The secondary rut may still hot, but it’s time to begin thinking about the future of the whitetail season. By now, nearly all of the crops are out and the acorns have been devoured. In most areas a buck’s main objective will move from reproduction to bulking back up from the rigors of the rut in preparation for the winter to come. They will begin to venture back to their predictable late summer feeding patterns.
Locate food sources
By spending just a few evening in the woods, you can quickly learn where the deer are spending the majority of their time. The bucks have spent weeks on their feet looking for hot does.
During this time, they lose a large percentage of their body weight. They need to put that weight back on in order to survive the sometimes-harsh Midwest winter. When you locate these food sources, afternoon setups are the best. Often time, the deer will bed near the food source so setting up can be a challenge. I like to find a tree on an edge that provides me with some cover (which is hard to find in the bare winter woods) and allows me to shoot into the field.
If a tree with cover is hard to find, I like to set my stand facing away from the field and utilize the tree for cover. It can be a pain having to constantly look behind you, but once it gets prime time, I like to stand and turn around.
Cold and snow fronts
Once you have the food source and stand located, keep an eye on the weather. January is the time of year for big northern cold fronts that can drop the temperature 20-plus degrees in just a few hours. These big systems normally have precipitation associated with them, like snow. Hunting just before and just after these systems can be dynamite! There’s nothing better than an afternoon in the stand with snow falling. When the wait for a big front to arrive is over, make sure to get to the stand early especially during sub freezing temperatures. The deer will begin moving in the early afternoon while it’s still warm.