Deer hunters should learn a bit about food sources in the forest
I was sitting around with some fellow turkey hunters lately – three guys from Vermont who were in town for an event that included a calling competition at Turkey Trot Acres in Candor (Tioga County). Not surprisingly, the day’s conversation centered around turkey hunting and calling, but we’re also avid deer hunters as well and at some point, around 11 p.m. and after a beer or two, the talk shifted to whitetails.
Interspersed among talk about bears as well – and after chatting about management issues such as antler restrictions and what different states are doing regulations-wise – we delved into habitat and food sources such as various hard and soft mast.
All of us agreed that many deer hunters lack the knowledge – mine is pretty basic and not nearly as deep as many hunters – of various mast crops out there that could aid in their ability to find whitetails. One of the guys actually took it very deep, waxing eloquent on details like fat content of red oak acorns versus hickory nuts or white oak. But most of the talk sticked to the basics, like if you want to find a black bear, find the beech nuts.
But the fact is that a lot of hunters, beyond the basics of setting up near a farmer’s standing corn, blindly work their hunting area without the ability and knowledge of deciphering where the food can be found unless they’re slipping on acorns. And even then, they don’t realize what a big difference there is between white oak and red oak. Want to know how different? Take a bite out of a red oak acorn and then try a white oak acorn. You’ll need a gallon of water to chase the bitter red oak nut, while the white oak acorn is substantially sweeter. To both us and the deer.
Northern Zone hunters, notably in the Adirondacks where oak is sometimes lacking, can focus on deer delicacies like fiddlehead ferns and, in those rare years when there’s a bumper crop, beechnuts.
You don’t have to be a biologist with a degree in forestry, but some basic knowledge can go a long way in the deer woods. It’s similar to a fly fisherman knowing a bit about entomology so that they’re not beating their head against a rock trying to figure out what the trout are rising to.
So grab a book, read a bit, and head out in the woods and see where the food sources are – not just the standing corn, not just the apples. It may pay off big time this season.