December is a difficult time to hunt deer. There can be a mini rut that happens as the doe’s that did not get bred during the normal rut or those that came into heat late happen end of November into the first few weeks in December. The deer will start moving into their winter yards and will more than likely abandoned the fields or normal travel routes.
As a hunter you have to adapt to these changes if you want to be successful. By December most states have had their gun season which means that the deer have been pressured. During this pressure deer patterns change. I have seen whitetails that will go nocturnal and will find places that are good to hide.
The bucks will be spending time eating to put back on weight during this time. Keep an eye on different food sources. This may find you in the middle of a lot of deer if you happen to be lucky enough to find them.
Preparing for the Cold
Post rut hunting is challenging. Temperatures are usually cold and depending on where you are hunting could be well under zero. Hunting under these conditions can be very harsh. I would suggest adding extra things to your pack in case you get stuck out in the elements. I add extra fire starting materials to my pack and solar blanket just in case.
Hunting last season requires a few different tactics. If you can stay warm, you will have a much better chance to sit still. Shivering is an enemy of the hunter. The movement can give away your position thus making it important to plan ahead. Spending a little time planing in this area can go along way. There are many different products out there that can help in this endevore. Mr Buddy Heater is one such product.
Dressing correctly is required to hunt in the cold. I add a cotton base layer and add layers one at a time as needed. I will add a wind layer at the top to help protect against the cold. Wind is one of the biggest factors in getting cold. The idea is to create areas of air pockets that your body will warm which in turn will keep you warm. The wind layer keeps the pockets of warm air from being pushed out.
Post Rut Hunting
Now that the precautions have been discussed on to the actual hunting. The mini rut will happen during this time frame which can help a hunter be successful. The bucks will chase the doe’s that are coming into heat and there will be some tactics that will still work from the rut.
The patterns of deer will change during this month of hunting. The whitetail deer will start to move into their winter range. Food sources are becoming more scarce and deer will look more into shelter than during the summer and fall. I try to hunt the edges of swamps and thick areas.
Valleys is another area that I will target during this time frame. Deer are trying to find areas to get out of the wind and to keep warm. Using this knowledge of hunting valley edges where the hill will block the wind has been very successful for me. Deer are just like us hunters. They will find areas that will help them stay warm. Find and hunt those areas and it will increase your chances of success.
Swampy areas usually provide protection from the wind and provide good cover. I will try and find areas that are a little open in the thick stuff. Topographical maps can greatly assist in finding these hidden gems. Over the years, I have found these little places and have had great success.
Scouting is something that I do year around. I spend more time scouting after gun season than before. This is a good time to see where the deer have been and where they have been eating. I’ll keep this information documented for next year. As part of that scouting I’ll try and find where the deer are currently bedding and eating as well.
The whitetails can start to lose their antlers during December but usually not until January. While scouting, I’ll keep an eye out for sheds. During this phase I put in some leg time in the woods. I take the opportunity to check out new areas and to watch what the deer are doing. I try to understand “why” the deer do what they are doing to give me a better chance at success.
Scouting is important throughout the year but can be really productive during this time of year. Even if I already filled my available tags, I’ll still scout. If I bump deer during this time frame, it won’t be detrimental. They will forget all about being bumped out of their beds by the following years.
Camera’s will also help out greatly in scouting. I put out several cameras all throughout the season. They are invaluable in gathering Intel. Not only are they out there when you are not but they also keep human scent in the area down to a minimum. I couldn’t recommend the use of camera’s more. There are several different kinds out there from simple SD card ones which you have to switch out to ones that have cell service and send the pictures to your phone or computer.
I would highly suggest that you hide them well or add camera security boxes to help stop thieves. I hide them as well as I can and haven’t had any issues. I’ve had friends that have even had them stolen on private land. It can be like Christmas morning when I go switch out SD cards and look at the pictures that my cameras have taken.
Deer drives can be an effective way to get deer up and moving around. Depending on where you are hunting there may be doe gun seasons during December. If I’m bow hunting driving is not something that I will do. Running shots with a bow are almost impossible. Deer drives can be a good way to hunt when its cold. Drives involve pushing deer in a direction where they can be ambushed. This can be a great way to socialize with your fellow hunting party members.
Wrapping it up
Hunting in December can be hard but also can be rewarding as well. Hunting in the northern United States anyway can be really cold. There’s been days where I’ve been out hunting when the temperatures didn’t get into the positives during the day. Those are cold morning. Dress properly and it can be manageable. I will use a ground blind much more often during the cold days. It cuts down on the wind as well as allows the ability to add a heater to help keep you warm.
Scouting is an important aspect of hunting but one that can help you be much more successful. If you have an understanding what a deer will do and why, you can plan your attack accordingly. You can also find sheds on occasions during this time frame.
Don’t hesitate to try out different things. You can learn a lot of things hunting during the cold days of December. Camera’s can help your scouting efforts. They can help keep the human scent down and give you an insite as is in your area.
Hunting in December can get you the deer of your dreams. Learn to hunt the cold and what the deer are going to do during this time frame and you can be successful. Take the time to get to know the area will not only help you during December but also during the earlier part of the season.