Late December StrategyDecember 23rd, 2010 by Grant Woods
Female fawns generally reach puberty when they attain a body weight of approximately 70 pounds. In areas where the rut occurs during November and there is ample quality forage, female fawns generally reach puberty during December of their first year. That’s valuable information for folks that like to hunt mature bucks!
By December, deer throughout most of the whitetails range have had enough encounters with hunters to be in a state of constant high alert. Hence, mature bucks rarely visit areas where they are likely to encounter hunters during daylight hours. This means mature bucks typically avoid food plots, ag fields, and other locations hunters frequent during daylight hours.
There is one common exception. Mature bucks will follow receptive female fawns during daylight hours into areas that are frequently hunted. Knowing this, I commonly use this strategy during mid to late December in areas where the rut occurs during November and there is ample quality forage available to support rapid fawn development.
I like hunting large openings such as food plots, ag fields, etc., as they can usually be approached from downwind, using Minimal Disturbance Entry (M.D.E.) tactics. In fact, I used this strategy last Saturday. I was hunting a property near Dorena, Missouri which is an area with lots of agricultural crops and limited cover. The property where I was hunting was the exception in that area as it has gads of cover surrounding a large agricultural field.
I expected several does and fawns to enter a staging area for that field before dark. I didn’t expect many mature bucks to enter the field unless drawn there by a female fawn that was receptive. During a day with a northwest wind I entered the field from the east and hung a Muddy ladder and hang-on stand during lunch for my cameraman, Adam, and myself. I selected a site that would allow me to watch an area of the field where the sign indicated several deer with smaller tracks had been entering. About 30 minutes before dark several doe/fawn groups began entering the field. After another 20 minutes went by, a buck I estimated to be 4.5 years old followed a female fawn into the field. After the cameraman assured me he was filming and had a clear view, I took some time to enjoy the moment and then let the muzzleloader’s hammer fall.
If the herd/habitat conditions I’ve described match those where you hunt, consider patterning fawns as a strategy to harvest a mature buck during the late season. The more fawns you pattern during the late season, the more likely one of them will be receptive and be followed by a mature buck. This may not be a onetime hunt like keying in on a bedding area, etc. However, each day there’s a chance another female fawn will become the ultimate attractant. It’s critical to not alert the deer to your presence as then the does and fawns will begin avoiding the area. Always approach stands with M.D.E. tactics and enjoy watching the fawns. One of them may be followed by a mature buck.
Growing Deer together,