December 13, 2013
Whitetails This Weekend: Get On The Food - 0
Late-season hunts are all about finding food sources and hunting them. It's also about hunting soft and quiet. Late-season bucks are basically recuperating from two months of intense activity and that means plenty of food and plenty of bedding behavior. Sure, you may catch a little late season breeding activity, but the smart money is on the food. Any breeding that occurs will basically be a random event.
The Real Rut is Over
The Need to Feed
Browse is generally the last choice of late-season whitetails but it is often the only choice. A whitetail can generally paw through about 8 inches of snow to find food but in deeper snow it can be browse or nothing. Many browse species are still holding fruit—berries, and seed pods. Deer will eat them first and then move to twigs, stems and late-fall leftovers. The last 1-inch of the most recent growth contains 90% of the nutrition.
The Pressure Factor
We are getting plenty of reports of older aged bucks that are primarily nocturnal. Our hunts have been most productive during the last 20 minutes of shooting light. They only show during daylight hours when severe weather drives them to feed. Our cameras are showing the same. We see deer in our headlights in all the familiar places after dark with very few during daylight hours
Severe weather changes this. Once temperatures drop 10° below normal, a whitetail's need to conserve energy intensifies and that means feeding during warmer, daytime temps. They may not feed during an intense winter event but they sure enough will as soon as the weather settles. Most of our best bucks have been taken during severe weather conditions. Our cameras light up during these periods as well.
Hunting This Weekend
If you are lucky enough to be hunting low pressure deer, midday sits in below average temps can be very productive. If the sun warms things up, all the better.
For those of you in the 5% of the country (parts of AL, MS, TX, LA etc.) where the rut comes late, you know the drill, get out there and put in your time. The rut makes good hunters of us all.
One final note, some bucks (especially injured ones) have already cast their antlers. Before you drop that big doe in front of you, be sure it is not a buck with two half-dollar sized circles on his forehead.