by Eric Hall
Going into the last month of the season can be a shock to the system. Where did the past 3 months go? It is hard to believe the season is coming to an end so soon! Whitetail hunters spend the offseason thinking about hunting, only to have it end before we are ready. Late Season marks the beginning of the end, and as we flip the calendar to 2018 in Ohio, deer season is coming to an abrupt halt. Here are some thoughts on preparing a late-season strategy to help us cope.
First – Finish Like You Started
We all come out of the gate like a racehorse during the beginning of the season. There is much anticipation and hope on the horizon. We have the Early Season, Pre-Rut, Rut, Post Rut, Second Rut, and Late Season ahead of us. Energy, focus, and attention to detail are a mainstay of our routine. During the last month, keep that status quo! Take each opportunity to hunt as just that, an opportunity! Go into each January hunt with the same level of anticipation and focus that you had in early November. It is natural to become weary; it has been a grind, but the end is in sight and now is not the time to falter.
Attention to detail is just as important now as at any time during the season. Be mindful of your scent control detail. It doesn’t matter if that entails playing the wind, sprays, in-field ozone. No matter the tactic now is not the time to get complacent. Entrance and exit route detail are important as well. The foliage is off and the deer are pressured. The care we take to get in and out of the location will go a long way to improving our chances for success.
Second – Finish What You Started
Everyone has goals going into any hunting season. One person may have the goal of shooting a three-year-old buck or better. Another person may have the goal of shooting a buck bigger than last year. Another goal could be I want to take X amount of doe off the property. Each person has their own individual goals going into the season. These goals should be the same at the end of the season as well.
Stan Potts has stated on a number of occasions, “Don’t shoot anything at the end of the season that you were not willing to shoot at the beginning.” This is a great example of my point of finishing what you started. This held true during both my Ohio shotgun season as well as the muzzleloader season. During the shotgun season, I had an eight-point inside of 60 yards and passed because he looked like a two and a half-year-old and I told myself I was looking to shoot a three-year-old or better. During the muzzleloader season, I had a one and a half-year-old six point at 15 yards and passed. In both instances, I talked myself down from pulling the trigger because this was not the deer I was looking for when I started the 2017-2018 whitetail season. Season-ending frustration cannot be a reason to shoot a buck that doesn’t meet our goals. Finish what you started!
Finally – Finish Strong
Mercury has dropped, and cold winds are blowing. Finishing strong means taking every opportunity we can to sit in a stand. I am not suggesting we risk hypothermia; however, every one of us knows how much cold we can handle and for how long. When the thermometer agrees, get in the stand. During the rut, we sat through wind, rain and rollercoaster temperatures because, well, it was the rut. Late season is no different, when we can get out, we need to get out. Dress and prepare but get out into the woods. The old saying goes, “Can’t kill them on the couch.”
Watch the weather fronts and take advantage of Mother Nature’s influence on deer behavior. Cold means carbohydrates and warm will cause deer to seek green food if available. Zero in on the weather to plan your late season hunts to maximize the time afield. Look at the beginning of cold fronts and then the sudden change to a warm front. Both of these times are prime time to be in the woods hunting Whitetail Deer. Finish the season and Finish it strong.
My 2017-2018 Whitetail Deer season has not gone as planned. I haven’t had an encounter with a mature buck while on the stand all year. I admit frustration and disappointment in the lack of harvest success. Through it all, my goals are my goals and I plan to hold true finishing “How I Started”, finishing “What I Started” and finishing “Strong” to end my season.
Good luck everyone.