Photo Credit: Charlie Coffey
There are plenty of articles sharing tips for hunting deer during the late season. Everyone has a slightly different take, but the general theme is, “find the food to find the deer.” Typically this means find yourself a cut corn or soybean field and set up shop. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ve planted a late season food plot for just such an occasion. These are all great choices, but what if these traditional food sources are scarce, or your hunting an area with little agricultural land? Should you just wait until next year? No. And you don’t have to. There are plenty of other late season food sources that could prove to be where you find Mr. Big this time of year. So throw on some thermals and hit the timber and do some deer hunting late season food sources.
This is probably my favorite late season food source set up. I know this is a broad category, but after a full season of hunting pressure, the deer herd will be more inclined to stick close to thick cover.
Look for wind damaged areas with downed trees or areas of recent logging activity. These areas provide great deer cover for daytime movement and plenty of daytime browse in the form of poplar buds, young saplings, and green briar. There should be plenty of sign/trails leading to and from these sights to make set up pretty easy.
I know what you’re thinking…acorns are a better October food source than late season and in most cases you’re correct. However, rut-weary bucks will continue to seek the high energy, high fat content in acorns even into late season. White oak acorns will likely already be cleaned up in your hunting area, so focus on locating red oak trees. Red oaks drop their acorns later and are more bitter than white oak acorns, leaving a stash available for the late season. Hunting an acorn stash will also keep you in the timber and near cover where deer will feel more at ease.
On those frigid or windy late season hunts, you may want to focus on areas of thermal cover. This time of year, cedar trees are particularly prone to dropping branches in windy and snowy conditions–just when deer need their nutrition the most. The added benefit of also providing excellent thermal cover could make this a great set up for late season.
Every hunter knows deer love apples. The high sugar content of the fruit provides great energy for deer this time of year. Deer will, of course, target any fruit left lying on the ground first. But even after the fruit is gone, deer will still find their way to apple trees feeding on twigs, buds and bark. Apple trees are most often found in open areas or the edges of the timber. If you have an orchard near you, that could be a late season honey hole.
Be A Ghost
I know this isn’t a food source, but it’s worth mentioning. After a full season of hunting pressure, deer are skittish for good reason. Be sure to pay extra close attention to your scent control and your entry and exit strategies. Also, with the lack of foliage in late season, be sure to have adequate break up whether you’re in tree or in a blind.
Late season is one of my favorite times of year to hunt. There are typically fewer hunters in the woods and I like the challenge of trying to fill a tag when deer are most alert. Good luck deer hunting late season food sources this year and let me know if you have luck with any of these lesser used late season strategies.