Focus on these late season food sources and improve your odds of bagging a great, late buck.
The excitement of the early season and craziness of the rut have come and gone and you're still holding a buck tag. Don't worry. Bucks are more patternable now than almost any time of the season.
Bucks need to replace energy and fat reserves used up during the rut and focusing on the best late season food source in your area is a good way to bag a hungry buck. Here's what to look for.
Soybeans contain up to 30% crude protein, which is higher than other winter food sources. They are also high in fat due to their oil content. Whitetails in cold weather convert this fat into body heat. These factors combine to make standing soybeans the number one late season food source.
The key to planting soybeans for a late-season food plot is having some left in the late season. Deer love to eat immature soybeans and can literally browse a plot to death before pods are developed. To combat browsing pressure from early season deer, plots should be a minimum of three acres or be protected by an exclusion fence until the late season.
There is a reason corn is the most commonly used deer bait. Deer like it.
Although corn is low in protein, it contains lots of carbohydrates which equals energy, which equals body heat for late season deer.
Cut cornfields will provide good hunting for a week or two while deer clean up waste grain left from harvesting, but to really bring in deer, hunt a standing cornfield. If you own the field or can get the landowner's permission, knock down some shooting lanes near your stand or blind. You might be amazed at what steps into them.
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Brassicas contain as much as 38% crude protein and are 80% digestible. Deer eat the leafy tops from mid-summer through late fall, but brassicas truly shine when the temperature plummets.
Cold weather speeds the maturation process in brassicas and turns bitter starches to sweet sugars. Deer will dig through snow and ice to get to these sweet late-season treats. Be there when they do.
Most hunters think of acorns as an early season food source, but bucks continue seeking out acorns well into the late season.
Acorns are high in fat and provide a lot of energy for rut-weary bucks. If white oak acorns have been cleaned up in your hunting area, try to find some red oaks. Red oaks drop their nuts later and are more bitter than white oak acorns, leaving more available in the late season.
Another advantage to hunting near acorns in the late season is that, unlike soybeans, corn, and brassicas, they are found in areas with protective cover. After months of hunting pressure, old bucks may be hesitant to enter open areas during daylight. Getting into the timber may be the key to tagging a last minute giant.
This broad category of late-season foods includes things like poplar buds, hemlock branches, multi-floral rose, and maple saplings.
Like acorns, deer browse can be found inside cover, making it attractive for daytime use. In areas with limited agriculture, browse makes up the majority of a whitetail's late season diet.
Look for areas where trees have fallen from wind damage or recent logging activity. Heavy trails leading to and from these areas will let you know where to place your stand to maximize your chances of tagging a late season buck.
Late season deer are skittish after months of hunting pressure. To tag one you will have to be diligent in scent control and establish entry and exit routes to your stands that do not spook deer.
Don't let the cold keep you from hunting one of the best phases of the season. Wait for a cold front or an approaching weather system to get deer on their feet early and set up near one of these late season food sources. You'll be glad you did when you are eating grilled backstraps instead of tag soup.