By the time December rolls around the rut is pretty much over for most of Southwest, Central, and Northwest Louisiana. One of my fellow lease members said just yesterday, "I haven't seen a deer in the last 7 hunts!" Does it seem like the deer just disappear after the initial rut is over? It sure does on our 2600 acres of pine plantation, clear cuts, and hardwood creek bottoms in central Beauregard Parish. I've contemplated pulling out mementos from my past successful hunts or sacred family heirlooms to conjure up the hunting god's good graces to grant me some late season luck. Instead I've gone with the traditional, less inspirational approach: Research and Facts. There are a few factors that play into this disappearing act that happens year after year.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out when hunters have hit the woods. And it's no secret that deer are very in tune with their surroundings, especially when we start invading their space. A casual walk through the woods will show you obvious traces of human presence: cut limbs, tire tracks, corn sacks, thermacell bottles the list goes on. Mature bucks are well aware of the locations we venture to and frequent. They have since moved! Most public lands and leases have had the sounds of ATV's, victory yells and gun shots ringing out for over 2 months now. The deer are indeed "in hiding." It's a task you've been burdened with as a bow hunter to remove your comfy climber or lock-on and go deeper. Away from the noise and stench.
Ever tried to get the attention of a girl you liked for weeks or even months? She was the only thing you thought about. You missed meals, lost sleep, ran her all around town trying to impress her and keep her entertained. Remember how tired you were once it settled down? Multiply that times 100 and that is what whitetail bucks are feeling right now. They have skipped many meals, and have literally been running non stop for 2 weeks straight. The boys are tired! Really tired! Right now their focus is on regaining strength; mostly by resting in the thickest cover they can find and locating easy-access, highly nutritious meals.
Change in Food Source
With recent rains and limited frosts the acorns are beginning to sour and green browse may indeed have freshened up even more. But don't fret! A hard freeze is on the way. The point is, their food sources have changed, which means their travel routes have changed; not to mention they have their sense about them again and are thinking about ever present danger once more.
So how do you change you luck? You set up an ambush. Get between the thickest cover you can find and and the closest food source. It may be a late season, secluded food plot they haven't started hitting yet, or the edge of a clear cut that has sprouted a plethora of native forage through the summer and fall months. Whichever you choose only hit it when the wind is in your favor. Try and catch them returning to bed in the mornings, and on the way to food in the evening. This strategy may require you to perch in areas you aren't accustomed to. It may call for you to sit in close-quarter areas with no more than a 10 yard shot or to even break out the ghillie suit and give it a go from the ground. Don't be afraid. Doing something different may be just the game changer you need to surprise that wary buck that has successfully avoided you so far. Attempting to spot a buck out for a mid day snack isn't a bad idea either. Just remember, cover and safe and easy access to food is key. Get the right wind and make your successful late-season ambush!