2009-10-10 / Outdoors

In Deer Season, Follow The Food

Deer numbers are up for archery season. It looks like there were more fawns born this past year than in previous years. More adult does were with fawns this past summer, with twins being a fairly common sight.

Equally, there is a good population of bucks, with plenty of larger, mature bucks. Antler restrictions have led to an overall increase in older bucks, the kind that fill every deer hunter’s dreams. Just because they are out there, though, doesn’t mean that they are easy to harvest. Big bucks didn’t get to live to such an old age by being easy targets.

As the archery season progresses through Nov. 14, the rut action will start slowly, and then begin to peak at the season’s end, making for some pretty exciting hunting action.

For now, the best hunting should be at food sources or along travel routes located between food and bedding areas. This year, the most obvious food source is the abundant red oak acorn crop. Acorns pack high energy and are the most soughtafter food source by whitetails.

The apple crop is spotty. Some localized sites were not hurt badly by the heavy May frosts and have a good apple crop.

Another good bet for earlyseason hunters is agriculture and food plots. It seems that even in the presence of heavy acorns, whitetails still desire a little salad in their diet.

Over the past several years, I have hunted near one large meadow on state forest land. Even with an abundance of acorns, it still draws deer up until mid-October, so it is quite productive to hunt the deer trails leading to and from this meadow. During the second half of the season, deer still use it as a food source, but they don’t come out to eat until after dark.

So far this season, I have only hunted one evening. I chose an area adjacent to a field in which oats had been planted. The field is surrounded by state forest land with an abundance of large red oaks that have produced a heavy acorn crop. I saw more than a dozen deer, two of which were small bucks.

It was interesting to watch the deer approach. After hurriedly arriving near the field’s edge, they stayed within the woods and watched for a minimum of a couple minutes before deciding things were safe and entering to feed.

The deer were walking -- and in some cases running -- over top thousands of acorns to get to the oat field. Conventional wisdom would say that this shouldn’t be the case, that the deer should ignore the oats for the high-calorie acorns. My thoughts are that the deer were excited to add a little variety to their diet. The high protein, three-inch-high oat plants were probably a succulent treat for the deer after eating all those bitter acorns.

The big bucks didn’t show themselves that night, but the highlight was having a small four-point within shooting range for about five minutes. With a little luck, maybe next time I will have another buck in range that has four points -- four points on each antler, that is, with a nice, wide rack. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Return to top