By: Michael Hite
With the season winding down, some of us are still in pursuit of our target bucks or even still trying to locate one. The task of keeping tabs on a mature whitetail can prove to be quite difficult sometimes. I by no means am an expert, but there are a couple late season strategies that can be beneficial this time of year with the changes of deer patterns due to the weather conditions and the dropping of testosterone coursing through these whitetails.
It is mid-January with just a couple weeks left for me in the season and I am down to the last ditch effort to locate and pattern a buck. To me, a deer is most patternable in these harsher, cold conditions than they are any other time throughout the entire season. In these cold conditions, it takes more energy for an animal to survive so these deer eat more than ever which will make some of these “Nocturnal”, mature bucks more likely to be on their feet in the daylight hours. That being said, I would say 90% of my cameras have been relocated to food sources. I am fortunate enough to have property where I can plant food plots. My favorite thing to plant for deer are soybeans. They don’t add much value in my opinion for the majority of the season, but they are great for late summer scouting, and possibly even more beneficial for a late season food source as long as the turkeys don’t wipe out all of the bean pods from the field like they tend to do. These deer heard up late season and thrive in these late standing beans when the green forage is gone til springtime. For me in Ohio where we can supplemental feed, I run 7 feeders, and I keep 4 other corn piles fresh as much as I can with the properties I have right now. By far, a pile of corn will attract a mature buck more so than a feeder from what I have witnessed. In the last few years, I have gotten away from a mechanical, broadcast feeder, and have been making a switch to a gravity fed feeder. I never thought a deer would choose to stick his nose in a feeder rather than to eat if off the ground underneath one, but boy was I wrong.
We are getting more mature bucks hitting our feeders than ever before. There was a learning curve for our deer herd, in general, to learn to eat from them, but once a couple of the deer, figured it out, the rest quickly followed for the easy meal. We even get mature bucks either new to the area or ones that have just happened to avoid the other cameras on the property, to get their first pictures nose deep in the ports on these feeders with no concern at all. Not very often did we ever get that with a broadcast feeder.
So in these late season conditions, these bucks don’t spend near as much of their time out cruising too far from their core range. So if these deer are spending a large part of their time at a food source, this means the vast majority of the other time they spend is right in their bed. I know this varies greatly from region to region, but a lot of times you can narrow down some of the hot bedding areas. While I don’t condone entering bedding areas for much more than one thorough sweep during shed season if there is a buck of interest there, this does not mean you can not figure out what is bedding where. With the use of trail cams, you can learn just about anything you want to know. You can locate or provide food sources, but not all deer are going to have the same preference or your neighbors may be doing the exact same thing as you in a more favorable location. So with this, you have your thoughts on locations or even several possible locations on where a deer may be most likely to bed. Without intruding, and with a favorable wind, you can pick out the hot travel corridors leading to and from these bedding areas.