How to ... find deer by following the acorn crop

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: August 22, 2014 - 8:22 AM
hide

As soon as these red oak acorns begin to fall, a variety of animals can be found feasting under the trees. The nuts are a favorite for deer, black bears, squirrels, ruffed grouse and certain ducks.

Photo: Bill Marchel • Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

On a cool day last week I took a stroll through the oak flats in several of my favorite local hunting spots. The temperature was in the 70s, the dew point was low and a moderate breeze kept the bugs from being a nuisance.

A comfortable day for man or beast.

I was scouting for deer, but not really expecting to see the deer themselves. Instead I went to survey the acorn crop, all the better for predicting where deer might materialize in the coming weeks and months when the mast begins to fall.

I used binoculars to scan the tree tops, which enabled me to determine which oak trees are producing the most acorns this year. Red acorns and bur oak acorns are easily visible this late in summer.

I found that most red oaks were barren of acorns, at least here in central Minnesota. This is a repeat of last year. Sure, some bur oak trees were heavy with mast, but most contained few or no acorns. I was also able to determine which oak ridges and oak flats held the most prolific trees. I’ve stashed away these observations for now, but when the bur oak acorns begin to drop — usually in late August through mid-September, depending on where in Minnesota a person lives or hunts — I’ll use the information to identify deer-hunting hot spots.

I know that oaks bearing abundant crops of acorns can be spotty, so I checked the oak ridges and flats extra carefully. Usually the oak trees with the largest crowns bear increased mast, because they enjoy optimal sunlight.

It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of acorns to wildlife. I’m continually amazed by the number of hunters who don’t understand the connection. Deer will abandon nearly all other food sources when the nuts begin to drop.

Other woodland creatures feast on acorns, too. Black bears sometimes can’t wait for the bounty and climb the oaks to devour green acorns. Squirrels often do the same. Acorns are also a favorite food of wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and ducks. Find a woodland pond with oak limbs overhanging the water and you’ll often find wood ducks waiting for their meals to splash.

There has been some confusion about the biology of acorns. Some hunters claim red oaks produce acorns only ever other year, a falsehood that has been repeated by several hunting magazines. The truth is that red oak acorns take two years to develop from flower to mature nut. However, white oaks produce an annual acorn crop. The acorns of white oaks (bur oaks are in the white oak family) form in the spring, mature during the summer, and are shed every autumn.

This pattern provides wildlife with a nutritional safety net. If a late freeze or other environmental factors kill all the oak flowers in a certain area, there’s no need to worry about the red oak acorns. They began growing the previous year, so they probably won’t be affected. Red oak acorns are missing the year after the freeze, but white oaks (bur oaks) can fill the gap as long as unfavorable weather doesn’t strike for two consecutive years.

If it seems too early to be thinking about acorns and deer hunting, consider this: Minnesota’s archery deer season is less than a month away. Find acorns now and be there when they fall. Deer and other wildlife certainly will be.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • related content

  • Know your acorns

    Friday August 22, 2014

    1 Acorn production is dependent on the weather, the overall health of the tree, and other environmental factors. A viable...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - C. Frias 2:10 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 2:40 PM
Arizona - A. Chafin
Boston - C. Buchholz 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano
Toronto - J. Happ 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Washington - B. Treinen 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Miami - H. Alvarez 6:10 PM
NY Mets - D. Gee
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb
Cincinnati - D. Corcino 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Chicago WSox - C. Sale 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Cleveland - C. Carrasco 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Detroit - D. Price 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close