Late Season Whitetail Hunting
Hunting late season whitetails can be a very interesting time to be in the deer woods. In Illinois, we consider late season all of December through the middle of January. There can be a huge difference in deer hunting from the beginning of December to the middle of January. There are several different whitetail phases during this time. There is the post rut, secondary rut and getting ready for winter phases.
From the last week of November until around the 10th of December, there is still some rutting activity going on. Those big whitetail bucks are looking for the last does that did not get bred, or that came in very early and were not bred, so they are back in heat. This can be a great time to harvest the dominate trophy whitetail buck in the area since he will be out looking for the last does that are in heat. The average highs in Pike County, Illinois during this time is the upper 40’s and average lows are in the high 20’s.
Illinois’ second gun season and late muzzleloader-only season falls during this period. Illinois’ second gun season normally is the first weekend in December and lasts 4 days. This deer hunt starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Many gun hunters take advantage of the extra day and gun hunt whitetail during this time. The Illinois muzzleloader-only deer season is normally the following weekend. This whitetail hunt starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. We offer an archery/muzzleloader combo deer hunt during this time of year.
The whitetail does that did not get bred during November start to come back in during this secondary rut time period. This is a time when big trophy whitetail bucks are still looking for those does that come back into heat. When a doe comes into heat in the area you are hunting, you may see the dominate buck reappear. This can be very productive in killing a monster whitetail.
Also during this time, many of the bucks are starting to build back their fat reserves for winter. Going through the rut they have lost a lot of weight and need to build back what they lost. As a result of these factors, patterning bucks from bedding and feeding areas can be very productive during this time. The average temperatures drop a little during this period to the mid 40’s as a high and mid 20’s as a low.
This is one of the favorite times for the guides and staff at Heartland Lodge to hunt. While most hunters are done for the year, Heartland starts dialing in on whitetail bucks that are getting ready for winter. Setting up on bucks traveling from bedding to feeding areas can be very productive. Unless weather moves in, hunting the early morning hours and late evening hours are the most productive during this time of year.
Illinois has two late season firearm doe hunts. The first hunt normally starts on the last Thursday of the year and ends on Sunday. The second hunt falls at the end of Illinois deer hunting season, around January 15th. This hunt starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. These firearm tags are offered over the counter to Illinois residents. Currently, Pike County has no limits, so you are able to fill the freezer up with some venison!
Heartland Lodge also offers a Doe Derby for archery hunters in December and January. This is a great way to enjoy four nights and three days of whitetail deer hunting for a very reasonable price. You can still harvest a buck, but you don’t have to pay for it unless you do. You can also harvest an unlimited amount of does. This is a great way to enjoy some time in the woods or check us out for next year.
- Wear the proper gear and dress warm. This may sound simple, but you can’t shoot a whitetail if you are cold.
- This is a good time to layer your clothes. Wait until putting on the outer layer until you are in the stand. Sitka clothing offers a great layering system.
- Patterning bucks from bedding to feeding areas is easier during this time.
- Food, food, and more food. Late season is all about the food. If you have a food source, you are going to have whitetails.
- Plant some late season food sources that will still be there when all other food sources are gone. Brassicas are great before any heavy snow arrives. Standing corn and milo or sorghum are both excellent if you can keep the deer from touching it until late.
- Have the poundage of your bow set at the poundage that you can comfortably pull back during cold weather. It’s much harder to pull your bow back when it’s cold, so make sure you don’t have too high of poundage.
- Practice shooting wearing the same gear that you will be wearing while hunting. Heavy coats, gloves, etc., should also be worn while practicing.
Enjoy bow hunting an elusive gobbler while in your stand. You can have the option of hunting turkeys and whitetail during your fall deer hunt.
It’s nice to be sitting in the stand and if a flock of turkeys come in, you have the option of shooting one with your bow. Your fall archery turkey permit is an either sex tag, so you could shoot a hen or a gobbler.