By Scott Einsmann
Acorns are a favorite fall food for all types of critters. Deer, bear, squirrels and turkeys all feast on this high-protein mast crop to prepare for winter. If you live or bowhunt in areas with oak trees, annual acorn feasts should be part of your hunting strategy.
Acorns fall from oaks, and although many oak species are common, deer prefer acorns from white oaks. These acorns are less bitter than those from red-oak varieties, and white oaks are easy to identify because their leaves have rounded tips.
After identifying white oaks or your area’s most common oaks, search for an area with concentrations of them. Once you find oaks and fallen acorns, look for signs that deer are feeding on them. Good giveaways are pawed leaves and empty acorn husks on the forest floor. You’ll also find deer tracks and droppings.
You’ve found acorns and fresh deer sign. What now? Look for deer trails leading to the area, and determine the wind direction to help keep your scent away from approaching deer. Wait for the wind to blow from the right direction, and then hunt!
Didn’t see anything? One of the most challenging times to hunt deer is when a large mast crop drops. Deer won’t have to travel far to find food, and then they’ll often feed there a long time. When deer cover less area, sightings go down. This time often aligns with the “October lull,” a period before the rut defined by low daytime activity. Try to find acorns dropping near thick cover where deer often bed. When hunting near a bedding area, approach your stand quietly and carefully while monitoring the wind.
If you’re after a buck, look for fresh rubs and scrapes. As the rut approaches, bucks check acorn-laden areas for does in heat. Hunting these areas from late October through mid-November can be a great way to waylay cruising bucks.
October can be fantastic for bowhunting whitetails. If you find acorns and fresh deer sign, you’ll find deer!