August 14, 2013
Whitetail Deer Scouting: Zero in on Mast Crop - 0
Back in June when I blogged about checking for soft mast on your deer hunting property, I added that the hard mast check would come later. That time is now. Acorns and other types of hard mast are now visible and it’s time to do some scouting.
Hard mast is primarily made up of acorns, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans and hickory nuts. Acorns are by far the most important hard mast crop species across the country. Even though about 75 species of oaks are found in North America, for hunting purposes we generally divide them into two groups: red oaks and white oaks.
Red vs White
Both species are deer magnets and a sure bet for locating feeding whitetails. White oak acorns are sweeter (less tannin) than reds and are generally thought to be preferred by whitetails. Acorns are readily observable on oak trees now. A good binocular comes in real handy when scouting for acorns as they are often found in the upper reaches of some pretty tall timber. Red oaks often grow on moisture-laden flats while whites are typically found on drier ridges.
Acorns will begin falling shortly in most parts of whitetail country. A light crop will most likely be cleaned up in a few weeks, but a bumper crop can last well through hunting season and into the winter. Acorns are rich in carbohydrates and are a great way for whitetails to pack on the pounds for the approaching rut and winter.
Other Hard Mast
Once you have identified a reliable hard mast source mark it on your map along with the soft mast you should have identified earlier in the summer. Pick out a tree or two where you can rig a stand and you will be in business when bow season rolls around and the mast is on the ground. So how are your mast crops—hard and soft—looking in your region of whitetail country. In the Northeast, we’re staring at a great year for soft mast and a spotty hard mast crop. Let us know.