December is the last hurrah for deer hunters in North Carolina and South Carolina. If they haven’t taken a trophy yet, their chances are steadily but surely slipping away with only a few weeks left in the season.

Only a few creative hunters will get the opportunity to take one of the few-and-far-between wall-hangers left roaming Carolina woodlands. A late-season trophy is not impossible, however. Hunters who learn to coordinate their efforts with their quarry’s movement schedule can win out and tag out.

Shooting a trophy in December isn’t quite as easy as it is during the first week of the season when bucks aren’t alarmed or during the height of the rut when they are sex-crazed. Statistically, fewer deer are out there, but enough mature bucks are still around to keep hunters engaged. Bucks that are alive on Dec. 1 are the educated ones that have excelled at hunter avoidance, the mature ones with several years of survival training under their belts. 

But two can play at that game.  

Chad Thousand has several decades of experience in the deer woods. In the past two years alone, Thousand killed three once-in-a life bucks — scoring between 135 and 173 inches — on the tracts of land he hunts in Guilford County, N.C. He agrees that hunting for a big one can get tougher as the season winds down, but he believes they are a little more predictable, too. 

“During the peak of the rut, they will often move all-day long,” Thousand said. “But as the peak weeks slip away, the movements of big bucks will start to follow a more-recognizable pattern.” 

In the Carolinas, the peak of the rut fluctuates