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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

Cass Fazzio knows all too well the difficulty of deer hunting in the eastern part of the state. When he's not in Wyoming working, he can be found perched in a deer stand pursuing haggard old bucks in the East Texas brush and swamps. His situation is different from that of most, in that his work schedule doesn't always allow him to hunt the most productive times of the season. With a shift that requires him to work out of state for two weeks and then come back home for two weeks, Cass often misses the most active part of the rut.

As a result of this schedule, Cass goes into every deer season knowing that the hunting will be tough by the time he enters the woods, because the deer will have felt considerable hunting pressure. But Cass, always up for a challenge, uses a few tactics to help him bring the big bucks home.

On Dec. 2 a few years back, Cass and a 140-inch buck crossed paths. Actually, Cass had known about this buck for quite a while but it wasn't until that cold December morning that they met for the last time. Earlier during bow season the buck had slipped in on him, and Cass was busted when he moved. After that close encounter, this wise old buck had turned into a night owl, leaving its bed only after dark and returning well before daylight.

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The night before, Cass knew he finally had the buck's number. "I told my wife that I was going to shoot the big buck in the morning," he told me. "It was stormy and rainy the night before, so I knew he'd be getting back to bed late."

Upon hearing her husband's plan, Cass' wife reminded him that their 2-month-old had a doctor's appointment the next morning, and that he would be there -- no excuses. That didn't give the hunter much time, so well before daylight the next morning, he left the house as quietly as possible and walked to a stand on his 30 acres to wait for the bruiser.

At daylight a deer appeared on the edge of the field but Cass thought it was a spike that had been coming through every morning like clockwork. He decided to scope it anyway -- and now he's glad he did: Rather than the spike, it was the buck he'd been waiting for, as if the beast had read the script and showed up as anticipated. A single shot from his .25/06 dropped it -- another December trophy for Cass Fazzio!

That day the hunter from Broaddus was using a simple deer-hunting tactic that most don't take advantage of. Adverse weather disrupts normal feeding and bedding behavior, if only slightly, which can give a hunter a slight advantage. Make it a point to be in the woods just prior to and right after a cold front rolls in, because the deer will be more active during those times. Like Cass, also be on a stand near a bedding area on rainy mornings, since the cloud cover keeps it darker later, and that buck you are after might swing by during legal shooting hours, instead of 10 minutes before, as they usually do.

Another tip Cass passed along was one he learned growing up on the other side of the Sabine River, in Louisiana. If you think our deer are hunted hard, then you need to travel to our neighbor to the east to get a good understanding of pressured deer. Confronting liberal limits, long seasons and the added pressure of being legally hunted with dogs, Louisiana deer must learn to hide in order to survive; their pursuers must adapt as well.

One of Cass' favorite methods for hunting these highly pressured deer is to position a climbing stand on the edge of a clearcut and start climbing. "I like to hunt clearcuts that are grown up between waist and shoulder high." he remarked. "Deer will travel through those all day. Granted, I sometimes have to climb pretty high to see down through the brush."

How high? "High enough to get a nosebleed," he responded. (Those with a fear of heights need not apply.)

Cass' last bit of advice: In order to take an East Texas buck late in the season, you must be ready to shoot at all times. These deer aren't going to hang out in front of you for 20 minutes letting you make small adjustments or go over them with your binoculars -- they appear out of nothing and disappear just as quickly back into it, so if you're not ready to shoot, then you'd better be prepared to go home without a buck.

Make no mistake about it: Hunting late-season East Texas bucks is tough. Feeders are all but useless, and every deer in the state is now avoiding your favorite box blind. Bucks have disappeared into holes in the ground and won't be seen again until Groundhog Day. But the few hunters who hang in there will be changing tactics and locations until they find one or more that works for them -- and the reward might just be a real wallhanger.

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