Pheasants in winter field

Rooster pheasants feed in a harvested soybean field in east-central Nebraska after a January snowfall.

GREG WAGNER

This is the time of year when many hunters hang up their gear. Maybe they have already harvested game or are tired of trying to do so. Perhaps they are just not interested in being afield during bitterly cold weather, gale-force winds and deep snow.

Whatever the case may be, that hunting gear should not be put away.

This is the time to bundle up and take advantage of low hunting pressure, colder weather, a completed crop harvest, and concentrated and more predictable game.

Whatever their quarry, late-season hunters must rethink strategy and tactics. Here are some tips to improve your odds for late-season hunting success.

Late crop harvest: It has been one of those falls in Nebraska where the soybean and corn harvest has been off schedule. For many opening-weekend hunters, standing corn presented problems because game birds and animals sought refuge in the oceans of corn. However, with the crop harvest essentially completed, a good carryover of game in adjacent or nearby cover is more available to hunters.

Find the food: If you find the food source, you likely will find the game you are pursuing. This time of year, deer, turkeys, pheasants, quail, grouse, rabbits and squirrels need to eat lots of high-quality, high-energy foods to maintain adequate body heat. These are high-carbohydrate, high-protein foods. Cornfields, especially harvested ones that have not been disced, are key places to locate game with heavy cover not far away. Do not overlook other cereal grain crops in fields such as soybeans, winter wheat, rye, oats and sorghum.

Fronts: Weather fronts and, particularly, weather-makers seem to affect wildlife movement later in hunting seasons. Deer will feed heavily a day or two before the arrival of a cold front, and then for a couple of days after one. The best times to hunt in the late season are typically right before or just after a significant cold front or after a snowfall.

Snow cover: Pheasant hunting is generally good after the first snowfall of the season. It can bring birds out into the open in harvested soybean fields or pastures, or group them up in heavy cover. Snow cover allows the hunter to see game more easily and at a greater distance. The most obvious advantage of snow cover is that anything moving in it must leave tracks or droppings. In addition, the timing of the snow tells you how recently game animals came through an area.

Public lands: Successful hunting on public land in the late season is possible for any hunter willing to put in the necessary time and effort. Look for food and water sources, natural funnels, game trails and thicker habitats. Go the extra distance to move as far away as possible from access points and parking lots. Usually the farther you head into a public area, the less likely you are to encounter other hunters and the more likely you are to encounter game.

During the late season, the weather is rough and hunting can be tough, but there is still much game available. Get out and take advantage of what is left for late-season hunting action.

To see more late-season hunting tips, ready my blog, In the Wild, at OutdoorNebraska.org.

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Greg Wagner is a public information officer in the Commission’s Communications Division. Contact him at greg.wagner@nebraska.gov. Read his blog, In the Wild, at OutdoorNebraska.org.

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