The last days of deer season have arrived and opportunities remain.

The arrival of the holiday season has brought the final days of deer hunting in the Cross Timbers landscape. Breeding is all but over and surviving winter is the name of the game in the deer woods.

The current hunting landscape is far different that it was month ago. The chaos of the rut is now a memory. Does and fawns have banded together in larger groups, which they will keep until late spring. Local bucks are beginning to experience a drop in testosterone levels, bringing a change in behavior and focus.

With the majority of the fall harvest complete, the state has seen another strong deer season. State-wide harvest totals are approaching 100,000, with more than 1,600 antlered deer harvested in Payne County. But both gun and archery hunting remains open and there are plenty of opportunities for late season harvest.

Deer hunters have until Dec. 31 to take advantage of the Holiday Antlerless Gun season. The season is the final chance to harvest a deer with a firearm. Hunter orange must be worn by both gun and bow hunters until the gun season has closed.

Bow hunters have plenty of time and plenty of options, with the season open until Jan. 15. Bow hunting the late season brings a unique set of challenges and advantages.

Local deer are primarily focused on food right now, making them susceptible to forming patterns and having predictable movement. For bow hunters that can deal with the cold weather, these are perfect ingredients for hunting.

It’s important to remember that not every late season hunt is going to bring deer sightings. Bucks aren’t running wild rutting and does are in large groups. The hunts that do work out can be some of the best bow hunting of the season.

The bulk of the deer harvest may be in the books, but diligent hunters have time to make the final hunts of the season memorable and successful.

Don’t forget

Mild fall days are a thing of the past and late season hunting means extra planning to make sure that adventures afield end safe and happy. For the first time this season, sustained cold weather has arrived.

These conditions can be great for hunting but also come with increased risk and challenges to hunters and their dogs. In particular, ice will be present for the first time this season. Trusting your gut and making common sense decisions goes a long way to keeping hunting in icy conditions a success.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.

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