Four late-season deer experts dish 54 tips on how to end your year with a bang.
Some people just know how to get it done in the end— to close Game 7 or wrap up the deer season with an absolute stud of a buck. Together, these four experts have tagged more than 70 Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett trophies in the late fall or winter, and in the pages that follow, they tell you exactly how to end the season with your best buck ever
Every year, starting in late August, 44-year-old Michigan custom-home builder Tony Trietch hits the road to fill big-game archery tags on public land around the West. He’ll return home for a stretch in mid-October, but then it’s back to the mountains or onto the plains well into winter. This season, he’ll hunt more than 100 days in five states. He’ll drive over 10,000 miles and cover somewhere between 700 and 1,000 on foot. But the late season, when he focuses on spot-and-stalk hunting for big muleys and whitetails, is special. “The game becomes simpler and more solitary,” he explains. “Winter bucks have one thing on their minds—food. If you find a good food source and put the time in behind your glass, you’ll find a good buck, and you know he’s not going anywhere. If I can watch a good buck bed down on the prairie or in the foothills, I almost always feel like I can get him.” Plus, lots of guys are tagged out, burned out, or don’t want to deal with the tough conditions. “I love the solitude of the late season,” he says. “If you’re willing to hike to get away from the roads and easy access points, you can often have these deer to yourself—even on public land.” —D.H.
The late season in the Midwest isn’t merely good, according to Mark Drury, co-owner of Drury Outdoors. “It can be almost magic,” he says. “When whitetails are focused solely on food, and you have found or planted what they want to eat, there’s no better time or place to kill a truly huge whitetail.” Every December and January, Drury and his team see monster bucks that were ghosts all fall—huge deer they had either never gotten daylight pictures of or never seen at all. “That’s the power of post-rut food: If you’re on it, you are going to see the biggest bucks in the area.” Putting your tag on one is far from easy, though. You need loads of patience. You have to be willing to suffer bitter-cold conditions. And you’d better bring your A game. “The smallest mistake will clear a field of feeding deer, and your hunt is over,” Drury says. But after decades of chasing these winter giants, he’s got it down to a system. —S.B.
The DiNitto family farm in central New York is 1,000-plus acres of alfalfa and corn broken by hardwoods and honeysuckle thickets. A deer nut’s paradise. And Joe DiNitto hasn’t hunted it in 31 years. “I started hunting the Adirondacks with my dad and brother as a young teenager, but when I was 22, I tracked and killed my first big-woods buck.” That was it, he says. “Since then, I can’t shake the allure of big new country—and knowing there’s a buck up ahead of me.” There’s also a practical reason: “Show me an easier way to get close to a mature whitetail buck, and I’ll do it,” DiNitto says. As a dairy farmer with four kids, he gets little time to hunt and zero time to scout. “I don’t own a trail camera.” But give him three days on snow and he’ll get a chance at a brute. Tracking is so effective, he says, that he almost feels guilty, and he can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it. “There’s nothing more exhilarating than sneaking to within yards of a wilderness buck. I think about it 365 days a year.” —D.H.
Jay Maxwell grew up hunting large farms in rural Georgia, but he started killing bigger bucks after moving to the suburbs of Atlanta. Maxwell, 39, owns a nuisance wildlife trapping and cull service in the city, and along with a few buddies, he films and produces online videos for Seek One Productions. That gives him a keen understanding of how deer use the small woodlots and drainages in the sprawling Atlanta metro area— and a flexible schedule to hunt when the conditions are just right. Like many suburban areas, Atlanta’s woodlots are typically bowhuntingonly and tough to gain access to. That means the bucks get old—and big. In 2007, Maxwell killed the Georgia nontypical archery state-record buck in Fulton County. That 2134⁄8-inch giant was chasing a doe in November. No surprise, the rut is Maxwell’s favorite part of the year—but he says the late season is almost as good. And in some ways, it can be easier. —W.B.
Heads Up A Montana buck all but disappears on the prairie.
On Watch Slipping up on a bedded buck takes Zen-like patience.
Backyard Brute A late-season Booner strolls through a suburban woodlot.