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Old October 12, 2013, 09:59 PM   #1
MTGreen
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Few accorns in the woods of VA

I got out in the woods today for the first time this season. I heard acorns were in short supply, but was surprised not to find any.

Short seasons in the past have been successful because a good food source will draw more deer than when plentiful alternatives exist.

My twin brother is coming out from Oregon in three weeks for our first hunt in six years.

If anyone could give me some non-crop alternatives to acorns that could help me pattern woodland deer this season I would be thankful.
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Old October 13, 2013, 03:38 PM   #2
buck460XVR
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When acorns are far and few between, any tree producing them will be a hot spot. Regardless of how poor the acorn crop is in an area, there are always some trees that produce. This is what I look for. Also in areas where ag food crops are not available, when acorns are scarce, deer will relate to their traditional winter food sources, or go to secondary preference food sources. These vary with the area your are hunting in. In areas where ag crops are available, I see little or no change in feeding habits other than the deer bed closer to the ag source than the oaks.
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Old October 13, 2013, 04:07 PM   #3
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Last years crop of acorns here on my piece of heaven in Arkansas was pretty dismal but my brother in law and myself went out this morning to hang a couple of stands and a ground blind and they (acorns) are all over the place ,

When a food source is scarce the wildlife will find other options close to home.

it's crazy how mother nature works ain't it
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Old October 13, 2013, 05:06 PM   #4
Jack O'Conner
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On the past couple weekends, I've been deer hunting (crossbow) in my favorite spots within northern Maryland. Same observation as yours - white oaks are not producing acorns. Some red oaks are dropping acorns but I'm not seeing much fresh sign. I haven't yet figured out where the deer are feeding.

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Old October 13, 2013, 05:59 PM   #5
buck460XVR
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I actually have better luck hunting the oaks when acorns are scarce, because as I said in my first post, even when the crop is down, there are still some trees producing acorns. Thus deer are not picky about which acorns they eat, just that they are finding some of those high energy, high fat little pieces of natural deer candy. When every oak in the woods is producing acorns, the deer are more spread out in the woods because of it and will actually seek out certain trees producing the biggest/best and tastiest nuts. This is harder for me to decipher than which trees are producing.
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Old October 14, 2013, 12:46 AM   #6
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It won't help for this year, but what about sprinkling some nitrogen fertilizer around the oaks you want to hunt around or maybe drive in a tree food spike into the ground near them? I'm not a tree-hugger but I'm more than willing to help the hunting grounds support game...

Tony
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Old October 14, 2013, 06:39 AM   #7
upstate81
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Tony makes a great point! Being an apple farmer i can attest to how much this will help you especially if you enhance just a tree or two within range of your stand or along a rub line.
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Old October 14, 2013, 10:20 AM   #8
buck460XVR
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Quote:
It won't help for this year, but what about sprinkling some nitrogen fertilizer around the oaks you want to hunt around or maybe drive in a tree food spike into the ground near them? I'm not a tree-hugger but I'm more than willing to help the hunting grounds support game...
Quote:
Tony makes a great point! Being an apple farmer i can attest to how much this will help you especially if you enhance just a tree or two within range of your stand or along a rub

upstate81, being a "apple farmer" you know there is more to producing fruit than just throwin' some fertilizer on the ground and sittin' back and waiting for Ma Nature to do the rest. Apple trees left to themselves, even with good nutrients will not produce significant crops of apples every year. Oaks are no different. Their acorn is a fruit, just as your apples. Trees that produced heavy last year will produce few acorns this year and maybe even next year. Acorn production, in wild trees, like apples, depends on many variables, most of them uncontrollable by man. Plus the size of the oak trees compared to apples means that one would need 50 or more spikes or hundreds of pounds of fertilizer per tree to do any good. Add to the fact that oak roots are deep compared to apple trees and oaks prefer well drained soil means that due to depth and leaching, the effect of ground applied fertilizer would take years to reach the roots of trees mature enough to produce significant amounts of acorns, and do little good once it got there. Since many fertilizers contain salts, one could be considered baiting by pouring it on the ground. Not a problem if salt licks or baiting are legal. Dumping large amounts of fertilizer on public land without permission or a permit may not even be legal....I dunno. On public land the O.P. looking to have a successful hunt this year as he wants, should look to alternative food sources or find those few trees that are producing. If baiting is allowed, the use of acorn substitutes like "Acorn Rage" and similar products may help. Even if hunting on private land these alternatives are much easier and will be much more effective than trying to significantly enhance acorn production. If the area hunted is private land, the planting of food plots would also be much more effective than fertilizing wild oaks and hoping for the best. Rye can be planted now and will draw deer and be able to hunt over in a matter of a few weeks. If long term effects are wanted, apples, hazelnuts, highbush cranberries and other faster maturing, more dependable fruits can be planted.

