Late-Season Bucks: Target Draws and Valleys on Cold, Windy Days

Photo by Bill Kinney

Heavy winds rob deer of body heat and make it harder for them to detect danger. So when it gets gusty in the late season, deer gravitate to natural windbreaks, such as a protected draw or small, stream-creased valley. Rather than freeze in a tree­stand, smart hunters, like Oklahoma guide Milton Rose, go after them. Here's what he looks for.

Draws
Focus on straight leeward draws that run perpendicular off a ridgeline or high ground. "Compared to small bowls and twisting draws, the wind is more predictable in linear draws, funneling straight over the ridge from the windswept side," Rose says. If the wind isn't horrible, the first area with some cover may hold a buck. If it's blowing hard, drop midway down. Bucks will rely on their noses to scent danger from above and face down the draw. "This is perfect for a sidehill approach--you're not walking directly into their line of vision and your scent is also blowing down away from them." Bucks will bed on the downwind side of tree trunks or logs and in small dips to avoid the wind.

Small valleys
A similar approach works when deer drop down into valleys running parallel to ridgelines, especially if the wind is strong. Bucks will hole up low, often near a creek or ditch. Usually the cover is good, with browse, forbs, and fruit near water. Small valleys are also a favored spot for picking up late-cycling does. Ease along the valley bottom, following the creek. Bucks will watch the downwind direction across the stream. That leaves you the perfect crosswind route to slip along the water's edge. "The narrower the valley, the better," Rose says, "as heavy winds will blow right over it."