Hunting blind as shown at last light during the late season

How to Hunt Whitetail Deer in the Late Season: Our Top 5 Strategies

Hunting whitetail during the late-season is notoriously tricky. Deer are often skittish and on high alert by the end of the season. Wouldn’t you be if someone was poking around your neighborhood for a couple of months? 

While this means some hunters swear off late-season hunting, considering it more effort than it’s worth, the truth is, with a little patience and strategy, you can fill your freezer, even in the dead of winter. With that said, here’s a list of our top 5 tips for late-season deer hunting.

1. Read the Room

Educating yourself on where deer are living and moving around is just as if not more important during the late season as the early season. Deer movement during the winter months is driven largely by these factors: 1) Availability of food, 2) Availability of safe shelter, and 3) Energy conservation (which involves choosing the path of least resistance). 

During the winter months, deer like browse food such as:

  • Cedar (white or arborvitae)
  • Sassafras
  • Wintergreen
  • Alternate-leaved dogwood
  • Yew
  • Mountain maple
  • Witch hobble
  • Basswood
  • Apple
  • Maples
  • Flowering dogwood
  • Staghorn sumac

We recommend locating food sources first. Because deer move from bedding area to feeding area in a way that conserves energy in the late season, these areas will likely be closer together than during the early season. Therefore, you may also find success scouting out transition areas or bedding areas. 

For scouting feeding areas, look for green food sources on warmer days and grains on colder days

For scouting bedding areas, look for areas of dense cover by hunting the edges of thickets and conifer stands, especially on cold days or after snowfall, and you may find bedding areas. Find key "travel corridors" and bottlenecks between food and bedding areas, and you can set up your blind or treestand in that area. 

2. Early to Rise Isn’t Wise

While hunting deer at first light during the early season might be an effective strategy, that isn’t the case for deer hunting in the late season. Hunting in the afternoon is an effective strategy for true late-season hunting, MeatEater recommends hunting during the evening hours.

3. Use a Well-Placed Blind or Treestand

When bowhunting whitetail in the barren winter months, it can be tricky to get close enough to stay concealed while remaining within range of a clean kill shot. 

If you can find a suitable tree, setting up a treestand and using height and foliage to your advantage could be an effective strategy to use. Otherwise, if no tree cover exists, you might be better off using a hunting blind

Whether hunting on foot, in a treestand, or with a blind, though, be sure to exercise extreme caution to avoid prematurely spooking deer or being spotted. 

4. Mind Your End of the Bow

Focusing on deer, their needs, and their late-season behaviors is crucial during the late season. But no list of late-season deer hunting tips would be complete without a note on human behavior, too. 

While it might seem obvious, winter is no time to be glib about how you dress. If you’ve been late-season hunting before, you’ll probably already know this, but for beginner hunters, we must stress the importance of dressing warmly. Well-designed late-season outerwear worn over layers alongside good-quality boots and gloves are all musts. Wearing them could mean the difference between staying long enough to score a booner and calling it quits early.

5. Exercise Patience

Winter hunts are the perfect time to hone your woodmanship skills. Being patient is always good when hunting, but that is doubly true during late-season hunts. 

Give Deer What They Want in Wintertime: Fattening Food

Want to attract deer to where you are instead of spending hours upon hours scouting and waiting? Feed deer what they want in the cold winter months and train them to eat during the day and you’ll be much more likely to tag a trophy buck to fill your freezer on your time. 

An easier late-season whitetail hunting experience awaits you with the Tectonic Daytime Deadfall Feeder.