Late-Season Deer: The Underrated Warm Front
You have thawing snow and warming temperatures at the end of January. The traditional deer hunter's handbook would tell you to avoid the warm front and hold out for colder temps, but you can just see that tag in your pocket morphing into a tag sandwich.
After all, the cold front is king in deer hunting. Some of the best deer hunters to ever do it have structured their entire hunting philosophies on the mighty cold front. Hunting weather fronts is a tried and true tactic for killing big deer or any deer. A major weather change usually puts a whitetail or any game animal on its feet. Giving you the hunter a much greater chance at an encounter.
While a major weather change is always on the mind of a deer hunter, we tend to become discouraged when that major change brings abnormally warm weather. It's true that a warm front will typically suppress deer movement, and especially so when that warm front comes in the earlier portions of the season and cranks the temps into the summer-like range.
That is in the early season, but we have come to a different pass in the 2017-18 deer season. Some of you may even be reading this from the depths of the post-season blues. The clock is ticking for most of us. Nothing at the end of January or February is very similar to October or November, so why should we hunt the exact same way?
Far too many hunters who are still looking to fill a tag have discounted a late-season warm front. Yes, you read that correctly. A warm front. It's almost a bad word in deer hunting. And while nobody likes a warm front in the early or mid-season, we may need to rethink our vendetta against warmer weather in the late season.
It's important that we preface this by saying that cold weather and hunting over a food source is the undisputed king of the late-season. This is not to say that we should all rethink our strategy and wait for late-season warm fronts. If you have freezing temps, snow, and a field full of soybeans, by God you better be hunting it hard.
This is also not a scientific, wildlife biologist backed opinion. It's just an observation made over the years from sitting on stand.
If you live in a primarily cold winter climate, you can relate to seeing people flock to the outdoors when the weather warms up. Even if it's just for a day. Folks here in Ohio will literally don their gym shorts and wander outside to do just about anything when we get a warm day or two in the middle of the winter. It's like a magnet for drawing people outside.
Deer with heavy winter coats may not exactly love a 60-degree day in mid-January. We're talking more about a warm front that lifts temps out of the teens, twenties, or thirties and into the forties and fifties. When it has been brutally cold for a stretch of time, deer can be active for that first day or two of warm weather.
This scenario played out for me on the final day of Ohio's muzzleloader season back in early January. After a stretch of absolutely brutal temperatures in the low single digits and even below zero, we had our first day at around 45 degrees on that final day of muzzleloader season. I saw a pile of deer on that final night. About 15 more than I did during a frigid sit just a couple of nights prior.
It was like the deer were having that human reaction to warmer weather. Wanting to get out and stretch the legs. This type of scenario has played out in front of me numerous times during the late-season over the years.
Now there are probably a few things that go into making for a good late-season hunt during a warm front. Number one would definitely be a high-pressure day. Meaning that the barometric pressure was over 29 and the sun was shining with blue skies. Any action packed late-season hunt over a warm front that I can remember took place on a sunny and clear day. Cloudy days with warm temps and rain tend to slow deer movement in my experience.
Another key to this late-season warm front strategy would certainly be the timing of your hunt. I wouldn't expect very good results if you're hunting the third or fourth day of warmer temperatures. Granted that you're having a prolonged warm-up. The first day or two of warm weather directly following extremely cold temperatures are the key.
It's the drastic change of any front that really sparks deer movement. That chill to the fall air following a late-October cold front after a month of stale temps in the 60s. It's refreshing for both hunter and deer. It may not be nearly as popular, but that warm day in the middle of the late-season could be just as refreshing for the deer.
So if you still have a tag and you think that all hope is lost at the sign of warmer late-season temperatures, get out and give it one last shot. You may be surprised by the amount of movement you can see on the first afternoon of a winter warm front.