Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Don’t forget the acorns

Deer are so visible around field edges early in the season, that
sometimes one of the most dependable early season food sources gets
overlooked. I’m talking acorns of course. Although deer will eat
just about anything that grows, just like us, they have their
favorite foods, and acorns, especially from white oaks, are near
the top of the list.

October is often thought of as the month to be hunting stands of
white oak, though during a good mast year, plenty of acorns are
falling in September (I’ve seen them fall in August) to keep deer
interested. Locate some good mast trees and you have the location
for excellent early season action. I carry a pair of good
binoculars with me and scan the upper branches of white oaks
looking for acorns. Once you get used to looking for them, it is
easy to spot trees carrying the heaviest crop of nuts. These are
the trees you want to hunt near. I know hunters who own land who
routinely fertilize a few oak trees on their property so that these
trees will produce bumper crops of acorns.

In the evening, deer will often spend some time scarfing acorns
before browsing the soybean or alfalfa fields. Think of it as a
whitetail

hors d’oeuvre. This might not mean much to you as long as the
deer are still arriving at the field during shooting hours, but
deer react quickly to hunting pressure. After a week or two most of
the deer will not enter the field until after dark. That does not
mean that the deer are staying in bed until then. Odds are good
that they are feeding on acorns while they wait for darkness.

I’ve seen deer crunching acorns a good two hours before the end
of shooting hours, especially the youngsters, which like youngsters
of every species, are always hungry. I always get a kick out of
watching a fawn trying to crack a big, old acorn. They roll the
things around in their mouth like a jawbreaker. On a calm, quiet
evening you can hear them trying to get at the meat of the acorn.
Those little nature quirks are what makes bowhunting so
enjoyable.

If you like big bucks, I don’t know of a better evening location
than a mast-bearing stand of white oaks between the buck’s bedding
area and the fields where he feeds at night.

After the first couple days of the season, the big boys probably
won’t step into the open until last light, but they will rise from
their beds, browse a bit, and scarf up a few acorns on their way to
the main course. Intercept them here.

Field edges make lousy morning stand sites, but a stand of
acorn-bearing oaks is ideal. Just as deer will feed on the acorns
before they hit the fields in the evening, the same deer often will
take time on the trip back to bed at dawn to munch on the tasty
nuts. Find a stand of oaks that you can access without having to
cross the fields and you have a great early-season morning
stand.

Whenever I hunt over acorns, I always carry a few small rocks in
my pocket. When acorns are thick on the ground, deer have little
trouble finding them, but it’s rarely that easy. Deer quickly learn
to listen for the sound of an acorn hitting the carpet of leaves
below. When they hear the “plop” of an acorn, they wander over to
find it. I’ve seen young deer race each other to the site of a
falling acorn. A stone sounds just like an acorn when it falls to
the leaves. Pretty sneaky.

Go ahead and concentrate on the fields until that action
fizzles. But when it does, (and it will) don’t hang up your bow.
Instead, look for acorns. The deer already have found them.

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