Food Source Strategies – Acorns!

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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