Welcome to 'Deercember'
Photo by Larry Ditto/Larry Ditto Photography
It feels like it was just yesterday that we flipped the calendar to September with high anticipation. Drilling down on all of the last-minute keys to get ready for the early-season. Somehow we are now several days into December, and we can confirm that time does fly.
For those that have been fortunate enough to fill a tag or multiple tags this season, it feels like we're about ready to flip the calendar to the off-season. Yet we're holding on to what was a special season. For those who have yet to fill a tag, it feels like time is ticking. It can also feel like an uphill battle with the best days behind us.
However, it doesn't have to feel that way for either camp. There's a good chance that you can still enjoy time afield whether you have already filled out a couple of tags or not. December provides us with a unique opportunity when it comes to deer season in North America. Southern hunters can still enjoy some rutting activity, while those of us in the northern half of the country can get plenty of action on that bed-to-feed pattern. Needless to say, the show is not over.
There's a reason why some folks in the outdoor industry refer to December as 'Deercember'. You can still get the job done during this month, and it's a joyous time of the year as we get to enjoy gun seasons and the holidays.
3 DECEMBER DEER STRATEGIES FOR THE ROAD
1. Find the Food
Let's start by acknowledging the fact that strategy tips will vary greatly from region to region. Those of you down south will be enjoying rutting activity right up to and through January 1st. That's a massive differentiation from those of us up north. Nonetheless, food is going to be king in December. Northern deer are going to be packing the calories in to recover from an intense rut and to prepare for the harsh winter ahead. With a taste of cold weather, southern deer should be ready to do the same. You can see where we are headed with this food theme. If you are fortunate enough to have some kind of grain food source, you're going to have a chance at a December to remember. Corn and soybean fields can yield some of the best hunts of the year on a cold December afternoon. Turnips and other brassica food plots can have similar results. Food sources will obviously vary from region to region, but the importance remains the same. Find food and you can find success during this final month of 2018.
2. Strike When the Iron is Hot
December is a month that I like to scale it back a bit and measure my shots. In the month of November, it's all about pushing the envelope as much as possible. Hitting the field on any given day because you never know what might go down. It may be tempting to keep the pressure turned up as you watch the days of the hunting season tick away, but you may be better off toning things down. I'm not talking about throwing in the towel by any means. I am talking about getting strategic and analytic again. Kind of turning the clock back to the early-season when we hone in on cold-fronts and prime weather conditions. Remember that the deer are coming off of some immense pressure in most areas of the country. The rut, gun season, and a couple of months of hunting pressure overall. If a big buck made it this far, he's going to be a tough customer. Get analytic with the conditions and try to strike on those cold-fronts that yield high barometric pressure. Ideal days are not always created equal, so don't be afraid to roll the dice as well. Just use some precision when planning that next hunt. Have a strategy and hunt smart. Volume hunting, or hitting the same stand every single day, is a strategy that should probably be left in the month of November. That is in most of your northern states that have the rut and gun season in the rear-view.
3. Fall Back on Trail Cams
Regardless of where you are reading from, this is a valuable tip from this point forward. Trail camera intelligence is about to reign supreme yet again. Even more so if you scale back your hunting pressure. We can act as live trail cameras in some regard during the month of November. If you're hunting hard, you can learn more from your treestand sits than trail cameras. That changes in December. As deer become more reclusive and movement scales back to a bed-to-feed pattern, it's important to lean on those cameras again. If you aren't a trail camera user, you should think about joining the crowd. If nothing else, get back to glassing and scouting. December is all about information. Finding out where the deer are feeding, pinpointing which shooter bucks are still living, and maximizing your hours on stand. Trail cameras can help you with all of that.
Bonus: Travel with the Rut
If you're the ultra-serious deer hunter, December is a great time to hit the road. We have a great dynamic going on during this month in North America. The northern half of the country can be absolutely dynamite if temperatures plummet and you have a lot of food on hand. The southern half of the country is still firmly seated in the rut, and some areas will see rutting activity through the month of January. If the hunting in your neck of the woods is sub-par, this is a great time for a road trip. Places like Texas can be absolutely magical during this phase of the season. It's certainly not easy for most of us to up and hit the road to take a hunt, but it's a great option if you can make it happen.