When it comes to wrapping your tag around a late season giant, your success can rely greatly on your ability to find the best food source available in your area. As I discussed in my last column, security cover also plays a huge role in late season strategies, but you can bet that the cover a mature animal picks for his winter hideout will be related somehow to food. Here in Ohio, Old Man Winter has finally showed up, and the brutally cold temperatures are here to stay for a while. After a long bow season and the rigors of the rut, you can rest assured that any mature bucks that have survived to this point are not the same creatures they were in October, It’s all about survival now, and in order for that to happen, they have to have great cover and food!
What type of food is best? I know that the high protein content found in soybeans is hard to beat and can have a significant impact on not only helping a deer survive the winter but also aid in the animals ability to come into spring in better condition which definitely impacts antler growth. If you have access to standing soybeans, you should be sitting on a late season gold mine! Corn is also a great food for late season, providing plenty of carbs to be turned into energy to survive the grueling winter. If you don’t have access to standing crops, don’t overlook picked corn fields, especially if the farmer has older equipment that may miss more corn than newer equipment. One more hint, fields that have been turned will be less desirable and hold fewer deer. Between these two, they are hard to beat for attracting deer late season and if its possible to convince your local farmer to leave some standing its as good as it gets. I have also noticed over the years that winter wheat is very desirable at this time. The short green stubs really seem to attract deer in the winter and I can only imagine something green and tender during late winter is very digestible for them. If you are able to plant food plots, you have a few more options to attract deer. I have seen firsthand that Wintergreen mixes, Chicory, BuckOats, and Turnips can all be great late season attractants, and when planted in strategic areas can be used as deadly tools to tag a mega buck late in the year. I have also noticed through my own observation along with other friends that monitor mineral sites as religiously as myself, that mature bucks will start to revisit these areas now, after abandoning them for most of the fall. I rely on the quality products from the Whitetail Institute for all of my food plot and mineral needs.
If you live in a state that allows supplemental feeding, your going to be ahead of the game, especially if you don’t have access to any of the food sources mentioned above. I know the prices for corn and soybeans are at all time highs, but if you are serious about shooting a good buck this late in the game, it might be time to open up a line of credit at the local feed mill! Just remember though, if your going to supply food to your local deer in an “unnatural” way by use of feeders or “strategic piles”, a mature animal will be very cautious of this and you will better off trying to hunt him on his travel route to and from it, instead of hunting right over top of it. Like I mentioned last week, you will probably only get one chance to get it done so you have to be extremely careful in your approach. A big buck just wont tolerate any mistakes on your part now. Pay strict attention to your scent control in every aspect, do your best to conceal yourself in your stand, and make sure your equipment is deadly quiet!