I am not trying to be overly critical here....just bein' realistic. While I too am willing to help wild animals find food, on public land I wouldn't break the bank to attract deer that someone else could hunt. On private land, there are too many good alternatives to fertilizing mature oaks.
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Old October 14, 2013, 10:55 AM   #9
Jim243
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Sometimes I think deer are smarter than the hunters. Many supermarkets carry acorns as well as other foods that would attract deer (without having to grow it).

As long as you spread out the food 24 to 48 hours before the start of deer season, it is not considered baiting. Placing a salt lick a month ahead of time where your stand will be, would help also. Corn will work too, get some un-processed from a local mill or make your own from dried ears of corn.

If you want to be successful on your hunt then prepare ahead of time.

Jim
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Old October 14, 2013, 11:04 AM   #10
buck460XVR
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jim243:

Sometimes I think deer are smarter than the hunters. Many supermarkets carry acorns as well as other foods that would attract deer (without having to grow it).

As long as you spread out the food 24 to 48 hours before the start of deer season, it is not considered baiting. Placing a salt lick a month ahead of time where your stand will be, would help also. Corn will work too, get some un-processed from a local mill or make your own from dried ears of corn.

If you want to be successful on your hunt then prepare ahead of time.

Jim
I was under the impression that is was illegal in VA to bait with food or salt during the open gun season and all food/bait had to be removed 10-30 days prior to hunting the area where the bait/salt lick had been.
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Old October 14, 2013, 06:23 PM   #11
upstate81
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geez i wasnt sayin put a cup or 2 of nitrogen on a white oak tree and you will get a ton of acorns! And no you cant even compare apples and acorns totally different processes plus acorns are nuts not fruit. People that go out and buy all those deer suppliments like you buy at Bass Pro are wasting their money. Many other natural choices that dont come in a plastic bag and pump the deer full of proteins to promote antler growth. Im sure the old timers can attest to this. Not trying to be sarcastic but its not that complicated to create food in the deer woods. Good luck.

Last edited by upstate81; October 14, 2013 at 06:32 PM.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:18 AM   #12
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other food sources

The OP is looking for other food sources beyond a nut/ mast crop. In poor mast years, I look at browse.
-honeysuckle, deer will browse heavily on honeysuckle, any thicket/fencerow or concentration of the stuff should have deer activity
-sawbriar/smilax, deer will browse on this stuff too, though I think they like the new shoots better than the older vines. Often, sawbriar and honeysuckle start in the same cover, so more the better
-secondary growth, hardwood browse. Find some old slash or cutover with concentrations of young hardwood growth. There was a succession type maple in VA, PA, and along the Appalachians but I cannot recall the exact name, ...stripped maple maybe, or whistlewood, goosefoot maple (after the leaf) that deer browsed in the winter when I was in that country.
-check out powerlines and ROW's. They are oft maintained and will have secondary growth, briar, etc due to frequent mowing. Deer will feed on these open areas at night and move back to cover and vice/versa in the PM
-spring seeps....often will hold green growth late into fall,and the greenery draws deer as a food source.

Not many acorns in N. AL this year so far either, though I keep scouting for a hot tree.
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Old October 15, 2013, 05:00 AM   #13
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Few accorns in the woods of VA

No acorns in my location in western PA. This tends to scatter the deer and cause more browsing. I am going to rely on travel routes that bucks use to cruise for does.
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Old October 15, 2013, 05:11 PM   #14
buck460XVR
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Quote:
Originally posted byupstate81:

plus acorns are nuts not fruit.

duh....many kinds of nuts are fruit. Acorns are one of them. The word "acorn" actually comes from an old world word meaning "Fruit, berry". Oaks are not so much different than apples in the fact that they bear flowers in the spring, that need to be wind or bee pollinated before they develop fruit. Adverse weather during this time, like with apples, can deter fruit development.

