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Winter Rewards

Some people don’t even start deer hunting until it’s cold enough for them to see their breath in the middle of the day. While some hunters may go to extremes, more people are discovering that late-season deer hunting has its advantages, despite the temperature.

“The coldest day I’ve ever hunted, it was 20 degrees below zero,” says Shelby County resident Mike Roberts. “My eyes watered and my tears froze. I had to use my fingers to open my eyes. But I saw over 30 deer that morning, including a couple of bucks.”

During the November breeding season, or “rut,” male deer aren’t worried much about food. They rely on stored fat to carry them through. Once the primary breeding season is finished (there are minor ruts in December and January), bucks turn their attention back to eating. This can work to a hunter’s advantage.

“The deer are pretty much going to be in two places: in thick cover or in the acorns,” says deer biologist David Yancy.

Acorns give deer a lot of bang for the buck. They’re high in fat and protein. Listen closely when the ground is frozen, and you’ll hear the thump of deer pawing the dirt for acorns. If all the acorns are gone, look for deer around old tobacco fields planted in winter wheat, or corn and soybean fields where waste grain may still be on the ground.

Deer also become less nocturnal in December and January—they need to feed several times a day to keep their energy levels up. There’s more good news for hunters: deer tend to wait until the sun is out and warming the landscape before they wander out of bedding areas. When it’s really cold outside, this means you don’t have to be in your tree stand before dawn.

There’s another advantage to late-season hunting. Deer are easier to spot and their trails stand out in the snow. However, you’re easier to spot, too; one wrong move and that buck or doe will be heading for the next county.

If you’re ready for the cold, try late-season deer hunting this year. The season remains open until January 17.

Give a gift they’ll use all year: a hunting or fishing license. You can purchase licenses for others if you can provide their address, birth date, and a Social Security or driver’s license number. You must be the parent or guardian to purchase a junior hunting license for those 15 and younger. If you have a credit card, you can purchase most licenses over the Internet at, or by calling 1-877-598-2401.

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