© By Othmar Vohringer
The email said, “…Where do I look for deer food sources? Everything is green and deer seem to be everywhere eating whatever is available…”
This and similar questions are familiar to me; many hunters seem to be puzzled in the early season on the subject of deer food. Then there are the other hunters who simply say: “I hunt cornfields”.
In this article I try to shed some light on proper bow hunting scouting for the early season. As the email noted, in the early season deer have plenty of food available to them. In fact, the early season may very well be the toughest time to kill a deer unless you know what the preferred food sources are. Deer are a little like you and me in that they like variety in their diet but not all their favorite food is available to them at the same time of the season.
Corn and other agricultural crops can definitely be considered a favorite food source. Deer spend a lot of time in the crop fields but they do not spend all their time in these places. Crop fields are large places and a deer could be anywhere within one. This makes it very hard, if not downright impossible to hunt deer from a stand placed on the edge of a field. Remember we’re talking about bow hunting here which is very different from sitting over a field with a rifle. In order to kill a deer with a bow in the early season we have to find a place that gets us close to the deer. Also, if you hunt on public land - as most hunters do - every hunter in the country will be lined up along the cornfields.
The answer to this problem is what I call woodland food sources. What are woodland food sources? Deer frequently eat acorns, persimmon, honeysuckle plus many other plants. Our early season scouting should be concentrated on these food sources and not on the agricultural fields. Cornfields are only important in the early season scouting as a point of reference if you will. From there we have to find out how the deer travel to a particular woodland food source.
How do we find out what the preferred woodland food source is? It’s simple really. Whenever I scout a new area my first quest is to find out what the deer in that area eat besides agricultural crop foods. Deer diet varies not only from state to state but can vary from one area to the next. For example, the county in Illinois where I used to hunt, whitetail deer wouldn’t touch red oak, yet a few counties further away they would eat them. Here in British Columbia we have only a few oaks and the deer blissfully ignore them, but they go ‘nuts’ about wild blueberries!
Putting it together:
Find the agricultural fields and then find the preferred woodland food source of the deer in your area and find out when that food will be available to the deer. It is important that you check up on these food sources. It does your hunting success no good to sit over a trail leading to an oak ridge if the acorns are still on the tree.
From there you have to figure out how the deer get from the crop field to that woodland food source using your knowledge of the land structure. Don’t set up a stand right at the woodland food source. You can’t kill a deer at the food source. The best place to set up your stand is somewhere between the crop field and the woodland food source - the further back from the field the better - provided you do not get to close to the other food source. The best place for your stand is a funnel where deer travel is constricted to a narrow trail, or where several trails merge into one leading to the woodland food source. If you use this strategy it will get you away from the other hunters and it will be a productive stand that will produce deer for as long as that food source is available.
In future articles I will cover early season scent attractant and calling tactics and in another article I will tell you how to hunt a large cornfield successfully with bow and arrow.
Here I leave you with a link to an article about early season bow hunting written by noted outdoor writer and master bow hunter John Sloan which covers this topic further.
Pre-season Scouting by John Sloan
Tags: Bowhunting, Early Bow Season, Whitetail Deer, Scouting, Deer Food Sources, Deer Hunting, Hunting Season