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Hunting Whitetail Deer in Acorns
 

Hunting Whitetail Deer In Acorns Hunting trophy whitetail deer feeding on acorns may be one of the most under rated hunt methods for the harvest of monster bucks. Truth is especially during the early season whitetail deer will chiefly feed on acorns, however a hunter needs to be educated on different types of acorns, as well as how to hunt whitetail deer in acorns in order to successful. I live in a nice subdivision in Missouri which only has 8 houses. My house is the last house on the end of the dead end road. Beside my home lies a woodlot and a field that often times we will see a half a dozen whitetail deer in, but the whitetail deer we see are always right at dark and literally hundreds of yards away. During the first week of September in 2009 my wife began calling out to me from different locations in the house to look at our windows. She was calling me to different windows overlooking the lawn to see whitetail deer standing in our front yard. Over the past week the deer that never got within a couple hundred yards of my home are literally standing 30 yards from my front porch eating acorns as if they owned the place. This scenario literally displays just how bold whitetail deer become due to their love for acorns. Acorns may be the favorite source of food for whitetail deer. In an effort to perfect a whitetail deer hunterís skills at hunting whitetail deer in and around acorns one first must be able to identity what type of acorns he or she may be hunting whitetail deer over. Of course we know that white oak acorns are the favorite food acorn of whitetail deer. While over 450 different kinds of acorns are produced throughout the United States namely only 5 type of acorns are literal magnets for whitetail deer. These are named in order of whitetail deer preference below: Different Types of Oak Acorns 1. White Oak (Quercus alba) Grows in either dry or moist situations, but not in wet ones. Height to 100 feet tall throughout the Midwest, with heavy, often nearly horizontal branches; wide-spreading. Leaves: With five to seven rounded lobes in two distinct forms: one has shallow, wide, rounded lobes; the other has long, narrower, fingerlike lobes with indentations nearly to midrib of leaf. Bark: Light gray; rough with long loose scales; becoming blocky on very old trees. Acorns: About 3/4-inch long with a cup covered by warty scales. The Latin alba means "white." 2. Red Oak (Quercus rubra) Grows on upland slopes, on moist bottomlands which face north or east and thus stay cooler. The tree can reach 100 feet. Leaves: Up to eight inches long with pointed lobes (which are not divided again at their tips), segmented to the midrib. Middle and upper lobes point diagonally upward and have bristle-pointed teeth. Leaves are yellowish-green above. Bark: Dark brown to black; smooth on young trees, eventually wide, flat ridges separated by shallow fissures; on very old trees more narrowly ridged. Acorns: One-inch long, oblong in shape. The cup saucerlike, flat, covers about one-third of the nut, and has a fine-hairy fringe. Rubra, Latin, "red." 3. Pin Oak (Quercus Palustris) Under natural conditions a medium-size tree that grows 50- to 70-feet tall in moist valleys, along streams, ponds and swamps, but also sometimes on dry locations. The lower branches spread downward, covering a large area. Pin oak grows faster than other oak species and has become a much planted ornamental. Many specimens provide good fall coloration. Leaves: Medium size, four-to-six-inches long with five to seven lobes, which are deeply divided. The ends of the lobes have two to three small divisions, each bristle-tipped. Leaves are dark green and shiny. Bark: Grayish-brown, smooth for many years. Acorns: Rounded, Ĺ-inch diameter, often striped with many dark lines, with a thin, saucer-shaped cup. Palustris, Latin, "marshy." 4. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) Grows both on upland and lowland sites, but does best on rich, moist soils; to 120 feet tall. Found throughout the Midwest. Leaves: The largest of any native oak, to one foot long and very wide. Two different basic shapes exist: one widest above the middle, the upper portion shallowly lobed, the lower lobes longer. The other has a deeply lobed central section with indentations coming close to the central vein and a narrower upper part, but still wider than the lower lobes. Both forms are found on the same tree. Bark: Similar to white oak but darker and more vertically ridged. Acorns: The largest of all North American oaks, about 1 Ĺ inches in diameter, surrounded by a deep cup, which is scaly and has a hairy fringe at the rim. Squirrels are especially fond of them. Macrocarpa is Greek for "big-fruited." 5. Post Oak (Quercus stellata) Grows in dry and rocky upland woods, to 60 feet tall. Characteristics similar to white oak. Found in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana. Leaves: Usually with five lobes, two of which, above the middle of the leaf, are broad, forming a cross with the axis of the leaf. These and the top lobe are normally slightly indented. Bark: Light brown; divided by deep fissures and scaly ridges. Acorns: Small to 3/4-inch long, the cup covers onethird to one-half of the nut. The Latin Stellata means "star," referring to the starlike tufts of hair on the surfaces of the leaf. ACORNS THROUGH THE SEASON Much can be said about acorn production in general terms, but there are very few absolutes. Oak trees with large crowns generally produce more nuts than smaller oaks. Excellent acorn years are sometimes -- but not always -- followed by poor ones. Thus some years whitetail deer hit acorns very hard as a food source while on other years whitetail deer donít have near enough acorns to feed on to make them a chief food source. Rainfall, wind, frost, disease, and many other factors can influence acorn production. But depending on the species, the effects might not be seen for two to seven years later. Similarly, one tree might produce an abundant harvest while a similar tree a few yards away might be barren. Therefore whitetail hunters need to discover what area or group of trees is producing acorns abundantly to concentrate their whitetail hunting in the correct locations where huge mast productions are taking place. Literally on a 200 acre woodlot their might only be an acre of trees that are producing many acorns. Its not simply enough to hunt whitetail deer in oak trees. Find the oak trees that are producing an abundance of acorns on that particular year to harvest a trophy whitetail buck over acorns. Of the many different varieties of oak trees in the Midwest, three species are of primary importance to deer hunters: the white oak, the red