-By Brandon Wikman
I’ve always been the type of hunter to cringe at the sight of a thermometer dipping into the teens. Late in the season deer are nerved, food is scarce and the weather prohibits your ability to remain focused. I’ve been able to learn some great insight on late-season whitetails from Ty McCombs, owner of Whitetail Outfitters of Ohio. Ty is a mastermind at playing the late season deer game.
“The one way to get a buck out of his snow tunnel is baiting and a blast of a consistent cold weather streak,” says McCombs. “Not only will it get him up and moving before dark, but quite possibly into tree stand range. Deer hunting during the late season calls for a passive-aggressive approach, where sensing the amount of stress on your deer herd, weather conditions and other variables supplement the probability of killing.”
I’ve known McCombs for a couple of years and I will have the opportunity to hunt with him the day after Christmas for Ohio’s late season muzzleloader hunt. He uses a combination of corn and attractants to spice up his baiting sights. With the attractant, deer find it hard to resist. He believes using bait during this time of year is not only important for hunting, but for your deer herd’s health.
During cold weather, deer will herd and gather wherever there’s food. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where they called home during the fall; a ‘wintering whitetail’ goes to food, period. With the combination of food and a hidden tree stand, your odds increase greatly, but here are a few more tips that will help.
Late season primetime comes an hour before dark. So if you can sit at least two hours in the evening, cold weather shouldn’t faze you. I’ve always been told to dress in layers. I wear a base layer that wicks away moisture. Polypropylene is an incredible fabric to wear that keep you dry. Moisture is our enemy in both scent control and trying to keep warm. I usually wear a couple layers of fleece over my base layer and toss on an outer layer that blocks wind and rain, but still has the ability to breathe.
It isn’t a bad idea to bring a deer grunt. Deer are most susceptible to calling during the rut, but you never know when you might strike the right chord with a deer. I’ve learned using calls or lures may trigger interest during different stages of the whitetail season.
Most people use their scouting cameras during summer and early to mid-fall. You may want to grab those cameras one more time and set them at bait sites to find out when there is the most action.
McCombs says, “I’ve got four camera/bait setups on four different properties. When I can get a buck consistently coming into a sight, odds are he’s in trouble. Deer are ‘fairly’ easy to pattern when all the right instances are played out.”
With the right lineup of tactics and a bit of luck you may strike luck late in the season and bag a monster buck. McCombs and I will be putting this technique into action as we prepare for our own late season hunt in a few weeks!