Post-Rut Hunting Essentials

3 keys to late-season success  

If it’s late season and you still have an open tag, it may be hard to find a good doe or especially a good buck to fill it. Many find hunting this time of year the most challenging, especially when deer have been pressured and shot at for months. With gun seasons over, many deer seem to vanish, or become nocturnal at best. However, with a little knowledge and proper application, this time of year can actually be your best time to fill a tag. So here are three things that will really help your chances at success if employed properly on whitetail in late season.

1. Find the food.

You have to find the hot food source to find the deer. After the rut, whitetail will be hitting these food sources hard, and that’s where you need to be – either set up on the preferred food source, or at a strategic travel corridor deer will use to access it. The first, can be more aggressive and higher risk, but also higher reward. The latter is less risky but also gives more chance for deer to get to the food by a route other than your chosen ambush point. You have to think through what is best in your scenario, but either of these locations can be killer with the right setup. Remember, bucks have lost a lot of body mass chasing does during the rut, and they have to gain this back to survive the winter.  So, find those acorns that are still around, that corn field that still has leftovers, turnip food plot, or standing beans and hunt them.

2.  Hunt the cold fronts.

On top of this, when a cold snap hits deer will be forced to hit food, and many times in daylight. Even though they are very wary from being hunted all year, and would rather be nocturnal in their feeding, they will get up to eat in this scenario. They simply don’t have the fat reserves, or food in normal bedding areas to sustain them.  They will have to get up and hit food, and during shooting hours. Look for those days where the temps dip below freezing or more, and when they drop a good 10+ degrees.  Set up on your chosen ambush point and get ready for action. Sometimes (if you’ve done your homework and found the best food source in your area) deer within miles will be pouring into the field giving you ample opportunities and hot action early in the evening. So make sure when a cold front hits, that you hunt and hunt early (Note – hunting in the morning at food sources should be avoided, as deer will most likely already be at the source and you will push them off. So avoid mornings, and hunt evenings for your best success.) (Silent Entry)

3.  Pay special attention to stealth.

I cannot emphasize this enough. You have to remain unseen, unsmelled, and especially unheard while coming and going, and while set in your hunting location.  Deer have been hunted all year, and are very educated and on edge.  Any little tip off will ruin your chances, so special care is needed. What is your entry route? Identifying where deer are bedding is key to make sure your wind never blows into this area during your approach. Are there visual barriers like thick brush, switchgrass, or evergreens to mask your movements? With leaves down, the approach that worked early in the season may not work now. Also, make sure you can get in silently, but also get out undetected.  Deer will most likely still be on the food source when you leave, so really think about stand placement and how you will slip out and not push those deer on the field, acorn patch, or food plot. Your entry and exit routes will most likely need to be different to accomplish this. Many times deer will bed nearby, so any noise walking in, inside the blind, and with your equipment could mess up a great opportunity, so take all precautions in this area by soundproofing your hunting gear so there are no errant clangs or clunks. This way, you can hunt your honeyhole food source multiple times on carefully chosen days (based on winds, cold fronts, etc.) and have the best action possible to fill that late-season whitetail tag.

About the Author:

Adam Lewis has been hunting whitetail deer for 29 years, and is a freelance writer who has written for North American Whitetail, Bowhunter Magazine, MidWest Outdoors, and many others. He also operates Sound Barrier which specializes in helping hunters increase their stealth advantage on whitetails. Website: