No Need to Look Down on Late-Season Whitetails

Courtesy of
Guest Writer: Colin Williams

The high temperature forecasted for the late December day was ten degrees, and as evening approached it was getting colder.

Deer blinds main image

The amount of sign in my food plot gave evidence there were a good number of deer visiting the plot gorging themselves on rapeseed. With a south facing cedar ridge only a couple hundred yards away, the set-up was perfect for late-season hunting.

I don’t remember seeing a deer in the plot but when I looked again, there he was.

A young eight point had magically appeared on the field edge cautiously testing the wind. Too young to be shooter, this deer was safe for the evening, but when he glanced over his shoulder I knew he wasn’t alone. Typical of late season hunting, more deer were moving off the ridge, one of those may just be the doe I’m looking for.

Late-season advantages

While late-season hunting has its’ advantages, such as less hunters and solid winter patterns, it definitely comes with its’ disadvantages as well. These solid winter patterns, especially in northern regions of deer habitat where cold and snow warrant concentrated numbers, also mean there are more eyes to notice any untimely movements and noses to detect any swirling scent.

While hunting tree stands is the norm, trees with no remaining leaf cover whatsoever do little to camouflage a two-hundred pound mass of a hunter bundled in winter clothing. Safety is another tree-stand hunting consideration. Daytime thawing and freezing can make steel tree pegs and many deer stand platforms precarious at best; at least once I’ve found a blanket of snow a welcome cushion. Controlling tree stand noise is almost a sure impossibility as well.

A battle I just can't win

Each movement is most often followed by an unnatural noise of some kind and, after being pursued for months, late-season whitetails are very much on edge. The cold fingers of a northwest wind, no matter how much I bundle up, always seem to find their way down my very sensitive backside and trying to keep one’s fingers warm seems to be a battle I just can’t win.

Several years ago, in an effort to try and swing the odds in my favor, I expanded from using the more common elevated deer hunting stands for winter whitetails and tried hunting out of ground blinds. Now I know this isn’t a new strategy, but I am slower than most hunters and had a hard time climbing down out of the trees. No doubt there are a good number of you that have found success using portable hunting blinds in the snow, but most of the deer hunting blinds I’ve hunted from were developed with dark, green or fall patterns in mind.

With a backdrop made up of mostly white, more-deer-than-not noticed the blind and knew something just wasn’t right. While the hunting blinds didn’t scare them into the next county, most of the patterns I hunted out of did put wary whitetails on edge, thus creating a situation where only a risky shot, at best, could be attempted. Therefore, I searched out a white-camo pattern blind, and I haven’t climbed into a tree stand during the winter hunt since.

Hunting out of a ground blind does much to both comfort and camouflage a late-season hunter. As late-season hunting is an unbalanced mix of many hours of enjoying, well, nothing, you must stay comfortable while waiting for that flurry of action and adrenaline.

Hidden inside the deer blind offers you the opportunity to bundle up with a heavy coat and gloves that would otherwise curtail any attempt at drawing and shooting your bow. Most experienced blind hunters understand the importance of only leaving one, maybe two, windows open for shooting while leaving all the others buckled up tight. When you first notice that approaching deer it’s easy to sit back into the blind, remove bulky clothes and pick up a bow to prepare for a shot.

Keeping that winter wind off you also does much to both control body temperature and minimize scent distribution.

Best blinds on the market

Even though you can draw your bow out of sight, you still need to remain conscious of any movement as a deer approaches your shooting window. While many of the best blinds on the market today offer a dark interior that conceals movement perfect for fall hunting, I believe the dark shooting window stands out in a white backdrop and can easily tip off a deer; as it just doesn’t look natural.

A blind made predominantly in white does not have this dark hole, but it is necessary to wear white camo pattern clothing in order to blend in as much as possible.

Hillside as a backdrop

You shouldn’t find it necessary to brush the white pattern blinds in either. As long as you have a hillside as a backdrop, or a brushpile to tuck into, a snow camo pattern blind blends in very well. While many blinds need to be in place for a certain amount of time in order for deer to become accustom to it, I have not found this necessary with the white camo blind patterns. Deer simply don’t notice them like they do other blinds. If you are at least marginally aware of blind location, you should find winter snow-pattern blinds very effective

Hunting winter whitetails can offer a hunter some of the best action of the year. Deer are much easier to pattern, you have the woods virtually to yourself, and you may find the tranquility of the winter woods more relaxing than any other time of the year. If you diversify your deer stand approach by incorporating a snow-pattern ground blind into your arsenal, there will be little need to look down on late-season whitetails.

We are fortunate to have Colin Williams as a guest on Colin is an avid hunter and niche writer who uses deer habitat management with deer food plots being one of his overall strategies for the farm.

He has also written articles in such magazines as North American Whitetail, Fur-Fish-Game, Bowhunter, Midwest Outdoors, Whitetales Magazine and Minnesota Outdoor News, to name a few.