They settle in and hunt patiently, being particularly attentive from
legal light to about an hour after sunrise. As 9:30 approaches,
something happens to hunters if they haven't had an action-packed
morning. They get bored. They get fidgety. They get cold. They get
hungry. And the exodus of hunters leaving the woods begins, with 10
a.m. being a popular time to be back at camp or to the truck for
some more coffee, a bite to eat and some camaraderie with the
Often, there are naps taken post-10 a.m., or trips
into town for supplies and lunch at the café. Many hunters have
conditioned themselves to return to the woods a couple of hours
before sunset for the evening sit. They believe that bucks move most
during the hours following sunrise and those preceding sunset.
They're correct. Mostly. But what few morning and evening deer
hunters know is that the warm afternoon hours can be some of the
most productive times to be in the woods -- particularly during the
late season, when food is the primary driver of deer movement.
Many biologists and whitetail experts have done studies on deer
movement patterns and confirm that deer, including mature bucks,
have periods of midday activity. Gone is the notion that deer are up
all night long and sleeping the day away. Truth is, they bed down
and sleep during periods of the dark night, and they are very active
under the high afternoon sky.
Does this mean you'll find them out roaming in open fields at
noon? On rare occasions, yes. But most midday activity is conducted
under cover, which makes it a perfect time to have late-season food
plots in secluded areas. You'll find that deer will often bed closer
to their food sources at this time of the year. The reason is
simple: They conserve more energy by traveling shorter distances,
which is critical during the cold winter months.
[to top of second column]
Many hunters and researchers have found that as a rule of thumb,
winter whitetails will feed roughly every four hours or so. That
means that at some point during midday, they will get up to stretch
and find nourishment. A contributing factor to this is the previous
rut. For bucks, they need generous nutrients to rebuild muscle and
fat mass following the rigors of the mating season. All that
running, fighting and procreation takes its toll on a buck's overall
health. Does, now in the early stages of pregnancy, need to feed
heavily, too, in order to sustain healthy fetuses and to prepare for
healthy milk development.
Another reason for midday feeding is related to temperature.
Typically, temperatures are warmer in the afternoon than they are at
night and early morning. Mild conditions help lessen the amount of
energy reserves needed for traveling, so deer definitely take
advantage of that to feed in secure areas during the middle of the
Even though the late-season hunt revolves purely around the
feeding patterns of whitetails, there's still an opportunity to use
scent as an attractant. Strong sexual scents like estrus doe and
buck tarsal won't bring rut-like responses from bucks. Instead,
trust scents that have "curiosity" appeal to both attract and calm
bucks and does alike. Trail's End 307 is my go-to scent for all my
late-season deer hunting.
Finally, let's face it -- it's also easier on us hunters to sit
during the warmest part of the day in cold winter conditions. Plus,
you'll have a lot less competition from other hunters who hung up
their guns and bows after the rut. So get out there during the late
season, and I promise, you'll have a very good chance at some
exciting action and hopefully that buck of a lifetime.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman is a nationally known
outdoorsman. For more than 25 years he has taught people to fish and
hunt. Watch his award-winning "Good Fishing" and "Outdoor Secrets"
television shows on Versus, Fox Sports, Texas Channel and many local
www.winkelman.com for air times where you live and check out
Babe Winkelman on Facebook.