The Oaks provide a buffet of white deer and a hunting hotspot
In early fall, when archery season begins, white-tailed deer undergo dramatic physical, hormonal, and behavioral changes.
These changes are evident when males lose velvet, revealing white antlers. At the same time, the hair color changes from a thin reddish-brown to a thick brownish-gray. And they also “puff up” for the soon to come breeding season, followed by a harsh winter.
White-tailed deer need to eat like never before.
So, thereafter, this spooky, reclusive, homebody pencil-necked summer of a velvet creature quickly turns into a bull-necked animal, obnoxious, fiery, and, occasionally, insane…all in just two months.
And the White Tails become eating machines.
The eating machines in the front are also waste machines in the back.
As whitetails eat acorns, they are often messy, dropping the acorn cap, along with some of the nut meat and saliva. Fresh acorn caps, still green inside, and chewed up pieces of acorns are a dead giveaway to using a particular oak tree as a primary feeding site.
Scout hunters should have no trouble finding these favorite mast sites by reading this panel. Then work placement hunting tactics around that obvious forensic evidence in the field.
Deer tell us which trees they prefer.
Bowhunters should remember, however, that when hunting whitetail deer, nothing stays the same.
This week’s hot spot could be remembering next week, especially once the acorns are gone and the rut begins.
A hotspot always looks better, just like it’s over.
A good pair of binoculars allows the hunter to access the amount of acorns yet to fall. Some trees produce lots of acorns early and then seem to dry out. Others drop acorns before and throughout bow season. And yet, other trees take a sabbatical, in fact rest.
While this wild buffet attracts white tails to feed, the accumulated scent left behind by deer using these buffets exponentially increases white tail traffic there. Here, in the oaks, deer create staging and rutting areas. Scuffs and chafing appear overnight.
When white and red oak trees drop nuts, deer abandon cornfields and food plots to feed on acorns.
Then hunters echo a common refrain, saying, “I don’t see the deer in the fields at dusk that I saw in late summer.”
Trust me. The deer are in the oaks when the acorns fall.
White tail rut forecast for 2022:What to expect when hunting this fall
White oaks and red oaks are different species and white oak acorns have been said to be preferred.
My experience is that whitetails engulf every glans and don’t discriminate as to color.
But anyone who has tasted a red acorn knows that it is quite bitter, due to the tannic acid. Yet wonderful tasting bread is made from acorns, after soaking and filtering out the tannins.
White oak acorns can be eaten raw, and I’ve chewed them on occasion to prove it. But they are a bit bitter. The oaks also vary. One white oak will have sweeter tasting acorns than another.
Although acorns contain a low percentage of protein, especially red oak acorns, they are incredibly high in fat, up to 15%, according to researchers.
The nuts from the oak trees are also easy to digest, allowing for mass consumption. Needless to say, when there is a bumper harvest, white-tailed deer will grow bigger and weigh more than any other year. Poor mast production always follows a bumper harvest, as each year the oak trees produce different amounts of nuts.
There are many formulas for predicting a bumper crop of acorns, but even scientists who study such things have not been able to find a foolproof system for determining future acorn drop.
One of the fun and exciting things about hunting in the oaks with a good crop of masts is that white-tailed deer often arrive at any time, not just dawn and dusk.
But one downside is that deer often move their bedroom into the dining area, which makes our approach to the stall without scaring the deer more problematic.
A good tactic to avoid detection is to place a support on a pinch point or take a travel corridor on the trails to and from the Whitetail Buffet, instead of placing a support in the middle of the oaks, right next to the kitchen table.
Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on The Spectator’s Outdoors page.