With gun seasons in the rearview across most of the Mid-South and the bulk of this year's deer harvest already in the books, it can feel a little hopeless heading to the woods right now with an unfilled buck tag. The hardest truth is that there are fewer deer alive in the woods right now than at any other time of year. Quite a few of them are packaged up and in freezers. Those that have survived have been jumped from their bedding areas and shot at over food sources. In case you haven't read The Total Deer Hunter Manual, deer don't like that stuff.
But there's no need to be completely depressed. The buck in the photo above, for example, began showing up on my trail camera around the first of December, more than a week after Kentucky's gun season closed. And although he hasn't been an "every day" buck, he has been making fairly regular appearances at my corn feeder ever since he found it. Him aside, a big 8-pointer we've been hunting since September is still alive and well, too.
This camera is set where Michelle and I do a good portion of our hunting on our little 30-acre farm. Aside from some cover, some oaks, a couple bait sites, and a food plot I planted last spring, there's nothing really special about it. It's surrounded by larger properties, all of which look about the same, and all of which are hunted hard.
Obviously, these bucks aren't living full-time on our 30 acres. But they are spending enough time there that we're getting daylight photos of them. We've hunted this farm plenty since bow season opened back in September. But we've watched the wind religiously, not only when sitting in stands, but when accessing them and even when checking trail cameras. Michelle shot her big buck here the first week of gun season in early November. We've pretty much stayed out of there since.
My point isn't to sound like I'm bragging about trail camera pictures. Instead, it's to show that after weeks of hunting pressure, when the woods can seem hopeless, deer are still moving in areas where they haven't been bothered. Although there's a tendency to think of those areas as huge chunks of untouched acreage, the truth is, most are simply small, overlooked pieces of habitat. An overgrown fencerow bordering 5 acres of timber. The 20-acre wood lot you drive past every morning on the way to the stand. The thicket behind the city dump.
Big bucks learn where these safe havens, however small, exist. So long as they have food, cover, and water nearby, they'll stay there. With the final day of season slipping ever closer, maybe now is the time to think of some little hideaway spot that you've not considered because it seemed too small. It doesn't take much to hide even a giant deer through the end of season.