Hunting whitetails in a winter wonderland comes with challenges. In addition to perhaps brutally cold weather, you have less cover to conceal yourself, more deer traveling in groups and even young bucks and does are walking on eggshells thanks to a month of hunting pressure. I learned early in my bowhunting career that you do not get away with any mistakes during late season hunts. I learned this lesson many times, making mistake after mistake. Here are the trials I ran into and the solutions I’ve found work best for me during late-season bowhunts.
Make it Easier to Draw Back Your Bow
While drawing back 65 pounds is easy for me in October, it takes a little more effort in December and January. Maybe I am out of shape after Thanksgiving, or maybe the cold weather is keeps my muscles tight and less effective. Regardless of the reason, I have spooked a few deer turning into a contortionist as I pulled back my bow. I’ve learned I am better off taking a few pounds off the draw weight when hunting in frigid temperatures. That, along with sighting in the new setup and shooting my bow at least three times a week, is the solution for me.
Protect Your Bow from the Weather
Cold weather and bows do not mix. Most problems occur when wet snow accumulates on cams, arrows, sights and peep sights. The best solution I have found is to keep everything wiped off. Also, pull your bow back every 30 minutes or so to keep moving parts from freezing, ensure you can see through your peep sight and keep your muscles loose.
Focus More on Stealth
Crunchy snow. Fewer leaves on the trees to break up your outline and deaden sound. Bigger concentrations of deer. It can be challenging to draw your bow back without getting picked off. Proper winter camo patterns, ultra-slow movements and a decoy help my odds of drawing my bow undetected.
Winter is the time I pay extra attention to my camo pattern and background. Usually I opt for snow camo. I found this stuff at a fair price and it sheds precipitation well. You can also make your own with a pair of white Tyvek painter coveralls and some charcoal or spray paint.
I think noise and movement more than camo choice are responsible for more blown covers, though. So be sure to move slowly and at times when you think you are out of a deer’s sight picture. Shooting accurately from a seated position makes a difference in the late season. Standing up and shifting my weight always seems to result in the nuts and bolts of my tree stand creaking – a noise that carries a long way in the winter woods.
Most of the time, I am hunting afternoon food sources and it can be crowded with does and younger bucks as I wait for a shooter to show up. Sometimes 15-20 deer can be around my stand. That’s a lot of eyeballs. To take the focus off me, I will set up 2D decoys – one in the field, and one right below my stand in the brush. The decoys attract and distract. Deer are becoming more social and sharing dwindling food sources during the late season, and the distraction helps when there is little cover around.
The late season is a great time to be in the woods. A bowhunter just has to plan for all the challenges it presents because second chances are rare in our sport – and even rarer during the post rut.