaters have a tilt feature so you can control where the heat goes, which is amazing! They can also make a 20 lb. to 1 lb. hose adapter, so you have the option of using a large propane tank to fuel your Heat Hog instead of the small 1 lb. canisters.
Heated Gear. I’m all about trying to stay as warm as possible without getting too bulked up. The best way I’ve found to do this is by wearing heat gear. I have the DSG Heated Vest, Gloves and Socks. What I like about all of these products is that you can turn the heat on and off as needed, using any of their three levels of heat. This allows me to keep it off on my way in and out of the stand location, but turn it up as needed as the temps drop. This has proved to be a game changer in the field and during sub-zero days.
Trail Cameras. Knowing and understanding a deer’s patterns during late season is key to a successful hunt. Often times the movement in the morning is minimal, so instead of wasting a lot of time sitting all day, trail cameras can be a huge help to decide when movement is peak. We run SpyPoint FLEX trail cameras, which are by far my favorite for several reasons. First, they are very easy to use. It literally has an on and off switch on the camera—that’s it! The rest of the settings can be controlled inside the SpyPoint app from your phone. These cellular cameras will send the photos right to the app, but what I like is the fact that both my husband and I can have the app on our phones and stay up to date. It doesn’t just text the photos to one person. We can also favorite the best ones and come back to them at anytime without trying to sift through hundreds of photos. Lastly it offers the best cellular service around thanks to its dual sim cards, and connects to the strongest network in your area.
Blind on a trailer. One of the hardest parts to late season hunting is getting your blind situated exactly where the deer are frequenting. This can change depending on snow cover, temps, etc. Instead of trying to setup blinds all over the place we decided being portable was the key. We have a Hawk blind on a Keene Outdoors portable hunting platform that pulls behind our truck. Once in the field it gets cranked up, and we have a perfect blind with a floor height at 10-feet tall. If the deer move, we can move without a big hassle. This has made our late-season hunting both more effective and more fun, so we can take the entire family and keep everyone warm while watching all the deer in front of us!
Food Plots. Having a food source where you hunt is important during late-season dates. The bucks are run down and want to eat as much as possible to prepare for the long winter ahead. My preferred method is to plant our own food plots in the spring and fall. We don’t have big machinery, so we do everything by hand or with the help of our ATV or UTV. Our favorite mix is the Rut N Ready Mix by Brier Ridge. We plant this in August and it provides lush food plots throughout the fall to which the deer flock. If you don’t have a way to plant food plots, try to find where the deer are feeding and plan accordingly. Another option is to work with a farmer and have them leave some extra beans, corn or whatever is planted so the deer stay on the property through the late season months. You’re creating a wonderful place to hunt while also keeping the deer strong, healthy and fed throughout the harshest winters.
Open Water Source. I’m a firm believer in the power of water, especially when the temps drop! If you have a way to keep water open in the late season it can be an absolute deer magnet. I’ve tried a lot of methods so far and haven’t come up with the perfect solution, but if you have open water, you’ll also have the deer!
HuntStand App. Knowing and understanding the weather your surrounding properties is key, especially during the late season. What I like about HuntStand is the fact you can get all your intel from one easy to use app. You can see property borders and landowners, check the weather and moon phase, get a visual on what the wind is doing at your various hunt locations, and identify the best predicted movement.
Rubber Boots/Boot Blankets. Keeping your extremities warm is very important. For many, feet get the coldest first. I wear a 1,200 gram insulated rubber boot by DSG for the entire late season, and love it. They’re not too heavy or bulky for being that warm and the rubber ensures my feet stay dry regardless of the snow I walk through. If it’s really cold when I get on stand I’ll zip a boot blanket or boot insulator over my rubber boots, and drop a hot hand in there to keep them extra toasty all day long.
Rattling Antlers. Although most people consider the late season as the rut long gone, I’ve seen some pretty crazy rutting activity in December, as some of the young fawns are coming into estrus a bit later than the big does. I’ve personally witnessed some pretty crazy buck fights during this time of year, and for that reason I still bring my ratting antlers. Last year I continued bringing my decoy until mid December and actually decoyed in two big mature bucks very late in the season.
Shooting Sticks. Being completely steady is not only important for your own confidence but it really helps your accuracy. I always use a tripod shooting stick while hunting, and my favorite is the new BOG Deathgrip Infinite-Aluminum. It provides an incredibly steady rest with the sturdy tripod legs but also has a smooth ball head mount that provides 360 degrees of rotation and 180 degrees of tilt. It’s quick, smooth and something I would never leave home without. It also has the Arca-Swiss mount system so you can quickly change between your spotting scope and a rest for your gun, eliminating the need to have two separate tripods.
It is my hope that this list will spark a few ideas of how you can maximize your season and stick it out to the bitter end. You never know, you just may find a new favorite way to hunt after you see the success rate on those bitter cold days!