How was your apple crop this year? We had to brace up many of our trees because fruit was so heavy. Due to the drought later in the season, bugs were not an issue and the heavy rains we had this spring saturated the ground deep so deeper rooted plants like trees fared well. By the same token, one can't hardly walk under the oaks around here for the amount of acorns on the ground.
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Old October 15, 2013, 05:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim243
As long as you spread out the food 24 to 48 hours before the start of deer season, it is not considered baiting. Placing a salt lick a month ahead of time where your stand will be, would help also. Corn will work too, get some un-processed from a local mill or make your own from dried ears of corn.
This varies greatly. In NY, the time frame is 2 weeks to not be considered baiting and it's actually illegal to intentionally feed wild deer at ANY time.
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Old October 16, 2013, 07:44 PM   #16
upstate81
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buck460, our apple crop was fantastic this year. Last year it reached 80 in march for about a week so the trees began to bloom too early. In turn most of the blossoms died when the temps dropped the following week. Made for a rough year for us guys around lake ontario. This year the trees had to be heavily thinned. A lot of apples means a lot of deer however deer eat apples and their respective trees...literally. Acorns are abundant as well so are corn and beans great year for hunting food.
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Old October 16, 2013, 09:42 PM   #17
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Thanks

Bamaranger,

Thanks, this is the type of information I was hoping to get. I will keep an eye out for honeysuckle and sawbriar and related deer sign. I have seen deer eating sawbriar in my yard and working grassy areas regularly.

I will look for that hot tree too, but you pointed out some alternatives along the way.

Ropadop,

That sounds like a good plan. Keying on routes to and from bedding areas may be productive when feeding areas are spread out or varied. In any event, low food density will increase deer movement.
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Old October 16, 2013, 09:51 PM   #18
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Im a forester in southside Virginia , no acorns......but have you ever seen as much soybeans? lots of deer !! they've gotten to be pretty much a nuisance around here...............LOUD
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Old October 17, 2013, 12:38 AM   #19
bamaranger
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frost

I've always maintained that either drought or a spring frost will nix the acorn crop. Thing is, we had ample rain, and I don't recall a frost during bloom time. (I hunted 21 or was it 23, out of 30 mornings this spring and about the first 14 days straight and sure don't recall a frost in April, our bloom season).

What else besides frost and drought will so broadly hamper a mast crop?

Sort of a hijack but related I think.
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Old October 17, 2013, 07:17 AM   #20
Brian Pfleuger
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Few accorns in the woods of VA

Oak trees have a natural 2 or 3 year production cycle, regardless. Frost, drought and insect infestation can alter it too.
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Old October 24, 2013, 09:09 PM   #21
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annual

Pretty sure that white oaks and chestnut oaks bear annually, or are supposed to. Red Oaks have a bi annual cycle. Infestation....good point
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Old October 28, 2013, 11:05 PM   #22
MTGreen
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Forage

I have had some success hunting around access to green forage. When looking there is plenty of sign the deer have been eating to a height of about 3 feet. My property has been hit hard and I look for similar damage to leafy areas near openings in the woods. I hunt travel routes between bedding areas and green areas, and anticipate that deer will travel in and around access to green browse. I also choose areas that may hold deer that move some distance to crops or fields. I have seen two nice bucks and feel confident with this approach.
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Old October 30, 2013, 02:15 AM   #23
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Here in East Texas..the pin oak acorns are about non-existent..but the post oaks are really putting out..they are small tho and will run out before the season is over....
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Old December 9, 2013, 10:25 PM   #24
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8 pt tagged

I did have a good hunt with my brother. I shot a doe and another friend shot the 8pt I had seen previously. Three days after my brother left, I shot an 8 point. Even so, I am looking forward to acorns next season.
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Old December 10, 2013, 04:28 PM   #25
ChasingWhitetail91
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When the acorns are sparse in my neck of the woods I hunt near young spruce groves. They love eating the young buds and usually don't wander to far from them when other food sources aren't producing.
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