El Nino or Not, Late-Season Food the Key to Buck Success

With the end of late deer season in sight, camping out near food sources offers the best odds to tag out, even during unseasonable weather

El Nino or Not, Late-Season Food the Key to Buck Success
“Raised Hunting” co-host David Holder shows off a nice 10-point he harvested several years ago using fine-tuned late-season strategies. (Photo courtesy of David Holder)

Right about now, in a standard season of filming deer hunting action for Outdoor Channel programming, it should be time to get the Merino wool thermal underwear out for most late season hunts.

Except this isn't your normal year of deer hunting, with a virtual super El Nino flooding the U.S. mainland east of the Rocky Mountains with record warmth and little in the way of snow cover.

But mild temperatures or not – and the tough late-season hunting conditions that such weather can bring – doesn't change the equation for success according to several show hosts who are still hard at it during the final weeks of deer season.

In fact, late-season deer hunting is really pretty simple, according to some.


"Food, food and food," laughs David Holder, co-host of Raised Hunting. "During this part of the year, our hunting tactics seem to change a bit as we now focus and sit right on the best food sources we can find."


Fellow Iowa resident and Outdoor Channel hunting personality Kandi Kisky, co-host of Whitetail Freaks, readily agrees.

"Food is critical to post-rut hunting," she said.

According to Kisky, even with the season winding down, hunters can't throw caution to the wind and wade right in to a food source and hope for the best.

Instead, they need to do their homework, have all of their “I”s dotted and all of their “T”s crossed before moving in for a late-season harvest.


"Glassing and using your spotting scope (to find bucks and the patterns they are on) is never more important than right now," said Kisky.

She added that there is one more weapon that she and husband Don rely on as they try to tag a couple of late-season Iowa giants – their Browning trail cameras.

"Running our trail cameras at this time of the year (is a key)," she said. "This time is the most important time of the year (to gain valuable Intel). To know that they are there is half of the battle."


So too is putting a blind over a high-energy food source, one that will cause deer to stream in to pack away the high-quality calories needed to face a winter storm and cold.

Holder said that natural foods – when they can still be found – will obviously work. But perhaps even better are high-energy late-season food plots provided by hunters.

"The bucks are worn down, and in most cases, have delicately weaved their way through gun seasons," he said.

In other words, they are survivors and they are doing their dead-level best to survive the rigors of winter with its cold weather and lack of food.

"Their entire day is spent resting and recovering (right now)," said Holder. "But when the right weather patterns occur, it can force them to their feet and to the food during daylight hours."

And that, according to Holder, is plenty of reason to politely beg off attending the office Christmas party or a pre-New Year's Eve gathering in order to head for the woods.

"That can give you one last crack at a big boy," said Holder. "The right weather I am referring to is cold and snow. The combination makes for difficult browsing and makes food plots and agricultural fields great places to target deer.

"And that includes some of your best bucks (of the season)," he added.

When the cold weather does arrive, Holder says the right gear is paramount.

"It needs to be warm yet still light enough that you're still able to function in it," he said. "For us, we rely heavily at these times of the year on Double Bull blinds and Under Armuor winter clothing to make it through the worst possible conditions."

Mark Drury, co-host of THIRTEEN on Outdoor Channel, notes that even with the right food source, plenty of Intel and gear that will help a hunter tough it out as they wait on a giant buck, there are still a couple of key considerations to have in mind.

"Make sure that your access (routes to your blind) are on point," said Drury, who has enjoyed an epic 2015 season of success. "If you don't do this, you can spook just one deer and it can lead to spooking an entire herd. You've got to avoid the domino effect (during late season hunts)."

Drury adds that hunters should wait for the weather to be just right, even in the late season.

"I'd say only hunt on cold fronts and when the (barometric) pressure rises above 30.00 inches to maximize your time afield," he said. "And also hunt on sunny days, they are better for daylight (late season) activity than cloudy days."

But whether there is a cold front on a sunny day or not, focus those final deer season sits around a good food source and hope for the best.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

How to Catch Summertime

How to Catch Summertime's Deepwater Crappie

On windy summer days when the crappie have gone to deep-water brush piles, what tips and tricks are necessary to catch a limit of slabs? In this episode of Outdoors with Ole Pops, Jeff Williams shows you how to combine the right boat, trolling motor, and electronics package to catch fish on water bodies like Oklahoma's Grand Lake. Simply pull up on a brush pile, turn the electronics on, lower your minnow and Fle-Fly light wire circle hook into the school below, watch the strike on a Garmin Panoptix LiveScope unit, and start reeling in!

To learn more and to purchase Fle-Fly tackle, click here to visit their website.

Hobie Pro Angler 14 With 360 drive

Hobie Pro Angler 14 With 360 drive

Human-powered serious fishing kayak; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

In-Fisherman's Managing Editor, Rob Neuman, sits down with bass pro Josh Douglas, to get insight on the all-new ShimanoVanford spinning reel. It features a LongStroke Spool for long-distance casting. The Vanford spinning reel will be available in 7 sizes: 500-5000. MSRP: $299.99 - $239.99.

Tackle Test 2020: Lew

Tackle Test 2020: Lew's Pro-Ti Speed Stick

Tackle Test 2020: Lew's Pro-Ti Speed Stick

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers. Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters really stand out for monsters. Catfish

The South's Best Waters for Trophy Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 21, 2020

Anglers can find catfish in practically any freshwater system in the South, but some waters...

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

The countdown to opening day of dove season has begun. Are you ready? Upland

Food and Weather Key to Effective Dove Scouting

Lynn Burkhead - August 20, 2020

The countdown to opening day of dove season has begun. Are you ready?

Deer season is right around the corner. Here are 10 things you should start doing now to prepare for Opening Day. Whitetail

Your Countdown to Deer Hunting Season

Terry Madewell - August 12, 2020

Deer season is right around the corner. Here are 10 things you should start doing now to...

Here's how to get your rig ready for archery deer season. Bows

19 Ways to Get Your Crossbow, Compound Ready for Opening Day

Bob Robb - August 21, 2020

Here's how to get your rig ready for archery deer season.

Pre-season scouting can be the key to filling a tag—if you do it right. Big Game

Do the Legwork for Rocky Mt., Roosevelt Elk

Scott Haugen - August 26, 2020

Pre-season scouting can be the key to filling a tag—if you do it right.

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now