Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member


    Luke Clayton

    I’ve hunted whitetails for over four decades and have come to believe one aspect of the hunt as concrete fact: find the acorns and you will find the deer. I have been fortunate to hunt deer from Canada to Mexico and lots of places between and, without exception, if oaks with acorns were native to the area, I always found my task of patterning deer to be much easier.

    Being a native Texan, I grew up hunting deer around corn feeders. I learned many years ago that when the acorns begin hitting the ground, deer abandon corn feeders quickly for their preferred natural food. I remember well a hunt in eastern Texas several years ago. We had 500 acres of prime hardwood bottoms with adjacent pine covered hillsides leased from a timber company. The deer fed on the acorns, browse and mushrooms that grew in the low land and bedded in the thick pine plantations in early fall; they were extremely easy to pattern. Acorns begin dropping in this area of Texas around mid September, just before the opener of bow season. I had my tree stand hung in a tall pine situated on the edge of a major trail leading from the bedding area in the pines to where the deer were feeding. My corn feeder had been throwing corn since mid summer and deer sign was everywhere but none of it was really fresh. After watching this trail for a couple of hunts, I noticed the deer had changed their travel route and were entering the big pin oak bottom from a little point of pines on a ridge that provided cover and a more direct route to the bottoms. After the morning hunt, I crawled down from my stand and headed in the direction the deer were traveling. Sure enough, on the edge of the big pin oak bottom, I found a little grove of three or four white oaks. The ground under these trees had been pawed by deer that had been feeding there on a very regular basis. Nearby, I found a big communal scrape that looked and SMELLED like every buck in the county had been working it. Rubs were everywhere and I found a series of smaller scrapes nearby. During midday, I quietly moved my tree stand and hung it on the downwind side of the little grove of oaks. There, just after sunrise the next morning, I arrowed a fat eight pointer and watched a possession of smaller bucks, does and yearlings eating acorns under the white oaks.

    Deer love to eat acorns from all species of oak but they most definitely have their favorites. The grove of white oaks where I killed the eight pointer was situated on the edge of a big pin oak bottom. The ground was literally covered with pin oak acorns throughout much of the area but if there are white oak acorns on the ground, you can bet your best hunting boots that white oak acorns is what they will be eating. Later in the season, I watched the deer herd in the area turn their attention to the pin oaks.


    Just last seasons, I was bow hunting a ranch in central Texas. Feeding (baiting) deer in this area is a common procedure, everybody does it. In late summer and well into September, bucks and does were hitting the feeders with regularity. My hunt was scheduled for the first week of October last year. In telephone conservation with the ranch owner in early September, he told me he was watching several Pope and Young class buck hitting the feeders on a daily basis. He had my ground blinds about 20 yards from a couple of these feeders and arrowing a big buck should be as easy as waiting for the big deer to get hungry.

    This ranch in the “Hill Country” is covered with live oaks. Guess when they begin dropping their acorns? You got it, very often in late September, JUST before the opener of bow season! Since I had only a couple of days to hunt, my rancher buddy wisely moved the ground blind to the edge of a point of live oaks that led out of some heavy cedars where the deer bedded and loafed before they moved out of cover to feed. I settled into the ground blind the first morning of the hunt and was within bow range of several smaller bucks and does. That evening, about thirty minutes before dark, I took a nice old heavy horned eight pointer that was obviously past his prime.

    Being mobile during early bow season when the acorns begin dropping is of paramount importance. When hunting over a feeder that deer are frequenting regularly, getting within bow range is pretty much a given but when hunting isolated oaks with early maturing acorns, it’s necessary to be mobile in order to set up within 30 yards of where the deer are feeding. I often use a lightweight ladder stand that’s quick and easy to move. Sometimes, my first attempt at patterning the deer requires a bit of “tweeking”. When I see deer feeding under particular oaks within sight of my stand, I wait until mid day, ease back in to the area, and quietly move my stand within bow range of heaviest deer activity.

    Regardless which part of the country you do your hunting, there will be oaks that drop their acorns early. Trees on the northern or eastern side of clearings with branches that are exposed to the south and southwest often begin dropping mature acorns a few days before trees back in the more heavy cover. Find these trees early in bow season and you are well on your way to filling your tag. Oak trees on the edge of fertilized hay meadows often bear heavier acorn crops that their counterparts back in the woods and conversely, drop mature acorns earlier. Hunting these isolated “hot spots” can be a bit tricky. Deer tend to stage pretty close to these spots at night and during early afternoon. I like to get into my stand well before first light and early in the afternoon to avoid spooking deer that are waiting to move out to feed. Wind direction is also a very real problem when hunting these “tight” spots. A few years ago, I began setting two stands within bow range of where the deer are feeding. One upwind of the predominant wind direction and one downwind. This is a good technique when you are hunting a “proven” area that annually attracts deer. When setting corn feeders, I always try to locate a spot around acorn bearing oaks; when the acorns play out, the corn will still be there to attract deer within bow range.

    As I am writing this in mid August, my mind is on a little spot in the woods about a mile from my house. Annually, the little grove of oaks on my place pulls deer and wild hogs in from surrounding farms and ranches. The trees are located about a hundred yards back inside the wood line, with a slough nearby that serves as a natural travel route. I will carry my binoculars and scour the branches closely and located the trees with the heaviest acorn crop. There always seems to be one or two trees in a grove that bear more acorns that the others. These are the trees where I will place my stands. Even here in the Lone Star State where baiting is common procedure, there’s no need for corn here. I have watched this little spot for the past few years and when the acorns begin to drop in mid September, the ground is pawed clean by deer. Chances are very good there are places just like this in your neck of the woods- Now, go find them! I can guarantee your hunting success will improve when you become a student of the oaks!

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  2. Arkansascatman777

    Arkansascatman777 New Member

    Thanks for sharing Luke, We had a late freeze this year and the acorns in this area are spotty but when you find the acorns you also find the deer and squirrels.

  3. catgetter1

    catgetter1 New Member

    Great article Luke, keep 'um comming..............................:smile2:
  4. Cherokee

    Cherokee New Member

    Thanks for sharing Luke