When managing your hunting land, understanding the seasonal food sources for deer is crucial in maintaining healthy herds year-round. Late in the year, with cooler temperatures and increased snowfall in many regions, deer face the challenge of finding sufficient nutrition to survive the winter months.
In four distinct regions–The Midwest/North, East, Plains, and South–it’s key to understand the available food options, helping landowners and hunters make informed decisions about land management strategies and how to set up hunting locations accordingly.
Late Season Food Sources in the Midwest and North Region of the U.S.
This area of the country is known for its diverse habitats, offering a full range of food sources for deer during the late season.
East Central Indiana Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Tyler Fritz shares that his top choices for late-season food sources are soybeans, corn, and a mix of brassica, turnip, and oats.
“I have found that on the very frigid cold days, latest in the season and even post season into February and March, soybeans are the top choice. For the months of November and December, the deer are spending more time in the corn, but it does not typically last very far into December.
I also like to have standing corn because it gives the game birds a place to hide and feed and gives some structure to hide in or behind while accessing blinds or treestands. Some of the best possible access is walking to and from a ground blind in standing corn. A lot of times in the late season, we will get a nice warm front, and those soybeans and corn aren't as attractive. For these days, I include a mix of brassica, radish, and oats.
Combining all these foods into one place allows a hunter to put the best odds in their favor.”
“On average, winter temperatures range from ten to thirty degrees. When I am planning a late-season plot, some of my top considerations are size, location/access, and the ability to plant more than one food type.
I have a five-acre field that I key my late-season hunting around. During the summer months, it is important that I am able to control undesirable plants in these plots with different applications of herbicides. In the late season, every kernel of corn or soybean pod matters, so keeping the weed competition down and the crop yield up is a must.
If you are limited to a smaller plot, there are some good options to save those plots that did not produce much grain to allow you an opportunity for late-season food. This includes planting brassica, turnips, and oats during August for one more chance at making some food.”
Tyler also explains that location is a top consideration when planning a food plot on his property. Imagining where and when you will hunt during the late season will help you inform your planning and hunting strategy. “The vegetation is minimal this time of year, and bedded deer can see you coming or going from a long distance. When you have a great food source late in the season, there could be 50+ deer in that field each night. Bulletproof access to and from your stand locations allows for multiple hunting opportunities and low pressure on the deer.
Hunting the major weather patterns is a must, so if you have the ability to set up different stand locations for different prevailing wind directions, you will never have to sit out a perfect opportunity.
I have found a Banks Blind on a trailer to be a great option for getting to the right location and staying mobile on the big plots. Don't be afraid of getting creative and picking out a spot to sit on the ground as well.”
To recap, a robust late-season food source list in the Midwest/North region will include:
Agricultural fields (corn, soybean)
Late-season food strategies for whitetail deer in the Midwest and North include a balanced approach to ensure healthy, robust deer year after year. Understanding the specific food sources in your region is essential for successful hunting.
Reach out to your local Whitetail Properties Real Estate agent to find and begin managing your own hunting land.