Hunt Hidden: Watch the brushy edges and draws of small, out-the-way pine cedar or honeysuckle thickets. Bucks sneak along those edges between bedding and feeding areas, moving in little places where they haven’t been spooked earlier in the season. And look for hidden “buck holes”: A beaver swamp near a gravel road…an old hog lot grown over behind a farmer’s barn…you get the idea. Check for a buck hiding out in a spot you and other hunters missed earlier.
Keep Doe Watching: One December in Kansas, my friend Jim Riley spotted a doe being dogged by three bucks, but the brush was too thick for a shot. Jim returned to the tree stand the next morning. The doe came back, followed by 5 bucks, but none was a shooter. Jim hung tough, and on the third morning in the stand she was back, with just one buck this time. Jim nailed the giant 8-pointer below.
The lesson: In December one of the last hot does in a patch of woods will draw bucks sniffing around for one last shot of fun. As long as she hangs around, you hang around until a shooter shows up.
Keep Rattling: For two years running in western Oklahoma, I rattled up bucks just days before the rifle season closed in early December. I passed on the 7-pointer that came in, and shot the old 9-pointer that marched within 100 yards, bristling and with his ears pinned back. The point: Most hunters north of Texas give up on rattling too soon. Horn-knocking can work better in the post-rut because bucks prowl for and compete for the favors of fewer hot does. Keep trying the horns until mid-December.
Stink w/Scents: One December in Kansas, veteran bowhunters B.J. Clement and his son, Todd, dug mock scrapes and laid scent trails with both estrus doe and dominant buck through an area where they knew good bucks typically hang out.
“When my dad went in to hunt his ground blind on the next Saturday afternoon a buck had torn the place to pieces with huge rubs and scrapes,” Todd said.
That evening a big buck started for B.J.’s blind, but the deer spotted a doe and took off after her. Bummer. But 30 minutes later, B.J saw the buck again. He rubbed a hedge tree, and then walked close. B.J. fired a perfect arrow. The 12-pointer netted 182, one of the top bow bucks in America that year.
The takeaway: That Kansas monster was still rutting, checking does and rubbing trees. The Clements’ doe/buck scent strategy, which created the illusion of a late breeding zone, caused the big deer to hang in the area until B.J got him. Try juicing your woods with some top-shelf deer scent this week.