We have 2 more days to hunt here in Virginia, and my friends Jack and Cecil are hunting hard, with our eyes on two bucks that have eluded us all season. If you’re still hunting into January too, try these 5 tips.
Get the wind perfect: Back in October and especially during the November rut you predicted but never really knew from which direction a buck would come. So sometimes you cheated and hunted a stand on a couple different winds, and that worked out okay. But now there is only one good wind and little margin for error.
In the evenings, deer move straight from their beds to a harvested cornfield or soybean field–anywhere they can find last scraps of food. When you hunt there, the wind can’t blow back toward a bedding cover, and it can’t swirl out into a field where the does will pop out first. Set up downwind of a trail or funnel where your scent will blow back into a dead zone in the timber where no deer will hopefully come out. If just one doe winds you and starts blowing, you won’t see a buck that night.
Go for perfect access: With deer stressed and wired in winter, access to your stand is critical. Try to slip into and out of a spot without a single deer seeing you. If you can’t use something like a ditch or creek bank to cover your moves, don’t risk it. If you bump one doe you’ll spook a bunch of deer. They’ll blow out of the area and they’ll probably change their pattern. Sneak to your stand early in the afternoon—at least 3 hours before dark—so no deer will spot you.
Track a buck: Late in the morning, if you cut a big, fresh track in snow, follow it awhile. If you see by the buck’s stride that he is slowing down, stop, wait and glass hard. Check as far as you can out front, and 100 yards off to each side of the trail, since the buck might have fish-hooked. Snow on the ground helps you spot deer.
Watch fringes: Watch the fringes of pine, cedar or honeysuckle thickets. Bucks love to run those green edges between bedding and feeding areas, moving along the strips where they feel some security.
Play off the pressure: The last couple days of the season, you might hear people making a last-ditch drive on an adjacent farm or woods. If so, hike up a ridge or hill and watch thickets on your side of the fence (stay well inside your property and be extra careful where you aim and shoot). There is good chance some does and maybe a buck spooked by those hunters might jump the fence and come flagging your way. Imagine the look on those guys’ faces when your gun cracks and you score at the buzzer!