oak, and the burr oak. All of them bear varying degrees of significance, depending on which is most abundant on a given hunting property. The white oak acorn is the preferred acorn of all whitetail deer. Thus whitetail hunting efforts concentrated on acorns need to be centered around white oak acorns. In general, the white oak is by far the most important. A white oak's acorns are less tannic and therefore, more palatable than the other two types. Whitetail Deer prefer white oak acorns over the acorns of other varieties. White oak acorns are typically the first to be eaten and as such should be the focus of whitetail hunters during the early season. With last year's heavy white oak crop, many acorns remained on the ground all through the winter. In fact, many went uneaten and became rotten and moldy, though in most years they get devoured fairly early. White oak trees can be identified by their scaly or shaggy bark, as well as by their leaves that are multi-lobed and rounded on the edges. White oaks get hit hard by deer, and the evidence they leave behind can be easily seen -- cracked shells and a ring of trampled leaves around the tree. As white oak acorns become scarce, deer focus their attention on the acorns of both red oak and burr oak. Red oaks' leaves have pointed lobes, while water oaks' leaves are kind of spatula-shaped. Through deer may browse on the acorns of these two trees opportunistically, they really focus on them starting in about late November. This is when it becomes important for whitetail deer hunters to set up an ambush based on this food source. It's easy to tell when deer have been feeding on these acorns, as nearly every dead leaf around the trees will be tuned over. Excrement will be present, and often times if youíre lucky enough you might find a group of white oaks early in the season where big whitetail buck rubs are present on saplings in and about the white oak grove area. This indicated a trophy whitetail buck is feeding on this group of trees, and is worth of a tree stand site. In 1996 I was hunting with a man named Brent Thomure in Northern Missouri for whitetail deer. Brent had several years of whitetail deer experience on me. He immediately found an area which on one side had a huge dense thicket. Then the terrain opened up into a ridge ramp full of white oak acorns producing abundantly. On Brentís first entry into the area he arrowed a 150 plus inch whitetail buck with a belly full of acorns. Quite a whitetail deer indeed. Why Do Whitetail Deer Love Acorns The acorn is the fruit of the oak tree and is an extremely important ingredient in diet of whitetail deer. What makes this nut so appealing to whitetail deer is that acorns are large, abundant and easily consumed where oak trees grow. Protein levels vary among the hundred different species, but on average the acorn provides a fair amount of protein and a large amount of carbohydrates and fats as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and the vitamin niacin. Acorns are also easily digestible and pass easily and quickly through the system allowing whitetail deer to consume large amounts of acorns each day. In the Midwestern United States where oak trees are abundant, the acorn is the food of choice among whitetail deer. In bumper crop years, whitetail deer will usually not travel far from the oak trees. A group of oak trees usually provide whitetail deer more than enough forage through the fall months and also provide a great deal of cover and security that the whitetail deer desires. It is often noted that during a bumper crop year, whitetail deer will rarely travel to the apple orchard, corn fields or deer feeders but will spend their days under the oak trees foraging on the acorns. Whitetail deer can gain a lot of weight and muscle very quickly during these years. Usually by mid to late fall, deer will have a thick layer of fat just under the coat and along the belly. With so many species of oak trees, how do you know which is the best? Itís easy; the acorn with the lowest amount of tannic acid is the best tasting to whitetail deer. Just as humans, whitetail deer also judge their food mostly on taste and since tannic acid has a bitter undesirable taste, the lower the tannic acid level the better. The White Oak produces an acorn with the lowest levels of tannic acid; the Pin Oak comes in second, then Red Oak, Black Oak, Bur Oak and Live Oak to name a few of the most desirable acorns. The Importance of Hunting Whitetail Deer Over the Freshest Acorns Whitetail deer are known for eating acorns. This is one of their favorite food sources. Generally, whitetail deer will feed on acorns from white oaks early and red oaks as the season progresses. That is not to say that whitetail deer wonít eat either at any given time. Fresh acorns is the key when it comes to trophy whitetail deer hunting. Whitetail deer will work newly dropped acorns as fast as they fall from the tree. This will usually last about a week. Then they move on to fresher droppings. Since all acorns donít fall at the same time, locating the current crop is key. This can be an easy task or a very difficult one. It basically depends on how many producing oak trees are available in a given area. If the area to be hunted offers a wide selection of oaks, the task of keeping up with the freshest acorns will be harder. However, if the area has limited oak trees, a whitetail deer hunter will have a better chance of keeping track. A good whitetail deer hunter can observe the tops of oak trees where the acorns are to determine if such trees will soon produce. The patches of acorns atop the oak trees will begin to hang down as the acorns begin to weigh down. Paying attention to these changes can offer a hunter an advantage. When planning deer hunting locations around acorns, set up in areas with a group of producing oak trees. This is simply because there will be more available acorns in a given area. Deer will frequent these locations often due to the abundance. Keeping a watchful eye on oak trees will allow the hunter to be aware of dropping acorns. Hunt near the first producing trees and move as each new area begins to produce. If the acorns drop before a stand is placed, determine if the area is worthy. This can be done by observing any fresh deer sign in the area. Fresh tracks and deer droppings are a good sign. If the signs appear older, the deer have probably already moved on to a more fresh acorn crop. In my opinion the whitetail deer prefer acorns over any other food source other than corn. Around late August or early September it is a good idea to start looking for acorns and if you have acorns dropping in a funnel area that should be a hot spot for whitetail deer activity.

Darrin Bradley

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