To know which tactics will best serve you during late season it’s best that you “take your herd’s temperature.” That means you need to know the “status” of the herd. Everything will hinge upon temperatures, if you have snow and whether or not there are does left that haven’t been successfully bred yet. Frequently there are does that aren’t bred or didn’t effectively conceive during the main rut, which in the northern half of the country will normally take place during mid-November, and as late as January in the deep south. If they haven’t been bred successfully they will come into heat 28 days later. And if “it” doesn’t happen that time they’ll come into estrus again 28 days after that. And under thriving conditions it is also possible for first year doe-fawns to come into heat their first time - this may happen anytime from December through February and occurs most often in areas where conditions are good and they have ample nutrition.
For which ever reason this happens it can lead to what some call the “secondary rut.” If you have this playing out in your area you’ll still see a lot of sign or you’ll notice a lot more activity on your trail cameras. When you’re dealt with this you’re better off using the same tactics that would be common during the rut during mid-November. Competition tactics like aggressive calling and rattling, or breeding strategies like a scent trail of Special Golden Estrus should still produce.
In areas that have a well balanced herd, most of the breeding will have been completed during November and they may start to go into “winter survival mode.” In fact, even if there is some breeding left to be done if you receive severe cold temperatures or get a lot of snow they can fall into a survival routine rather than “perpetuation mode.” If this is the case they may simply find an area nearby that suits their needs, or they may move miles away into winter yards. Most often in the north, they’ll need thermal cover, browse and an additional wintertime food source. Once they start their winter patterns they’ll move much less. Even if they have ample food nearby, instincts tell them when the weather is bad they may not intake enough energy to offset what they are burning so they simply stay bedded.
If they’re in this survival mode you’re best to hunt the major food sources. Corn and brassicas are two favorite food sources for a late season ambush. Plant both in your late season hunting plots and you’ll have it covered; however, corn is a poor yielding crop so you’ll need a large enough plot to do corn justice. BioLogic’s Deer Radish, Maximum or Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets are three “go-to blends for late season.
This tip is courtesy of the GameKeepers Field Notes, a weekly wildlife and land management email newsletter produced by the Mossy Oak GameKeepers.
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