Reasons Why Late-Season Deer Hunting Sucks … and Why It’s Great, Too

Reasons Why Late-Season Deer Hunting Sucks … and Why It’s Great, Too

Author: Realtree
Published: December 6, 2022

“If you’re stilling hanging onto your buck tag when the rut ends, you’ll face some steep challenges but have advantages, too. Here are the pros and cons.

The big buck ambled through the snow-laden hayfield 180 degrees behind me. I was sitting on the ground overlooking a river bottom that wraps around the field edge with my muzzleloader on my lap when I craned left and saw tines. Unfortunately, several deer were between me and the bruiser buck, and the evening was so calm that every move almost sounded like shattering glass. You guessed it. I was unable to maneuver into position and kill the buck. It sucked.

I’ve done lots of late-season hunting with archery and muzzleloading equipment and have encountered some really nice deer. However, I’ve also frozen my butt off more times than I care to remember. I’ve killed late-season bucks, but I’ve also eaten many deer tags.

It goes without saying that challenges mount when the rut turns to the post-rut, which can make filling a buck tag, at times, just shy of impossible. However, one thing’s for sure: I cannot fill my buck tag if I’m not out there. Neither can you.

If you set out after a late-season buck this year, here are some of the challenges you’ll face. But I’ll also outline some advantages that you might not have considered. Let’s review.


The beginning of the late season — the time immediately after the rut  — can be extremely difficult for deer hunters. Deer are incredibly edgy, as they’ve just faced the highest concentration of hunting pressure for the year. Just because the guns finally quit blazing doesn’t mean bucks will waltz out in daylight. No, most bucks keep a low profile, and putting eyes on one is about as probable as seeing Bigfoot.

However, if you wait for a couple of weeks or more, deer often sense that pressure has dissipated. During this part of the season, there are fewer hunters (in most areas) afield than at any other time. In some cases, you might be the only one hunting within a square mile or more. For a patient hunter who picks and chooses the right times and winds to hunt, the lack of hunting pressure can be hugely advantageous, and the ball is in your court.


Weather can make or break late-season hunting. Unseasonably warm temperatures during December and January give deer little reason to feed during early afternoon. So, even if you have a hot corn or bean field, you might see few deer during daylight, which can frustrate to no end.

Turn the tables to a wintery onslaught and deer are likely to feed heavily before, during, and after the major weather event. Late-season cold fronts are worth watching and can put a buck on his feet in daylight. You’ll want to buckle down over food when a weather event is incoming.

Cold weather can move deer, but the other side of the coin is that hunting in the cold for several hours is tough, especially for bowhunters in treestands or ground blinds without climate control. Muscles become stiff during long hours of inactivity. Then when a buck steps out, the effects of adrenaline are amplified, and the shakes can manifest themselves in your body. Years ago, when I was a young deer hunter, I became so cold one late afternoon that I couldn’t draw my bow when a big buck stepped out beneath my stand 20 yards away.

Of course, you must dress for the weather. But that doesn’t make things easy. The more clothing you add, the more difficult it becomes to draw a bow and shoot with the proper form. The lesson: Practice shooting in the clothes you’ll wear.

Snap, crackle, and pop aren’t just sounds you hear from your Rice Krispies. Some treestands, climbing sticks, and even permanent stands are susceptible to such noises with any movement you make, and that can alert already-edgy deer. That’s something you can’t always help, and it’s a reason that late-season hunting sucks.”

To read the full article from Realtree, click here.

Photo credit: Original Author

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