The hunting season has stretched on and you've been in the woods now for months. Perhaps you've had success harvesting a nice buck or even placing a doe or two in the freezer. And maybe, you have been selective waiting for the right deer to come along, only to still be sitting there with your tag in your wallet, and your hopes and dreams slowly fading away as the season draws nearer to the end. For some hunters, they achieve success and they withdraw themselves from the woods and wait until next year. For others, they hunt hard for days, weeks, and even months only to grow discouraged and pack it in and wait for next year to come.
Late season or directly after the season is the time of the year when a hunter can do many things to learn about the deer they are after or to make preparations for next season's success. Far too many hunters, once the season is over, go home pack away their gear, and only return to the woods shortly before the beginning of the next season. Well let me ask you this question. Have you ever been hunting in the fall and noticed a nice saddle or creek crossing or perhaps a pine ridge full of deer sign and activity? Have you ever left after the season, having not marked the area, and not been able to find it or recognize it the following summer when you returned? Believe me, I have. It's not easy to recognize and transfigure a summer jungle of growth into a reasonable and effective hunting spot in a manner of a few hours and without disrupting and disfiguring the whole woods. Big bucks don't like this and you can trust they know you're there. This is where late season scouting and preparations come in so handy and can benefit the dedicated hunter. Maybe you want a stand in a new area. Maybe you need some shooting lanes. During the late season it gives you the opportunity to see what the area looks like when the leaves fall. Trust me, it's a lot easier to hang a new stand in late fall to late winter and trim shooting lanes than it is later in the year.
Late or just after the season is also a great time to take a stroll through the woods looking for deer sign. During this time of the year, you can often see farther through the woods and see how the land lays out. Also visible is buck sign. Sign post rubs stand out for a while. During the late winter months, you can slip through the woods and locate that rub line and see where that big buck may have skirted and eluded you the previous season.
Maybe you have a stand site that has a few muscadine vines or oak and persimmon trees. Use the late season to fertilize these mast producers. Maybe you can prune the limbs to help encourage new growth. I've even used the late season to cut alternate travel trails for me to use going to/from a stand. In our club, we begin prepping and planting food plots or placing new supplemental feeders in locations.
The late or offseason doesn't have to be slow and nonproductive. One has said "you only get out of it what you are willing to put into it". Well that theory applies greatly to deer hunting and especially when it comes to harvesting mature trophy bucks. Use it wisely, and you just might be thankful for it next year.