Finding Success in January | Deer Hunting
Photo by Realtree.com
The month of January has arrived. That represents the final month of the deer hunting season in many states and provinces across North America. Some of you may even be in the off-season as we speak. If you have yet to fill your coveted deer tag, you're probably pulling out that old recipe card for tag soup. If you're in that situation, we feel for you. January 1 represents a new beginning in many aspects of life, but it seldom brings hope in the world of whitetail.
Some southern states still have prime hunting opportunities that will roll into the month of February, so there are no blanket statements in this game. Things can vary on extreme ends of the spectrum from region to region, or even from county to county in the exact same state. The party is definitely not over.
We have probably all watched a hunting show where someone dropped a big buck over a snowy Midwestern corn or soybean field in the late-season. Some people even prefer the late-season because it gives them an advantage that you just can't find at any other point in the season. This all centers upon your food source, and we certainly cannot forget the need for cold weather. When it's cold, deer have to move or perish.
You have to realize that the cupboard is about as bare as it gets at this point in the year for most places in North America. Fields have been harvested, foliage is non-existent, and most mast crops have been scarfed up by now. Deer have effectively gone into scavenger-mode to survive. Meaning that they are conserving as much energy as possible. Essentially eating and then bedding down for a majority of the day.
Chances are good that you're going to have the deer if you have some kind of food. It's a simple equation in the late-season.
Unfortunately for most of us, fields full of soybeans, corn or even annual food plots are not plentiful. Most farmers have scalped the fields and harvested their crops, and your annual food plots have probably been depleted. It's a real balancing act, or even a downright magic act, to stretch a prime food source into the month of January. So consider yourself lucky if you have food available on your hunting property.
This picture we're painting may seem rather bleak, but hang with us for the turnaround. I have known of many hunters in my home state of Ohio who have killed late-season studs over simple piles of corn. A $6 bag of shelled corn from Walmart can be enough food if it's placed in the right area.
Now, I think that it's important for us to preface that last statement. Always check your local laws and regulations when it comes to baiting. For various reasons, not all states allow baiting. It's unfortunate if you can't do it, but rules are rules for a reason. There are also a lot of hunters who don't believe in baiting, but we will leave that up for another discussion.
The fact of the matter is that you can provide that late-season food source in several ways. Planning ahead and planting a legitimate crop or food plot, throwing out some corn or a supplement, or even by simply locating whatever it is that deer are feeding on in your neck of the woods. The specifics aren't really that important. Finding food in whatever variety is the goal.
If you are able to throw out some corn or a supplement, it makes a lot of sense to begin the month by simply dumping out a bag in front of a trail camera. That will give you a base to work from. If there are deer in the area, it should be no problem to get them to chow down right on camera. From there you can formulate your hunting game-plan.
Nobody wants to waste time while hunting in January. You're worn down, the deer are worn down, and the hunts are often times cold and miserable. Measure your shots by scouting in advance and utilizing an almighty food source to do so.
Food, food, and more food. That is what hunting in the late-season is all about.