How to Utilize Late Season Food Sources
The hunting clock is ticking and the late season is definitely here. Whether you like to take a black powder gun out for muzzleloader hunts or prefer archery hunting right up until the end, it’s definitely go time. The question is how (or if) you are using food to your advantage. Late season food sources are a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to hunting success this time of the year. While it isn’t quite time for a true winter feeding program, the late deer season is a great time to capitalize on some of those same issues that deer face in the winter. The right hunting strategies can dramatically increase your chances of seeing more deer and harvesting a good buck this year.
Late Season Food Sources
When we start talking about late season food sources, there are all kinds of options that come to mind. And they can really vary depending on where you hunt in the country. But here are some of the most common foods for whitetails across the country that you can incorporate into your hunting plans this fall.
- Agricultural Crops – this category is probably one of the first things most hunters think of. Standing corn, uncut beans, and even alfalfa hayfields can provide a lot of quality nutrition to deer herds while they’re available (and not covered in snow). You have a limited hunting window with these unless you intentionally leave crops standing on your property or can convince a lease’s farmer to do so. However, deer will still feed in picked corn or bean fields on waste grain, and they may even dig through some light snow to graze on alfalfa.
- Food Plots – right behind common ag crops comes food plots. When planted well and in the right areas, late season food plots can provide a tremendous amount of food for hungry deer. If deer herds are large and the food plots are small, they have the danger of being overbrowsed by the time the late season comes around, which you can navigate by fencing the plots or increasing their size. Our Boss Buffet Full Season Forage is a great blend of forage oats, winter peas, wheat, clover, radish, and purple top turnips, which covers all the bases (i.e., cereal grains, legumes, and brassicas). Meanwhile, the Boss Blend No-Till mix is great for hard-to-reach hunting areas, and includes annual ryegrass, rape, radish, and red clover.
- Woody Browse – one of the most consistent late season food sources for whitetails (and a natural one they’re adapted to eat) is woody browse. Most deciduous tree and shrub species (and some conifers) provide great nutrition for deer in the form of tender young twigs and branches. Clearcuts and thinning operations within the last 5 years should provide a good source of browse at deer level, but localized “browse plots” from hinge cutting and felling can provide a nice boost too if this is lacking in your area.
- Mast – this one is a bit hit or miss depending on where you hunt and the exact timeframe you’re hunting. But some species, including red oak or apple/crabapple trees, may still have some nuts or fruits on the limb or scattered on the ground. It’s a bit harder to hunt unless there’s a good amount of it, but it’s something to keep in mind.
- Feeders – last, you can’t discount the value of feeders for late season hunting. The main caution here is not introducing a lot of high quality feed really suddenly, which can actually be harmful to deer. Ideally, feeders should be part of an overall and comprehensive annual feeding program. Where that’s happening and where it’s legal to hunt over feeders, our Boss Builder Feed Attractant, Boss Builder Apple Attractant, and Boss Builder Soybean Feed are all highly attractive and nutritious.
Late Season Hunting Strategies
Now that we’ve discussed the types of late season food sources that can attract deer, you need a hunting strategy to make it work. Here are a few ways you can incorporate late season food for whitetails into your hunting plans.
As mentioned above, having an overall deer feeder strategy is important for the health of the deer herd. Used correctly, feeders for deer can be amazing tools. For late season, you want to provide deer feed that is high in carbohydrate and fat content, which will help deer from losing too much body fat. Our 200-lb Feeder is a good starting option for most hunters, in that it’s not so huge that you can never afford to fill it, and it’s small enough that you can be somewhat mobile with it.
Try putting one somewhere that is accessible (for refilling purposes) and near to another late season food source (e.g., food plot, field, etc.). For the best daylight sightings of bucks, try to keep feeders within 200 yards of high quality bedding as well. The closer to good bedding cover your feeder is, the higher the chance that a buck will come in for a midday snack. But you also need to be careful about your hunting access as you get closer to the bedding. It’s a bit of a gamble, but it can pay off handsomely.
Cell Camera Strategies
Trail cameras provide a lot of valuable intel to hunters, in terms of what deer are on the property, when they are active, and where they are going. Monitoring your late season food sources is a really good way to pattern a mature buck and get a shot at him. When using feeders, you can simply replace the chip in your standard trail camera each time you refill it, but that means you’re still missing out on multiple opportunities in between. And you’re probably not going out into your fall food plots regularly this time of year either. Cell cameras are a game changer in that sense.
When you start getting multiple pictures of a mature buck hitting your feeder, food plot, or young forest/browse plot, you know you should call in sick to work and sneak into that particular tree stand as soon as possible. It’s really important to have good entry/exit trails and a quality tree stand or hunting blind for this time of year, as you don’t want to spook any deer while they’re feeding. For that same reason, the best time to hunt these late season food sources is midday to evening. When you’re right on the edge of a field or food plot, make sure you can sneak out stealthily when it gets dark.
The late season can be a tough time for whitetails and whitetail hunters alike. But if you can key in on some good food sources and hunt them the right way, you have the odds in your favor.