Late-Season Hunting: Corn Is King

Matt's 2016 Late Season Buck

Sadly, deer season is almost over. Here in Michigan we have exactly 1 week, 5 days and 22 hours remaining in our season. For those of you out there still searching for a buck (like me), IT’S CRUNCH TIME. Don’t panic, you can still get it done. My secret for late-season success is CORN.

Pro Staff member Dave Cooper's 2016 late-season buck.
Pro Staff member Dave Cooper’s 2016 late-season buck.
FOOD. FOOD. FOOD.

Deer do two things during the late-season: eat and sleep. That’s it.  Patterning deer during this time of year is (in my opinion) easier now than any other time during the season. I assume at this stage you know where deer bed. All you need to do now is FIND THE FOOD. Find food and bedding…and you’ll find the deer. This could be an ag field, a food plot or desirable browse the deer are keying in on.  You may one food source, you may have many. Typically, however, deer have a favorite this time of year. For the deer by me that favorite food source is corn.

This buck returned to my food plot with the absence of surrounding agriculture.
This buck returned to my food plot with the absence of surrounding agriculture.
Corn Is King.

Of all the late-season food sources I’ve hunted, corn is king. The deer will absolutely smash it. Standing or cut corn fields will be favorites of your local deer herd and if you have such a field, HUNT IT! Deer will be there. If you don’t have such a field (and your state permits baiting) now is a GREAT time to establish a corn bait site. Some of you may disagree with baiting for deer, if you do that is totally fine. I bait and believe that hunters should capitalize on any legal means to hunt deer.

Corn can attract large numbers of deer in the winter.
Corn can attract large numbers of deer in the winter.

With that said, corn bait stations are my #1 late-season tactic. I like to establish 1 centralized bait station per property. With an ideal wind I’ll usually hunt right over the bait. On marginal winds, I hunt stands along travel routes within 100 yards of the bait. Deer on my property almost always take the long way to the corn and approach it from the down-wind side, regardless of wind direction. Plan for that and have multiple setups for multiple wind directions.

Multiple small bucks sparing over a corn bait site.
Multiple small bucks sparing over a corn bait site.
This nice 2.5 year old returned to food after over a month of absence.
This nice 2.5 year old returned to food after over a month of absence.

 

Sleep In And Hunt Longer Afternoons.

Ahhhh yes, sleep in. Early mornings are way too risky during the late season. Deer are either at your food source or filtering back to bedding early in the morning. If you’re walking in before sun up, you’re likely bumping deer. And those bumped deer are likely the more mature deer you’re after. With that said, you need to get in early for your afternoon hunt. Personally I like to be in my stand right after lunch. This gives me time to check my camera, put more corn down and settle into my stand. I’ve had deer feeding as early as 12PM so getting in undetected and without bumping deer is critical. Check your trail cameras often to dial in your entry time appropriately.

As Mark Kenyon Always Says: GRIND IT OUT.

Mark Kenyon from Wired To Hunt (http://www.wiredtohunt.com ) says this all the time and it’s so true. During the late-season you need to GRIND IT OUT. Be prepared for long sits, cold weather and tough hunting. It’s hard. It’s taxing. All your hunting partners have filled their tags. Late-season hunting can straight up suck. It can. But it can also be freakin’ awesome.

My 2016 late-season buck, harvest on December 30th.
My 2016 late-season buck, harvest on December 30th.

If you can gut it out, continue to hunt hard (and smart) and focus on your herd’s favorite late-season food source (cough…corn…cough) YOU CAN HAVE LATE-SEASON SUCCESS. I did last year (see http://draggindeer.com/michigan-late-season-hunting-2016/ ) and I’m going to try my damn hardest to do it again this season. You should too!

-Matt

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