Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Late Season Southern California Bowhunting
By the end of November, most of the California deer seasons have ground to a halt. A few options remain for the archers who may have drawn one of the coveted either-sex tags that are good until the end of the year. There are other options for late season hunting, such as bear, pig, coyote, turkey, etc. While it is tough to fill a tag in SoCal, there are plenty of game animals to hunt.
In regards to hunting deer in the late season, you have to consider what has transpired over the past couple months. The regular archery season is over and rifle season has just ended, so the deer are scattered and on edge. You have to think smart and remember that while some tactics might remain the same, many others will be escalated.
The rut tends to begin late in Southern California and that can be a factor in finding a good buck. Finding a buck chasing a doe can be difficult, but it does happen and if you are ready, you can get in front of the deer for an ambush. The great thing about the late season tags is that they are good for a buck OR a doe. I would be happy with either one in my freezer. Remember that even though the deer may be rutting, many will still be on high alert from having been hunted so hard the month prior. You will still have to be stealthy.
Playing the wind should always be the number one thing on your mind. Face it, you stink and to a deer that used its keen sense of smell to locate predators, you will get busted early if you ignore this. You can wash your clothes in scent-free soap, spray down in cover scent, and use scent-free deodorant, but you know what? You still have an odor that a deer can smell. Try to come at the deer from downwind.
The weather has now changed from the 100 degree early season to being downright frigid in the late season mornings. You have to dress appropriately for the weather! All while trying to stay quiet, keep scent down, and be stealthy. It's a challenge. Here's the other factor; the weather may stay cold all day or it might warm right up to 90 degrees later in the day. How do you prepare? Layers! You have to wear layers, but you have to carefully plan out how you will wear them. If the area you are headed, like mine for example, is going to be 30 degrees at 5:00 AM and 85 degrees by 1:00 PM, you need to have ample layers to stay warm, but also lighter layers for mid-day. I know my hike in is going to be 2.5 miles and I am going to get sweaty. I don't wear all of my heavy clothes when I leave the parking lot. Instead I pack them. I wear in my base layers and maybe one other layer, but nothing more. When you leave the parking lot, you will probably feel cool, but trust me when I say that after 15-20 minutes of hiking your body will warm up. You might sweat a bit, but it is better to sweat into one layer of clothing than into ALL of your clothing and have to drink more water as a result. Once you arrive at your destination, allow your body to cool down a bit before adding the heavier clothing. Take off that base layer and let the wind air-dry it quickly. Once you start to chill down, put it back on along with your second layer (shirt or pullover), and then your jacket or coat. This will keep you warmer and will keep your human scent down. As the day grows warmer, you can lose an article of clothing here and there to stay comfortable. It might take a few trips to get the hang of it, but you’ll figure out the best plan for the area you hunt.
Also, pack and drink plenty of water. I have seen multiple hunters on the trail with a single bottle of water for a six-eight hour hunt. Even the colder weather will suck the water out of you, so drink plenty of it and drink often.
The most important factor is to just get out there and have fun hunting. Be safe, think ahead, and be persistent. Not many people get the opportunity to hunt mule deer so late in SoCal and it's something you don't want to let go to waste. Best of luck out there!