by Naomi K. Shapiro
Cold weather deer bow hunts usually take place after the gun season. And since the deer have been "pushed" severely by earlier hunting, they will be particularly wary and nervous at this time.
Two things the savvy hunter needs to do for cold weather bow hunting are:
1. Find a food source for the deer
2. Be properly concealed.
Late season weather is very cold at night, so rule out morning hunts. Hunters don't have to get up at 4 am, make noise in the woods, and try to get behind the food source where the deer are locating. It's a waste of time, as most of the deer at this time of year, regardless of how early you get to the food source areas, will have already moved to their bedding areas.
Also -- a person tends to "move" when they're cold, and if you move at all, the deer will spot you. The deer in cold weather will also move in the early evening hours and the first couple of hours after dark. Then they will be in their bedding areas for the night and pretty-well safe.
Smart cold weather bow hunters sleep in, and head out between 1 to 2 pm when it's the warmest part of the day. Get up in your stand, and, unlike in the morning when you can "sit around" for mega hours, freezing and getting discouraged, the max you'll have to stay out is two or maybe three hours in the afternoon. You're basically targeting the prime hunting time of the day, spending the least amount of time in the woods, while giving yourself the best chance for success.
A good food source will have tracks, deer sign, and food spots. BUT you don't want to set up at the food source! The deer won't get there until after dark. So, set up between the food source and where the deer will be bedding. The key is to know that there is a small window of hunting hours which will last until about 4:30 pm when dusk comes on -- and when there's still legal shooting light.
It may be only a five to ten minute window, so you must be in the right spot at the right moment. If you're too close to the feeding area, it'll be dark before the deer come in; and if you're too close to the bedding area, you'll spook the deer. If this happens, you can be sure that the deer will know you're there, and won't come out until after you leave. They're that "sharp" at this time of year.
So, to summarize, locate along a deer travel route during the right time slot. Deer will tend to use well-traveled regular routes at this time of year. You need to find a happy medium between the food and bedding area, be able to take a shot during legal shooting hours.
One other thing that many hunters forget: Hypothermia can be a real problem in the cold. You've got to stay warm. Usually, permanent stands on private property help late season bow hunters bear the wind and cold. OR, you can set up a ground blind and take along one of those little silent heaters that have no odor and make no sound. Just remember to stay down wind from the deer. Many hunters get "muscle freeze" because of the cold, and can't even pull back their bow! So if you're too cold, breathing hard, or not feeling right, get out of the woods. No deer is worth your health – or, indeed, your life.
Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article.
Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at cre8vNaomi@gmail.com