I recently attended a consumer trade show and I had a chance to visit with many people about what they are feeding deer in their area. I was surprised at how many people were feeding deer corn because they “tear that stuff up.” One gentleman even told me he put out gummy bears for his deer because they have a “sweet tooth.”
Last weekend, I visited my father in SE Minnesota to see what bucks were coming into his backyard to feed. I knew it was going to be a fun night of deer watching when we arrived at 2:30 PM and there were already 3 bucks in his yard. We have been feeding Supplement 365 to keep the local herd healthy during the winter, and to get an idea of what bucks made it through the hunting seasons.
The end of December, a major weather system dumped snow on most of the upper Midwest while the middle and southern parts of the US received heavy rainfall. The latest rainfall put most rivers well over flood stage in the middle part of the US. The Mississippi river basin hasn’t seen this much water since the historic floods of 1993.
Keeping a trail camera alive during late season is not easy. Batteries lose their juice quicker as temperatures fall, and snow can build up over the lens. Many bucks have been shot and the number of big bucks on the landscape has dwindled. If you have been running a camera since the beginning of summer, you may think you have captured every buck in that area by now. The reality is, however, there is always a chance a new buck arrives, and that especially holds true in the late season.
The key to finding big sheds is just like hunting big bucks, go where big bucks live. It is only mid-December so although it’s not exactly shed hunting season, a well-planned feeding strategy can put more antlers in your hands when that magical time comes. When the bucks in your area are close to losing their antlers, they are usually run down from the rigors of the rut and are looking to pack on the weight they lost. Testosterone levels have dropped and they return to a travel pattern that goes from bedding areas to feeding sites.
If conditions are right, late season hunting can be just as exciting and productive as the rut. The key to late season hunting near a food source is to fill the field with what I call “confidence” deer. Confidence deer are basically all the deer that enter a field before your shooter is willing to expose himself during daylight.
With winter weather settling in across much of the nation, it’s time to take inventory of food availability in your area. Even if you had success with a food plot or left standing crops, keeping a supplemental feeding program active during the next few months will help your deer hit the ground running in terms of growth once spring green up occurs.
I hunted our lease in Nebraska this weekend and shot an old warrior we know as “Bowser.” Here is how the stars aligned and I was able to catch this mature buck on his feet in daylight.
Every year that I hunt, I hear reports from other hunters that usually sound like this: “You better get in the stand, they are rutting like crazy right now.”