Late-season bucks are the survivors—the smartest, most reclusive deer in the woods. To tag one now, you’ll have to work harder than ever to earn it. Here are seven extreme tactics from some of the country’s most diehard deer hunters
They’re still out there—huge bucks lurking in your woods right now. They’re the diehards. They’ve survived this long because they’re the toughest deer to kill. But that’s not the only reason. A lot of guys packed it in weeks ago, because their woodstoves are so nice and warm. Or because their couches swallowed them up. Mostly, though, because tagging one of these winter trophies takes more gumption than some folks had when the season began.
But that’s not you.
You, too, are one of the diehards. You’re going to keep at it until your last tag is filled or the season’s last day closes with you picking icicles from your mustache. And to help you get it done, we asked seven of the whitetail world’s most successful big-buck experts to share their best, most extreme late-season tactics. The final push will not be easy, but the reward will be huge.
Hardcore Hunt No. 1: The Hill Workout
Expert: Jared Schefler Years’ Hunting: 20 Location: Western Wisconsin
Owner and producer of the Whitetail Adrenaline video series, Jared Schefler and his buddies have documented 67 buck kills since 2008. All of the animals were taken during D.I.Y. hunts on public land and roughly half were P&Y-class trophies.
In the bluff country of western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota, big, pressured whitetails take refuge on bedding points near the tops of 500- to 600-foot-high ridges. Hiking up one of these hills is a brutal workout, but Schefler and his buddies will make the climb several times a day to fill a late-season tag.
Schefler’s favorite tactic now is a two-man drive that he and his crew perfected on a particular bedding ridge with a sharp dogleg. “If there was a big buck there,” Schefler says, “he’d bed just off the edge of the slope where the ridge made that bend.”
When a buck bedded in a spot like this feels pressure, he’ll usually bomb down toward the valley floor. “We had to figure a way to keep him from doing that. So the driver starts at the bottom and climbs slowly and quietly, just to the upwind side of the buck.” About halfway up, the driver tosses a large rock down to the bottom, which makes a racket. “That makes the buck think there’s something down there he doesn’t want to encounter.”
Meanwhile, the poster has climbed up the opposite slope and silently taken position along the ridgetop, down- or crosswind of the buck. When the driver reaches the top, he snaps a twig or rustles the leaves. “Now the driver has the buck’s attention, but the sound of that rock is still in the deer’s head.” As the driver works toward him, the buck sneaks away by going along the ridgetop—and walks right to the poster. “The first four years we did that drive, we killed three bucks.”