Many hunters are so focused on the November modern-gun season that they overlook one of the best times of the year to hunt deer.
Listen closely as you wander in the woods in mid-October and you’ll hear acorns hitting the ground. That’s the dinner bell for wildlife.
“When the acorns start dropping, deer will leave practically all other food sources to eat them, including feeders and corn fields,” says wildlife biologist Jim Lane, who’s hunted October seasons for 21 years.
Acorns are high in fat and protein, making them an ideal food for deer needing to store fat for the breeding season and winter. Deer eat more than 2 pounds of acorns a day, so where you find acorns, you’ll find deer.
Hunters should learn the difference between red and white oaks. Although red oak acorns have two to four times more fat than white oak acorns, deer prefer acorns from white oaks. This is because red oak acorns have more tannin, a naturally produced substance with a bitter taste.
The amount of acorns that oaks produce varies from year to year. Generally, an oak will produce a bumper crop—about 80 percent more acorns than normal—every three to five years.
Oaks produce acorns in as little as 10 years, but do best after 50 years. A good rule of thumb is to look for oaks more than 20 inches in diameter. Trees that have grown large and wide or have tops towering above the rest of the forest generally produce the most acorns.
Three types of deer hunting methods are allowed in October: bowhunting all month; muzzleloader hunting Oct. 16-17; and a special youth-only season (modern firearms allowed) from Oct. 9-10. Fewer people hunt during these seasons, meaning deer are less wary and their movements are easier to figure out.
While muzzleloader hunters can stay on the ground, treestands and safety harnesses are critical for bowhunters who must get close to their quarry. Deer instinctively scan the ground for danger rather than look up in the trees.
Finally, deer have good noses. Wear a pair of rubber boots to keep from spreading your scent in the woods, but only put them on once you arrive afield.
Didn’t get drawn for a quota deer hunt? Consider bowhunting. Many of the state’s most popular areas for quota hunts are open during bow season. Some wildlife areas are only open to bowhunting. Consult your hunting guide for more information.