By Ron Spomer
Here’s how you can score on a whitetail in hot weather.
So it’s hot. Too hot to hunt. But you have the time and the season is open and you want to hunt. So hunt smart.
Look, deer don’t like excessive heat any more than you and I do, but they have to eat and drink and escape predators and find mates. All you have to do is find them while the season is open. So stop whining and start sweating.
Just as you find hot weather teenagers in air-conditioned theaters, you find hot weather whitetails in cool shade near water. Heat encourages them to sleep late and move minimally, but they still move. Be there to intercept them at the first and last legal hours each day.
1. Use trail cameras.
If scouting is important in the best conditions, it’s doubly important in the heat. Hot weather is the perfect time for trail cameras. Place them near water and food sources to determine when deer are drinking and eating and hunt accordingly. A buck may move no more than a few yards from bed to forage to water and back to bed, so you need to know where those places are.
Ideally you should take a stand as close to bed sites as possible without alerting your quarry. Set up between that bed and the buck’s favorite watering hole. If you can arrange for the food to be in the same direction as the water, you’ve got a double whammy working.
2. Target hot weather food types.
Ah, but what food? The warmer it is, the less a deer needs to eat. And the warmer it is, the less he wants to eat high carbohydrate food like corn and other grains. Mr. Whitetail will probably be content with salad and fruits. If conditions are dry as well as hot, as they often are in early fall, fresh greenery will really suck in the deer.
Where I often hunt in the plains states, a freshly sprouted winter wheat field can pull dehydrated deer from miles in all directions. They’ll abandon all drier forage for this sweet, succulent, green stuff. In the absence of wheat sprouts, irrigated alfalfa can be a big draw. In grain country where all the corn, milo, wheat and such are dried up, whitetails will forage along the edge of highways where rain and even dew running off the asphalt fuels green growth.
Orchards can be prime feeding spots in the heat. When apples are ripening they’re full of moisture. White oaks also drop early when it’s hot, so check them out. Feeding activity at any site, however, could be nocturnal in the heat. If so, set up near bedding cover or water.
3. Look for unconventional water sources.
If you plant food plots, irrigate them to keep them green. Fresh greenery during heat and drought is always an attraction. Even if you have to haul water in a tank, it’s worth the effort. If your food plot is far from good water, add a small drinking pool and you might provide everything a buck needs to hold him in a small area.
Many times drying lakes and wetlands will provide fresh greenery unknown to hunters who rarely venture within the reeds. If you’re facing a drought, look for damp places cool enough to grow fresh salad for deer. I’ve often found hot weather deer lying up in farmstead tree strips and brushy plots, especially if the landowner irrigates a nearby lawn or garden and seldom or never enters the trees. The trees themselves often shade the ground enough to aid in a bit of fresh, green ground growth deer love both for cool bedding and eating.
4. Consider where deer bed in hot, dry weather.
Cattail sloughs may seem an odd place for whitetails to you, but not me. I’ve flushed too many deer from them. Whitetails will slosh in and out of cattail/bulrush sloughs daily because they provide damp, slightly cooler bedding sites plus superb predator protection. Try walking silently through cattails and you’ll understand. Check around such bedding sites for tracks and trails. Often the denizens won’t emerge until last light, so set up as close to the beds as possible.
If the wind is right you might even move deep into the cover. Just cut a shooting lane about 20 yards back from the trail at a 45-degree angle to give yourself a quartering away shot. Make sure the wind is in your favor before slipping in close to beds.
5. Step up your efforts at scent control.
Hot weather raises the stakes of scent control, so do your best. Shower often, use plenty of non-scent antiperspirant and work the wind. Change into freshly laundered clothing daily and use terry towels to wipe facial sweat. If you’re paranoid, stuff the towel into a plastic bag between wipes, and take solace in the knowledge that hot air rises.
Every year smart hunters take some of the biggest bucks during hot weather, so don’t give up.
About Ron Spomer
Ron Spomer has been hunting whitetails since 1966 in temperatures from thirty degrees below zero to 100 degrees above. He writes about his adventures in a variety of publications including Sports Afield, Gun Hunter, Successful Hunter and many more. For more information, visit www.ronspomeroutdoors.com.
To get you out of the heat faster after you’ve bagged your buck, don’t forget the best deer skinning knife to make a quick job of field dressing.
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