Whitetail hunters expecting success in the late season first need to pass a meteorologist 101 course. You need to be able to forecast the weather to map an appropriate strategy. Fortunately, that is easier than ever today. As a novice whitetail hunter, I often rudely hushed my spouse so that I could intently study the 6 o’clock evening TV weather for the next day’s hunt. Today weather streams at you nonstop from online and smartphone sources.
The smartphone revolution alone allows instant updates on weather, especially while using the Moultrie Mobile app with precision forecasts built in. Not only does an accurate forecast aid in whether you should skip a day due to hazardous weather, but the preciseness of modern forecasting also allows you see hourly changes. Everything from cloud cover to wind-direction changes and rain to snow affect your whitetail game-day planning.
With weather at your fingertips there are no excuses for missing an incoming front, pinpointing the passing of a front or foreseeing future wintry estimates to ask for a day off work.
What forecast are you looking for to optimize late-season success? Severe winter weather that arrives with cold temperatures and moisture. Study the path of the storm, its estimated arrival, length of stay and the estimated time of its passing. This entire period is crucial for late-season, winter buck success.
Evolution and instinct combine to make whitetails stay put as long as possible for winter survival. Bedding longer, day or night, conserves more energy. Anytime a whitetail moves, even on the hunt for browse, it burns calories and burning calories means burning fat. Depending on where a whitetail calls home, it may bed 70 percent or more of the day during the winter as a survival tactic. Northern bucks bed longer than Southern bucks, but even bucks living in a snow-free zone use the stationary tactic to survive winter stress.
What is the one factor that can cause an increase in movement? It is winter weather.
Whitetails can sense the barometric changes associated with incoming winter storms. When the barometer starts racing be watchful for deer movement. The hours preceding the arrival of a threatening, winter-weather condition causes most deer to feed. And that increase in deer movement up’s the possibility for producing a shot opportunity.
Although Northern latitudes experience more observable deer movement, Southern deer also increase movement prior to the arrival of a storm, even if there is no snow. When blue-bird weather dominates a late-season hunt, you may have a chance at a doe, but savvy, veteran bucks frequently hide out and feed in a nocturnal fashion.
Over the course of a handful of late-season Iowa hunts, every unsuccessful hunt was due to abnormally warm, winter conditions. However, success was linked to bad-weather movement.
Also be watchful of a rising barometer after the passing of a major cold front. Deer realize they have a high-pressure window to browse and recuperate. They take to the fields to fill their paunch and if the storm lasted for days, rather than hours, expect the deer to feed extensively in preparation for the next guaranteed storm.
Once whitetails have restocked their internal grocery shelves, they will again go into the winter rest mode using a stationary lifestyle to conserve bodily fuel reserves.
About the Author: Mark Kayser is a prolific outdoor writer and hunting television host.
Mark spends his falls chasing elk and whitetails from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest. From solo DIY elk hunts on public land to sitting in a treestand waiting to ambush rutting whitetail bucks, Mark lives and breathes the hunting lifestyle. For more about Mark Kayser and ways to follow him on social media, visit www.markkayser.com.