With deer season upon us and having already begun in many states, many hunters will find themselves afield, and unfortunately lost. Not lost as in uncertain of their location in vicinity to civilization, but lost in the fact that they cannot find the deer that fed on their front lawn all summer. With each season a whitetail's feeding pattern will change depending on the availability of food sources. There are many early season food sources that you can pattern to increase your odds to start the season.
Deer have a taste palate just like humans do and they will pattern their movements to the food sources available. During the summer months you can always find deer browsing on the green grasses and plants that have made themselves abundant during the spring growing season. Farmer's crops are always a favorite among deer as the leaves of soybeans and the tender tips of other crops make them a powerful attractant to deer and other game. As hunting season approaches these food sources begin to turn bitter as they mature to the point that they are ready to harvest. Deer transition off of these once lush food sources and search for natural or hunter provided food sources.
I was fortunate to harvest a mature Missouri 10 point this year because I targeted these early season food sources. Depending on where you hunt across this nation early season food sources will vary. I patterned deer that were still targeting a late planted soybean crop, but as the leaves of the beans were beginning to brown I moved my stand over a group of burr oaks that lined the edges of the soybean field. I was able to use trail cameras to locate the deer and with on the ground scouting a hang and hunt stand produced a buck after four days of hunting. With acorns a favorite of deer and at the date this article was written (late summer), acorns are beginning to clutter the forest floors. I would climb into my tree stand and once one deer stood up to feed I would literally watch the deer race to the base of my oak tree set to be the first to snatch up the sparsely fallen acorns. At 25 yards I arrowed a pope and young buck with my bow because I found these heavily producing oak trees that the deer couldn't resist.
Now is the time, if you haven't already, to find these food sources. Acorn producing oaks can be found across the nation and in your state depending on species. Be it red oak, white oak or the burr oaks I found in Missouri, find the acorns and you will find deer. Among acorns deer can be patterned among other food sources. Here is quick list of early season food sources to locate and possibly increase your odds of finding deer: paw fruit, persimmon, chestnuts, hickory nuts, wild grapes, any type of flowering berry plants, sunflowers and the tips of some evergreens. If you are fortunate to have a plot planted and available to you, deer will soon be transitioning to the available grasses and clovers that most plots provide. I am tagged out in Missouri but I prepared to hunt on into late Sept/Oct by planting forage turnips that I planted at the beginning of August knowing that these turnips would have lush green leaves around the time the soybeans began to turn bitter to the deer. In fact, if you plant any type of tuber (brassica, radish, turnips) or clover with soil temperatures still warm, you can still grow a food source to draw deer into late season. I recommend picking up an acre worth of seed from a seed company and planting it near your tree stand.
Take the time to scout now if you haven't located early season food sources rather than sit in your stands waiting for that buck to walk by. Do a little research and find out what types of plants are still blooming, what nuts are falling, and what plants are still green in your areas and you will find the deer. Deer are complicated, but if you find out what they are eating they can sometimes be very predictable. Food and water are the two main things on a deer's mind. If you focus your search on food sources during the early season as opposed to the perfect travel corridor for the rut, you will find the deer. Just like you need that footlong cold cut combo, that deer needs that tiny little acorn to survive. Sometimes it is so simple and you didn't even realize it; Find the food, find the deer! Happy Hunting!