January magic: late-season Mississippi deer tips

Meridian hunter has a routine for finding and taking nice bucks when the season begins to wane.

Parker Temple took his bride hunting on one of the coldest days of the year in search of a late-season trophy buck. 

“We were trying to get in there early, but we decided to hike to the stand since my wife likes to hike,” said Temple, from Meridian. “We carried two bags with clothes and iPads, and walked in to the stand. (We) put our warm clothes on when we got there.”

Temple’s stand overlooked a 3-acre food plot, that was only 250 yards long, short by his standards. It was bordered on the front and on back ends by a patch of broom sage. 

It didn’t take long for the action to heat up; they had barely gotten settled into the stand.

“Rachel was looking at her iPad, and I had stuff in my lap when a deer came out into the sage about 3:30,” Temple said. “The sage was only about 15 yards wide, and I knew the buck was a shooter when it came out, even at that distance. I was throwing stuff out of the way and stuck my gun out the window just about the time the buck walked into the woods.”

Lucky for Temple, he had the crosshairs on him by then. 

“Tic-Pow!” Temple’s rifle roared, and the buck, which was crossing 275 yards away, disappeared. 

“That was a deer of a lifetime,” said Temple. “We stayed in the stand and saw 15 to 20 other deer and a couple more bucks the rest of the afternoon as we waited. I thought we’d missed our opportunity and wasn’t feeling really good about it as we got our stuff out of the house.”

With darkness setting in, Temple walked into the woods, then started up a trail and found a piece of bone. Dejected and fearing that he’d made a bad shot, he and his wife went back and cranked the truck to warm up before looking further. 

“We went back to the spot I’d found the bone and found the deer about 20 yards away,” Temple said. “He had a pretty 9-point rack with a kicker on his G-2 and weighed 195 pounds. It wasn’t my biggest ever, but I loved the hunt and how it played out, along with … having my wife there.” 

Harvesting that buck was not luck or an accident;Temple is serious about his deer hunting, hunts several places, puts in a lot of time and preparation and lets the young bucks walk. 

Established crossings where deer get through fences or go across utility rights-of-way are great places to set up late in the season.

Sweet spots for big bucks

“During January, I typically try to locate the low-pressured areas that haven’t been hunted, but you also have to get on or near a food source, so it’s a catch-22 situation,” Temple said. 

“During the morning hunts through mid-day, I like to hunt cutovers or crossings in a draw. During the afternoon, I’ll concentrate on food plots where the does are coming in, especially during the rut.” 

During January, there will be a secondary rut or bucks looking to breed does, so Temple really likes to hunt areas close food sources, as those tend to attract more bucks too. 

While he hunts food plots, they’re not your typical food plots, and that’s part of the key to his success on late-season bucks. 

“If we have an area cut over, I’ll get a dozer and clear a lane several hundred yards,” Temple said. “I have some stands where you can see 425 yards in both directions and some that might be 600 to 700 yards, but I want my stand at least 300 yards away from the crossings. That seems to be the optimum distance or sweet spot for my buck sightings.”

By positioning his stands well away from the crossings or food sources, Temple keeps the area free of human traffic and scent, which is imperative when targeting quality bucks during late in the season. 

Parker Temple uses trail-cameras to track bucks’ late-season movements and ‘sweetens’ up his food plots to draw more deer in January.

Food plot preparation

There’s more to disking fields and throwing out seeds, and Temple’s success validates that statement as well. 

“We put ammonia nitrate on our fields, and I think it makes the grass softer and tastier to the deer,” said Temple. “On one of my Kemper County fields, I’ll put the ammonia on the fields right before the holidays, around Dec. 20, just before a rain if I can.”

“I also hunt in Alabama, where the season runs a little longer and the rut’s later, so I’ll put the ammonia out there right after Christmas.” 

