While we all want to think agricultural crops and food plots will solve our search for deer, things abruptly change when a major mast crop hits the ground. Deer and other wildlife have evolved for thousands of years eating the native forage, which includes acorns. Acorns are such a valuable food source and so engrained into a deer’s diet, that they will seem to disappear from your food plots and agricultural fields when acorns start dropping.
Even if you have hunted the same area for many years, when you encounter a massive acorn crop it makes pin pointing a mature buck a great deal of work. However, we will narrow things down and hopefully give you some direction on how to be successful during these trying times.
You will need to do some serious mid-day scouting this time of year. Take the time to go near thick bedding cover where there is mast crop on the outside so as not to disturb deer in their bed. Be sure to do this when the wind will be blowing your scent away from the bedding cover. Keep in mind we’re talking mid-October through early November, when bucks are starting to make lots of scrapes and rubs gearing up for the rut. If you find an area near acorns that has good buck sign, then it’s probably worth hunting immediately. Sometimes, you might not find good sign and will need to hunt any way to see if anyone is home. You can always hang a trail camera on the sign and check it in a few days to see what’s coming through as well.
This is where a climbing stand can really pay great dividends. I’ll often carry my climber on my back when heading into oak flats that I know deer use year after year. That way, when I find a hot tree with acorns on the ground, chewed hulls and deer droppings under it, I’m ready. Having my climber with me will allow me to find a tree and immediately hunt it for an evening hunt. Or, if you find a good tree suitable for a climber you can sneak in the next morning or evening and hunt. A climber will also give you freedom to setup with the best possible wind direction on any given hunt. Being portable with a climber is key to putting yourself on deer when faced with these conditions.
Also, keep in mind that during this time of year the pre-rut is starting to ramp up quick. Placing a mock scrape near these areas can also have some drawing power for a nearby buck. Using Grave Digger for these mock scrapes is the key ingredient as it allows your sent to last longer and you won’t need to bother with refreshing for up to 30 days. Another tool that I use is Calming Zone. Calming Zone is a scent that you put on your boots or trees around your hunting location. It smells like a deer bedding area and relaxes deer as they walk into the area.
Keep in mind, things are changing fast this time of year. You might have to jump from deer sign to deer sign during as deer eat up the acorns under a specific tree. This is why a climbing stand is so valuable during this everchanging time of year.
About the Author: Chris Parrish has won turkey calling contests at the highest level and has hunted up and down this continent. He has a well-honed knowledge of the habits and patterns of mature whitetails — having recorded 22 bucks in the Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett record books. He’s been an ambassador for PRADCO Outdoor Brands as well as many more. Chris has a passion for sharing his knowledge with others, so look for more of his articles here and at Moultrie Products and Summit Stands.