THE CLOSERS

Four late-sea­son deer ex­perts dish 54 tips on how to end your year with a bang.

Field and Stream - - CONTENTS - By scott bestul, will brant­ley, and dave hurteau

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.

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