“The big thing is that you want to get in that sweet spot when the rut’s going on, and that means getting in an area that has a food source, but not too close to the deer,” Temple said. “I’m not big on hunting around grain, but properly fertilized green fields are the ticket to my late season success.”

Scent, stealth, crosswinds

While Temple prefers hunting long-distance stands, he also bowhunts trophy bucks in tight quarters and knows that scent control is paramount, so he wants to keep his scent dispersal to a minimum in case the buck of a lifetime comes downwind. 

“I don’t use a lot of cover scents, but I do like to use scent control and prefer the scent control kits that have the scent-free deodorant, shower soap, detergent and some type of autumn cover scent,” he said. “I believe you have to use stealth and keep your hunting area free of scent, and that means doing everything in your power to keep your scent out of the area you’re going to hunt.”

The only way to keep your scent out of the area where the deer travel is to keep out of it yourself; that’s a reason that Temple believes in hunting the least-pressured areas on any land. While you can’t keep everyone out of some places, you can keep your own stands or hunting spots free of your own scent.

“I’ve killed more deer hunting a crosswind, and have found it better than just hunting downwind,” Temple said. “But I’m more a pick-your-time hunter and want to hunt when the time is right for certain stands and areas when it all comes together, instead of hunting every day regardless of the weather and conditions. I only have a limited amount of time to hunt, so I want to pick those times that are most favorable to me and give me optimum opportunities.”

By using trail cameras as scouting tools, hunters can eliminate the need to do a lot of walking through their hunting turf, except to access their stands.

Game cameras, scouting

By employing a new generation of game cameras that can send pictures directly to his cell phone, Temple is able to scout without getting close to his stands, limiting human intrusion. 

Just imagine getting a text message from the buck of your dreams. 

How can that happen, you might ask? 

It can, and Temple recently got such a text.

Though his time to scout is limited by his job and other responsibilities, he utilizes game cameras to scout while he’s working and sleeping — and not just any camera, but the high-tech cameras that take pictures and send them to his cell phone. That’s where the difference comes in. In pre-camera days, hunters scouted and found buck sign and then hunted for a glimpse of a deer — or buck — without a clue as to how big or mature the animals were, let alone the antler size.

“I use the game camera to locate good bucks,” Temple said. “I had some deer on one of my cameras before the season, but all the pictures were at night.

“Then just before bow season this fall, I started seeing bucks in daylight. Opening day was exciting, and I had deer all around me as it was getting dark. I drew my bow but couldn’t see through the peep sight and spooked the deer when I let my bow down.”

A trail-camera photo of this buck, sent to Parker Temple’s cell phone, led to the buck’s harvest.

Opportunity knocks

“I didn’t get any more pictures for a few days, and then, he came back at night,” said Temple. “I had to plant over the weekend but didn’t get the opportunity, so I planned my work week around hunting the buck. I’d planned to make a late-afternoon hunt one day, but before I got to the woods, my cell phone was blowing up with pictures of deer coming in, so I was worried that they were feeding earlier that day.” 

Though distracted by the volume of pictures, Temple made it through his workday and headed to the woods to his stand as soon as he could. 

Before he arrived at his hunting lease the call, or text, came in from the big buck. Yes, he walked into the camera frame, and it sent a direct cellphone invitation to Temple. 

“I went to the stand, and the deer started moving, with a few does and spikes coming in,” Temple said. “Then a big-racked buck came into the end of the small field and turned facing me while feeding with his head down.”

“Thwack!” Temple’s arrow flew straight and true, and another trophy fell victim to Temple magic. 

Temple’s buck was a trophy, sporting a rocking-chair 8-point rack with an 18-inch spread that made its 180-pound frame look small. The buck was hard-earned, the result of utilizing all of the skills and tools at his disposal. Ultimately, the cellphone call from his Covert Game Cam photo spelled the buck’s doom. That’s one call that Temple doesn’t regret taking.

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Michael O. Giles
About Michael O. Giles 280 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.

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