Late-Season Bowhunting Strategies
For the final weeks of a long whitetail season, Don Kisky offers some proven bowhunting tips to help fill remaining buck tags
For “Whitetail Freaks” co-host Don Kisky, late-season success comes from bowhunting food sources with a fine-tuned strategy.
It’s no secret that late-season bowhunters should plan to ambush bucks on prime food sources. This advice has been around for years and quite frankly, is a bit hackneyed, largely because most of it is devoid of the finer details that bowhunting requires. Of those details, the treestand or ground-blind setup is probably the most crucial.
This is something that co-host of Whitetail Freaks, Don Kisky, knows all too well and is also the driving force behind a shift in his last-minute strategy for tagging out on a mature buck.
“Here in Iowa where we hunt, things have changed,” Kisky said. “We hunt differently now than we use to, largely because of a lack of good stand trees on our best food sources. I wanted to be tighter to the food source partially for better footage, but also for better shot opportunities.
“Knowing this, and being a farmer first, I started planting three or four acres of corn in some of our food plots. Then, in the beginning of October, we’ll sneak in and pop up a ground blind. We don’t just set it and forget it though, we brush them in as much as we need to. Sometimes it takes us half-of-an-hour to get them brushed in correctly, but it’s always worth it. We want all of the deer to be super comfortable with our blinds long before we plan to hunt them.”
This strategy is fine for folks with a standing-corn setup, or maybe permission to hunt a landowner’s cornfield, but what about if you aren’t lucky enough to be in that situation?
Kisky’s advice still holds true, in that you should get on the food and hunt it as stealthily as possible. Equally as important, and applicable to every bowhunter out there, is what Kisky says next about his strategy.
“The reason we hunt standing corn so much, aside from the obvious draw of winter calories, is that we can get into and out of our blinds without spooking deer,” Kisky said. “We sneak through the rows to get to the blind and then when it’s time to leave, we sneak out.
“I also look for the sweet spot to place my blind that allows for hunting two different, prevailing wind directions. This gives us the best chance of being able to hunt the conditions we want while preserving natural movement through the late-season.”
Kisky’s breakdown of getting into and out of the blind is important, and all bowhunters whether they are public- or private-land hunters should heed that advice. If you can’t get into your setup and out of it without busting deer, it’s time to devise a new strategy.
I asked Kisky what he does on the road when standing-corn plots aren’t available and he said, “Treestands if at all possible. If it’s a situation where the food source isn’t conducive to treestands, I’ll bring along some ground blinds and look for natural habitat. Cedar trees, old fence rows, anything that can help break up the outline and allow you to brush in the blind are important. We always carry a handful of zip ties or better yet, bailing twine, with us so we can attach natural vegetation to our blinds.”
Kisky then went on to explain the fatal flaw in most ground-blind hunters’ plans is that they open the windows too much. A blind works best when the least amount of light is allowed in, and the more you open your windows the less favors you’re doing yourself.
This is good advice for early-in-the-fall hunts, but an absolute necessity when hunting the waning days of the season after the deer have been hunted hard for months. Those survivors have a very low tolerance for human error, and one doe catching sight of a hunter reaching for his bow in the ground blind can blow out an entire field and ruin the spot for any daytime movement.
Heed his advice, no matter whether you’re hunting a standing cornfield, a fresh clear cut, or some other late-season food source and you just might find yourself in a grip-and-grin situation with a buzzer-beater of a buck.