Late-Season Whitetail Food Sources in the Plains


As the late season approaches in the plains region of the US, whitetail deer face the challenge of finding abundant food sources to sustain themselves through the harsh winter months with increased wind and decreased temperatures. With the changing landscape and diminishing vegetation, the availability of nutritious options becomes crucial.

Late Season Food Sources in the Plains Region of the U.S.

Mast, including acorns, hickory nuts, and beechnuts from trees like oak and hickory, provide a concentrated energy source, sustaining deer during the challenging late season. But with the majority of land in the plains being used for agriculture and ranching, this mast can be hard to come by.

South Dakota Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Ben Doty shares about the diversity of the local landscape and its effect on late-season whitetail food sources.

“East of the Missouri River is primarily large farmland that goes through a corn, soybean, and sunflower crop rotation. All of these provide a fabulous late-season food source for large herds of whitetail and Pronghorn antelope and some mule deer.

West of the Missouri River, Ben shares, is primarily cattle country, but with “recent improvements in agricultural technology, we have been seeing more corn and soybeans being planted in traditional wheat country. This has proved to be an incredible food source for our Mule deer, Whitetail, and Pronghorn.”


Agricultural fields also hold significance as prime feeding grounds for whitetail deer in the plains. Crops like standing corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and brassicas become valuable food sources. Standing corn and soybeans offer abundant crop residue and protein-rich forage, respectively.

Additionally, winter wheat provides a readily available carbohydrate-rich option to aid deer in maintaining their energy levels. This cool-season grain crop thrives in the cooler regions of the United States and provides an accessible and nutrient-rich forage option. Winter wheat stands tall even in frigid temperatures, offering a reliable and easy-to-find carbohydrate source to replenish energy stores for deer. Its high carbohydrate content not only fuels their metabolism but also helps them endure the challenges of winter.

On both sides of the river, Ben shares, deer forage red and white milo as well as sorghum. In the absence of these farmed food sources, deer numbers are much lower, but you can still find deer eating on pasture grasses and young cheat grass sprouts or eating leftover alfalfa.


“With the adoption of no-till farming practices has come the idea of planting a late-season cover crop after harvest. This is mainly to provide more grazing acreage for cattle and deliver nutrients back into the soil, but it has surely helped our deer through some hard winters we experience out here on the plains.”

To recap, a diverse late-season food source list in the Plains region of the U.S. will include:

  • Winter cover crops (brassicas, turnips, oats, winter wheat)
  • Agricultural fields (corn, soybean, sunflower, milo, sorghum)
  • Cool-season and pasture grasses, including winter rye, wintergrass, and rescue grass

By identifying key locations such as mast-producing trees with an abundance of nuts or agricultural fields filled with standing crops like corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, and preparing late-season food plots with ample winter-hardy vegetation, hunters can strategically position themselves to intercept deer as they venture out to feed. It requires careful observation of deer movement patterns, knowledge of preferred food sources, and selecting stand locations that offer good visibility and shooting opportunities.

Hunters and wildlife managers in the plains region must recognize and capitalize on these late-season food sources to support deer populations and optimize hunting success.

Maximize the health and resilience of your whitetail deer herd during the late season in the Plains region with a holistic approach to food strategies. Take the first step toward owning and managing your own hunting land by contacting your local agent or browsing hunting properties for sale in the Plains.

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