In the early bowhunting season for whitetails, firearm hunts have not claimed most of the mature males, and the herd is operating on a fairly “laid-back” pattern. Usually, however, it’s only the addict that remains when the snow flies and the cold winds blow during the latter part of the bow season.
It’s only through a passionate love of the sport that a guy will judge the late-season pain to be worth the gain. You must have a consuming love of the out-of-doors to see beauty in the drab, black-and-white winter landscape. It takes a special sort of fellow to get a thrill from having “braved the elements,” and then came out richer for the experience. You’ve got to “want it bad” to give up the seduction of a warm bed — in the darkness of a cold winter’s night — so that you can rise in time to occupy a frozen treestand by daybreak.
Gleaning The Rewards
On the flip side, however, there are some real benefits to being afield at this time of year. For starters, you’ll have the woods virtually to yourself — the majority of bowhunters have already “hung’er up.” If solitude ranks high on your list of bowhunting priorities, then here’s your grand reward. Also, with human activity greatly reduced, deer activity will become more relaxed, concentrated, and predictable.
A combination of harsh weather and limited food sources will motivate large numbers of deer to “yard up” in small areas. Deer are often extremely visible at this time of year, and long distance scouting can be a very good approach to success. These facts, and many more, are reasons to view the glass as half full, not half empty. Keep these things in mind; combine a positive outlook with toughness and good woods savvy, and the late season can be a goldmine of bowhunting opportunity.
To top it all off, another dynamite reason to be afield in December revolves around the fact that another flurry of rutting activity will occur mid-month as a few random does come into estrous. In addition, it’s not uncommon to find a situation where a yearling doe has reached the age where she is coming into heat for her first time — this can occur well into late-December, and even into January.
Preparation Is Key
Late-season bowhunting offers rewards that a hardcore outdoorsman finds ripe for the picking. With careful planning and preparation, it isn’t much of a stretch to have an enjoyable time. In recent years, I’ve found myself using an “over-body suit” that completely insulates me from the wind and cold. I can sit in relative comfort for hours in harsh conditions, while wearing only lightly insulated clothing and boots under the suit. Thus equipped, my time on stand — and enjoyment while there — has dramatically increased.
Also, I make sure to eat high calorie foods before I go to my tree, so that my body is making plenty of heat. Since the only part of my body that is exposed to the elements when I’m in my “cocoon” is my head and neck, it goes without saying that I wear heavy garments there. I keep a covering over my face and nose. Breathing through the covering over my nose conserves a great deal of body heat.
Be sure to hunt from an oversized, comfortable treestand at this time of the season — practice shooting your bow from this setup, in your hunting garb.
Finally, patience and perseverance are keys to success. If you’ve done the scouting, get out there and hang tough. Though there will be many hunts when action will be sparse, you’ll occasionally find yourself in the right place, at the right time, and this is when action can be as good as it gets.
If you view late-season bowhunting as the great opportunity that it is, you’ll be afield plenty in December, “gettin’er done.” In the long run, you’ll end up a better outdoorsman for the effort. It’s also a sure bet that you’ll occasionally be blessed with another set of antlers for the wall and a lot more meat in the freezer. Hey, don’t give up “till the last dog is dead.” Enjoy all that nature has to offer — bowhunt in a winter wonderland!
Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a large selection of Archery Gear.