Here are four satisfactory reasons why you should still hunt mornings in December and January.
As the year winds down, so does deer hunting. People fill their tags, cold weather is the norm, and the holidays take precedent.
Thus, people quit deer hunting during the late season, and many of them quit hunting mornings.
Some say it's not as productive to be out in the early hours, while others claim the deer are simply drained from the rut. Many still hunt, but they focus heavily on evening hunts.
I'd stop short of quitting on mornings, and seem to have come up with some legitimate reasons why. Here are some ways morning hunts are still productive in December and into January.
1. Deer shift back into patterns
This is one of the more obvious reasons to keep hunting late in the season, but it's sometimes overlooked. After the rut is over, deer are refueling their bodies from weight loss. As temperatures drop, deer herd into areas with lots of food to prepare for winter. Because of this, it makes it easy to know where they'll be; you'll almost always find deer close to food.
Similarly, if you can locate bedding areas, you'll be set up for a good late season. If deer are pressured enough during the early season and rut, you might find they don't enter food plots until after dark. This is why it's important to set up a stand location between bedding areas and food.
Some transitions zones I've hunted, when I've known that deer hang out in at dusk, are dynamite areas to hunt mornings in the late season. This is especially true for a mature late season buck.
2. The rut, in some situations, is still taking place
Yes, some states are still experiencing rut activity this late into the year. For example, Alabama and Mississippi will see rutting activity into January. Parts of Georgia will see rutting activity until the end of December.
For hunters wanting to tag an out-of-state buck, it pays to take advantage of these December and January ruts in warmer climates. If you find yourself on the cusp of a cold, clear morning, it might just be a good time to go to the treestand.
Similarly, be on the lookout for does that are coming into heat during the second rut. There's not nearly as much action as there is in October and November, but if you keep an eye on yearlings it is very possible to take advantage.
3. Unfilled tags
If you still possess an unfilled tag, morning hunts can still be successful if you set up right.
Getting in between a food plot and bedding cover can be tricky, because deer might be located up tight to a food source like corn or brassica. This is because they very well may visit the food source three or four times per night, trying to maintain their body heat and bulk up for the coldest part of the year.
This is also because they have experienced so much hunting pressure that they prefer not to move around near human intrusion during daylight.
4. Economic Impact
Hunter's gross approximately $33 billion in revenue annually, but imagine if the hunters who purchase tags, gear, and services quit hunting in December. That revenue decreases for the year. However, imagine if hunters continued to entirely hunt through their prospective seasons.
Processors would still be open instead of slowing to a stop. Box stores would still be stocking the shelves with ammo, camo, and hunting gear instead of trying to get rid of it. Gas stations would still be servicing ranch trucks, four wheelers, and other all-terrain vehicles.
Continuing to hunt the late season, including the mornings, maintains upside for the hunting industry. Why cut your experiences in half, just because the common belief says mornings aren't worth it?
Late season hunting is challenging, but very doable. Get the right cold front, sit on a food source, and enjoy your time in the woods. Just don't dismiss doing it in the mornings. Besides, you won't look forward to waking up early nearly as much in the offseason.