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Five Surefire Tips For December Bucks
You can count on two things this month: The deer will have changed their patterns -- and most hunters won't have changed a thing. So how can you take advantage of this situation? (December 2007) ... [+] Full Article
>> 12 Mistakes To Avoid During The Rut
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Texas Sportsman
December Deer Are Different
Wise to the fact that they're being hunted, East Texas whitetails aren't likely to slip up once December rolls around. here are some time-tested tips to help you score now. (December 2007)

Broaddus deerslayer Cass Fazzio has a job that requires him to be out of the state for two weeks at a stretch -- not a schedule that fits in with hunting of the season's prime times. All the same, he manages to take bucks like this one that he killed recently.
Photo courtesy of Cass Fazzio.

It's amazing the difference a few months can make in Texas. Back at the beginning of October, the woods were alive with activity. Deer would travel at will, moving freely during daylight hours between the dense vegetation of bedding areas and the open feeding grounds covered with plenty of acorns and crops. Food was abundant, temperatures were moderate, people weren't shooting at them, and life was good.

But now it's December. Virtually every bit of greenery has either been consumed or killed by subfreezing temperatures. The abundant acorns that covered the ground earlier are just a distant memory, and for the past two months a constant barrage of arrows and bullets has rained down from the trees. Bucks that survived the rigors of the rut and the onslaught of hunting are weary, ragged and all but invisible.

Realistically, most of you have abandoned the woods and any real hope of bagging a buck, anyway. Those lucky outdoorsmen who hunt the South Texas Brush Country have evidence that taking a deer in December, and even into January, is hardly out of the ordinary; at some ranches there, it's actually prime time for taking a big buck. But if you hunt in East Texas and haven't taken your buck by now, your chances are decreasing exponentially each day.

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For most of the state, really, the season can pretty much be chalked up as a failure if the deer steaks aren't in the freezer by Thanksgiving -- and if you still haven't taken anything by Christmas Eve, your rifle has more than likely been put into the safe to wait until next year. Those still hunting typically have moved on to chase waterfowl or hogs.

While the pursuit of late-season bucks can seem an exercise in futility, the few diehards who refuse to quit until the last minute of the last day know that this can also be an excellent time to take home an experienced old buck. You just have to realize that the tactics you relied on at the beginning of the season are now virtually useless. And let's be honest: If they'd really worked all that well in November, you wouldn't be hunting right now -- would you?

Like a lot of East Texas hunters, I've spent many a season sitting in a freezing stand until the bitter end, praying that a mature buck -- heck, any buck -- would wander by. Many of those seasons ended without a shot being fired. That walk back to the truck with the same shell in the chamber with which I started the season -- reflecting as I trudge along that I'll have to wait another nine months before I have a chance to chase a buck again -- is a long one. (As if to prove a point, a massive buck will inevitably run through the headlights on my way home.)

But owing in part to lessons that I've learned the hard way, deerless seasons have thankfully become less frequent for me over the past years.

By the first week of December 2000, I had already discounted the season as a failure. Not only had I not taken a buck, but I also hadn't even seen one since the gunfire started back on the first weekend of November. It was definitely time for a change of tactics and scenery.

On a late-season afternoon hunt, I decided that instead of heading to one of the usual stand locations on our hunting grounds, I would settle myself into a narrow strip of hardwoods less than 200 yards from the back door of the house I grew up in. This particular stand of trees, less than 50 yards wide and just 100 yards long, was rarely hunted, owing to its proximity to the house. At the time I was of the mindset that all the deer lived on the back side of our place, and so I never hunted that close to the barking dogs and roaring tractor engines that meant civilization was near.

My theory was quickly proved wrong. Leaning against a centuries-old oak tree, I was the only witness to an almost endless parade of deer that afternoon. In the last few hours of daylight, both does and young bucks walked a trail that ran inside the tree line just 20 yards in front of me. I don't know how many deer walked the trail on that particular day but I know the last one I saw was a quick-stepping 8-point buck. A soft grunt stopped him, and a single round from my .270 put him down for good.

The first step to taking a late-season buck is to move out of your core comfort area and into his. Many hunters have a difficult time accepting that they may not have chosen the greatest location for their permanent stand, and will not abandon it at any cost. Pride has been the downfall of many hunting seasons.

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