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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
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Texas Sportsman
December Deer Are Different

When December rolls around, it's time to move. Two months of being hunted educates bucks in a hurry; the area around big wooden box blinds is abandoned, and feeders are only visited at night, so if you want to increase your odds of seeing a buck, get out of the permanent stand and try locations that you haven't hunted all year, if ever.

That small strip of woods along the creek that doesn't look thick enough to hide a rabbit might be the bedding location of a trophy buck. And the acre of scrub brush behind the cabin that you walk past every morning on the way to your stand? Could be the latest hiding place for the "phantom" buck caught back in September by your game camera.

When scouting for new late-season hunting locations, keep in mind that at this point of the season, bucks are doing two things: eating and resting. A lot of energy was exerted during November chasing does, so all bucks are looking for is an easy meal and a safe place to rest -- both of which can be difficult to come by.

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By December, the most-preferred food sources are all but gone; a few acorns can still be found, but the time and energy spent locating them outweighs the energy they provide. So instead of scavenging for acorns, deer begin browsing on leafy plants such as greenbrier, honeysuckle and small shrubs. To find these food sources look in the thickest and nastiest areas on your lease. Clearcuts made not less than two years ago are ideal locations for starting your search. The increased sunlight reaching the ground encourages the growth of brushy plants, which provide both a good food source and thick bedding cover. Work from this premise: The later in the season, the thicker the brush you need to probe.

East Texas is covered with bottomland and sloughs that, though favorite hangouts for duck hunters, are often overlooked by rifle-toting deerslayers. I'll share a secret: Deer live outdoors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They don't have the luxury of coming in out of the rain. Getting soaked is a part of life, so they have little apprehension about getting their feet wet in order to evade from hunting pressure.

If this summer is any predictor for the coming months, we're in for a wet year, which means that a lot of East Texas bottomland will be flooded in December. Find a few acres of dry land amid the thousands of acres of knee-deep, half-frozen slop, and you'll find a buck. Throw a pair of hip waders into your hunting gear and hit the swamps once the mercury starts to dip.

Trudging back to my truck through knee-deep water after a successful duck hunt in the Sabine River bottom, I was worn out. The mile walk in wasn't too bad, but that had been four hours earlier. Standing in freezing water has a way of sapping strength, and my legs didn't want to move another inch.

Luckily, I knew of a small switchcane-covered island about halfway out of the swamp on which I could rest or pass out (whichever seemed more appropriate). Stepping onto its semifirm ground, I dropped my decoys -- wondering why I carried so many in the first place -- and sat down for a breather.

I'm not sure who was startled more -- me or the buck that jumped up less than 10 yards away. I quit counting points when I got to 10, as he trotted through the water and deeper into the river bottom.

Keep in mind that when you're hunting away from the comfort of your box, full camouflage is imperative. A facemask and gloves are required to conceal any movement. If you have a tendency to fidget, invest in a portable pop-up blind. I keep one strapped to my backpack that can be set up or taken down in under 30 seconds. In addition to concealing movement, pop-up blinds also help both to protect you against the elements and to contain your scent.

Over the past few seasons, that same strip of woods right behind my parents' house has become a late-season interstate highway for deer. On one side of the trees is a 100-acre patch that, clearcut almost a decade ago, provides late-season browse; on the other lie 40 acres of newly planted pine trees -- an ideal bedding site. In the last three years, we've combined to take five deer after Thanksgiving from this area, all within 200 yards of the backyard fence.

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