Late Season Food Sources in the Eastern Region of the U.S.
Characterized by diverse woodlands, mixed forests, and agricultural landscapes, whitetail hunting in the Eastern region of the United States requires a thoughtful strategy for both cultivated food plots and natural forage. Late-season food sources for whitetail deer in the eastern United States are equally diverse, providing sustenance for healthy herds during the challenging winter months.
East Central Virginia Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Dillon Pierson shares his late-season hunting strategy and year-round food plot approach, listing cold-tolerant brassicas, including turnips, radishes, and kale, among the most effective places to spot deer in the late season.
“These offer high nutritional value and remain attractive to deer during late-season months,” says Dillon.
“When it comes to grains,” Dillon shares, “Corn and soybeans that are left standing or scattered post-harvest serve as reliable food sources for deer, especially when other options dwindle. Cereal grains (winter wheat, winter rye) provide green forage during winter months, serving as a critical food source for deer.”
Dillon also looks for areas with woody browse, including twigs, buds, and browse from shrubs, young trees, and saplings.
“Here in VA, food plot planting timelines really depend on local climates as well as what region of the state you are in, but typically, planting occurs in late spring for summer forages and late summer/early fall for fall/winter varieties. Planting a mix of brassicas, grains, and cereal grains offers a diverse and sustained food supply. Incorporating fruiting trees like apple or pear, as well as mast-producing trees like chestnuts or oaks, can significantly enhance the plot's attractiveness.”
Hard and soft mast, including acorns, beech nuts, and fruits like persimmons, provide an important energy source. Evergreen browse species such as cedar and hemlock needles offer vital nutrition when other forage is scarce.
Leveraging Food Sources for Hunting
For hunters with access to food plots, understanding how the deer will relate to a particular food source is key to benefitting from this great tool, says Dillon.
“Food plots can easily backfire and hurt your hunting opportunities if not used correctly. Just because an area may be convenient for you to plant doesn’t necessarily make it an ideal place for a food source. A food plot should be in an area related to bedding and cover, but you must consider access and your predominant wind direction.
For areas without cultivated plots, scouting for natural late-season food sources becomes crucial. Identifying areas with abundant natural browse, mast-producing trees, and dense cover near water sources can guide strategic placement of stands or blinds.”
"In the absence of food plots or farms,” Dillon says, “Hunters rely on the natural environment. Look for areas rich in acorn-producing oak trees, stands of browse-heavy shrubs, and remnants of agricultural fields where grains may have been left behind during harvest. Additionally, locating areas with thick cover near natural water sources often proves fruitful for late-season hunting.”
“Understanding the local landscape and adapting hunting strategies to leverage late-season food sources greatly enhances the chances of a successful hunt,” says Dillon. “Whether through cultivated food plots or nature's bounty, a hunter's ability to locate and capitalize on these food sources remains essential to a fruitful late-season pursuit."
Understanding the specific late-season food sources in the eastern US enables hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to increase their chances of success while aiding in deer conservation and management efforts throughout the region.
Whether you seek vast open spaces, dense woodlands, or a combination of both, the Eastern region offers diverse hunting opportunities waiting to be discovered. Begin your journey toward owning and managing your very own hunting land in the Plains by reaching out to your local agent or exploring the wide selection of hunting properties in the Eastern US available for sale.