The forecast calls for cold temps, frozen ground, icy winds and a blanket of fresh snow...are you ready for a heavy dose of late season whitetail weather? Late season weather patterns impact deer movement completely different than during the first portion of the season, which typically includes the period of time prior to the majority of Midwest gun seasons. Calm and cold conditions can features some of the most outstanding hunting opportunities during September, October and November but when harsh December weather comes blasting through-take note! Because a change takes place in the whitetail woods.
Hunting during late season whitetail weather patterns requires a different set of criteria for predicting consistent success, when compared to the first 2/3rds of the hunting season! Cold weather events, periods of calm and warming trends can all work together to create outstanding late season hunting opportunities, but it pays to alter your keen eye for the weather when braving the cold to pursue deer during the late season. I discussed how and where to hunt during the late season with my Late Season Mature Buck Hunting article, but maybe I should have started with exactly which weather patterns to use to predict your success first!
*Great care should be taken, when hunting late season weather patterns, over high attraction food plots. Here is how to make sure that you keep from spooking the local herd, by using these important Low Impact Accessstrategies.
Extreme Cold Weather Hunting Impact
A good old fashioned blizzard is the most extreme example of a late season whitetail weather pattern. However, freezing rain, "Alberta Clippers" and even a cold driving rain, each have the ability to substantially alter late season whitetail behavior, as well as hunting opportunity. But just how do these weather events effect your planning? Like earlier during the season, as I discussed in my Whitetail Cold Front Hunting Strategies article, there are few common concepts that you should pay attention to during a late season cold weather event, with no greater concept than the need for "Survival".
Instead of hunting heavy feeding activity immediately after a cold front, a premium needs to be placed on hunting before a late season cold weather event. Late season whitetail weather patterns add a very critical ingredient to your hunting efforts: Survival! Instead of becoming incredibly active following a cold weather event during September-November, deer enter a survival mode that dictates the need to conserve energy reserves from December through Spring. Think of energy consumption no different than keeping your tank full of gas. A larger tank (mature deer) means higher energy reserves and higher survival rates, while smaller tanks (fawns and yearling age classes) experience limited energy reserves that become depleted more quickly during the Winter months. Regardless of the "size of the tank" though, energy conservation = survival, and that means that late season whitetails are most active during periods of time when they will burn the least amount of energy to re-fill their tanks.
While the extremity of major snow, wind and freezing rain force whitetails to hunker down within various types of thermal habitat features including grasses, shrubs and conifers, the frigid temperatures that follow a cold weather event dictate the need for deer to stay within those features for extended periods of time. Although hunting during the morning, mid-day and evening can pay great rewards during the day prior to a major cold weather event, the days that follow that same weather pattern may be better for trimming the Christmas tree, decorating your home and spending time with your family around the fire!
Periods of Calm Weather Deer Influence
As someone who lived and hunted within MI's Upper Peninusula for a total of 14 years straight, I would consider myself no stranger to both snow, and cold! It was common to experience not only 2' of snow during a late November or December storm, but the extremely cold temperatures that followed. I can remember one particular morning during an early December muzzleloader hunt that I trudged through the fresh snow to post myself within a hidey hold of spruce to watch a whitetail migration trail. It was cold! As I sat within the frigid temperatures I still remember my knees and elbows becoming stiff and cold. I found myself able to make it only 2 hours during the hunt, seeing zero deer and zero deer tracks. I firmly believe I was the only thing moving in the woods that morning and I was not surprised when I walked back to the house to see that the temperatures had only increased to minus 10 degrees! There literally are some days that you can shoot more deer by staying home on the couch and not potentially pressuring your deer stands, and that frozen early December day was definitely one of them.
However, hungry deer can't be kept from feeding for long! Taking a stand during the mid-day hours can be sometimes the only time you will have a high quality chance to observe feeding deer during the periods of calm, cold temperatures that follow an extreme late season whitetail weather pattern. I have even observed deer actually feeding less at dark, than they did during the middle of day during cold and frigid conditions so make sure to enter a stand much earlier than you typically would for an afternoon sit, or even possibly considering a 10-3 sit instead of a noon to 5 sit. What is the best part of a period of extremely cold days that follow a major late season whitetail weather event? The warm-up that follows!
Warming Trends For Increased Deer Movement
As much as a Pre-rut calm, cold morning can heat up the whitetail activity following a cold front, a late season warming trend has the exact same potential to do the same! And why wouldn't it? Imagine that you are a deer for just a second (which I believe is a good thing to do in many whitetail situations!). You are forced into a survival mode of energy conservation, little movement and very little food, as well as into close proximity with other deer within small pockets of high quality habitats that include thermal features. Then, a change takes place: Southerly winds bring welcome, warm and increasing temperatures! The conditions are comfortable, you can replenish depleted energy reserves, and you can do so while slowly making your way out of crowded pockets of thermal protection, and back into your traditional Fall habitats that include moderate food values. Whitetails during a warming trend will move more, will feed more and expand their range more, which can be welcome news to hunters taking full advantage of the various late season whitetail weather patterns!
Of course late season whitetail food sources of corn, brassicas and small cereal grains can all be hot spots of deer activity during evening feeding patterns, but when whitetails are experiencing a surge in the need to feed, don't forget about the natural sources of briars, hardwood regen and remote oak flats. The great aspect of hunting late season natural food sources? Deer will often feed all day long, several hundred yards or more away from traditional major evening foraging options that often attract a much higher level of hunting pressure!
Late season whitetail weather patterns feature some outstanding opportunities for a quality hunt, especially if you learn to recognize the changes within the forecast that reveal potential success. The best part is that hunting the moderate temperatures found prior to major cold weather events, during the middle of the day, and within warming trends can be a comfortable experience for both you and the local deer herd!