Deer hunters in the Carolinas are blessed to have some of the longest seasons in the country. By Thanksgiving, the parade of bucks across the region has thinned significantly, with more than 80 percent of the annual harvest already filled. But the last month of the season can offer hunters a good opportunity at an encounter with a taxidermy-grade animal. The mixture of cooler weather and a waning rut is a perfect formula for catching a late season bruiser sneaking in to gorge on a rich food source.
While the urge to breed and seasonal shifts in climate can be catalysts for movement, food is the consistent driver in determining where wildlife are spending time. Areas rich in staple foods will always attract a consumer, whether waterfowl, small game or whitetails. The late season is prime time for landowners to have stockpiles of corn and sweet potatoes in the woods or a rich food plot producing to its full potential.
A food plot planned for a late-season crescendo will appeal to every deer left, especially when most natural food sources have dwindled away. Most landowners typically plant early for an October and November maturation, and many of those plants mature and get beat down well before the season ends. However, cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, triticale and oats can be revived with a December application of a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. Ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate contain just the right concentrations of nitrogen to boost green fields for a late-season buffet.
Nitrogen applications can be a sure-fire way to energize a green field into producing stronger returns, but nitrogen application can be short-lived, and the conditions under which these chemicals are applied must be monitored before spreading over fields. Nitrogen is volatile and will quickly leach through soils and can be de-nitrified into a gaseous form when soils are excessively wet and saturated. For best results, nitrogen applications should occur when soils are moist.
Luckily, the Carolinas can still be warm in December, and a late planting of rye, oats or wheat can produce a quick and usable crop to attract deer late in the season. Late-season plantings should accompany a quick application of fertilizer; 250 pounds per acre of 19-19-19 would give a late-season plot a jump-start to fuel the herd.
Food plots are the best way to provide food for a long time and in the greatest amounts. However, some landowners and hunters lack the equipment to cultivate the land. For hunters in this situation, supplemental feeding is a perfect solution. Even though a pile of tasty food that shows up in the middle of the woods may breed skepticism, deer will still slide in and gorge.
Typically, yellow gold or field corn is the most accessible and will work very well, but other sources will bring similar results with higher nutrition values. Sweet potatoes, peanuts, and soybeans are prime alternatives because of their high levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
If hunters are looking to create a new food plot or start a new supplemental-feeding program, they should look for places closer to bedding areas or places with more cover. Deer that have survived hunting pressure will welcome a place well-secluded and filled with tasty vittles. Choose a place off the beaten path for the best chance at to drawing a mature animal in the last few weeks of the season.
Late-season food sources are prime places to attract a mature buck that has eluded hunters for the past few months. A bumper food plot or supplemental feedings are the perfect answer to finding and locating a late-season bruiser.