Effectively hunting deer after the rut is not only possible, but also often results in some of the season’s best encounters with mature whitetails. Encounters are one thing, however. Pulling off a shot at the wary survivors of the rut and gun season is another. Bowhunters need to step up their game and be ready to take a longer shot if needed.
Luck has very little to do with late season deer hunting success. The deer are relatively predicable compared to the unruliness of the rut. They are focused on one thing: limiting the stress of winter. This usually leads them to the best food source around, moving more during the day to conserve energy, and choosing an easygoing route from feeding and bedding locations. It seems all these behaviors fall right into the bowhunter’s lap. So why is arrowing a late-season buck so challenging?
The answer can usually be blamed on a hunter’s unwillingness to adapt from “rut mode.” They are still hunting the same stands, at the same times and only ready for a close-range shot. Luring a buck into bowrange during the rut was easy using scents, decoys and calls. Now, the deer are in wide open habitat and unresponsive to aggressive attraction tactics. If you want to see more deer in bow range during late December and January, the best thing you can do is extend your bow range.
Not long ago, shots more than 40 yards in distance intimidated most hunters. Today’s faster shooting bows, flatter shooting arrows and better flying broadheads has allowed extended effective bow ranges. If you are comfortable shooting at 40 yards, spend a day at the range and add a 50-yard pin (as long as you have the speed and energy stored in your setup to kill a deer at this range ethically). It will increase your odd of filling a tag.
When shooting longer distance, you need to trust your broadhead. No doubt, reliable mechanical broadheads are the better choice for this application, but compact-fixed blade broadheads like the Wasp Bullet or Boss also mimic the accuracy of field points when shot from a well-tuned bow. Second chances are rare this late in the season, and that is why we engineer the deadliest broadheads archers can thread on their arrows.