The second-most productive food source for late-season bucks should have been thought about six months earlier when you were busy catching bass and shooting fireworks. Food plots planted with the correct mix of plants will be used by deer all season long, and likely will be hit hard late in the season when other food sources have been depleted.
The general over-the-counter food plot mixtures sold at your local feed store should contain some plants hearty enough to grow in December. However, if you want to make sure that your food plot can sustain growth throughout deer season, call your county extension agent for recommendations as to what type of plants grow best in your area.
"Right now, the big buzz in winter food plots is cold oats planted along with chicory," reported Richard Gay, a wildlife biologist from Lufkin. "Cold oats, commonly called 'buck forage oats,' grow at a pretty good rate and will survive temps well down into the teens. Chicory is planted along with it, which is utilized as a summer crop and is a semi-perennial, which means it will come back for about 2 to 3 years without replanting. All you do is replant the oats the next fall, and the chicory will follow suit the next spring."
Also, some items generally thought of as crops for human consumption, (corn and peas for example) can be planted and left standing to provide late-season food and cover. Northern hunters often key on standing cornfields in order to bag late-season deer; it stands to reason that we can benefit from standing corn as well.
The most-used and least effective method for pulling in late-season deer involves the use of a corn or pellet feeder. The biggest drawback to using feeders is that most hunters don't relocate them as the deer's travel and feeding patterns progressively alter. Deer that have survived to the later period of the season didn't achieve that by aimlessly wandering up to a feeder that has been in place for months, or even years. Older, wiser animals know where your feeder is, and when you're standing vigil over it, so they typically aren't drawn in during daylight hours.
A feeder is best employed during this period by placing it along a well-used trail between bedding and feeding areas found by mid-season scouting and then setting your stand between the feeder and the bedding area. The idea here is that any deer using the trail will stop at the feeder long enough to delay it so that it will pass in front of your stand during legal shooting hours.
Late-season deer in East Texas are not the same creatures that they were the first weekend in November. Yearlings have become seasoned veterans, and any deer older than 2 1/2 years have become invisible. If a hunter wants the opportunity to take that trophy of a lifetime in the Pineywoods, he'll need to get out of the stand he's taken up lodging in and get aggressive. Finding deer through mid-season scouting, hunting feeding areas at first light, and pushing bedding areas during midday is just what it takes at this time of year to put a trophy on your empty den wall.