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Acorns, Acorns, and More Acorns


As the deer season gets into full swing in the Carolinas and Georgia, hunters are taking note of the amount of acorns they have on their land. One of the key factors in southern deer land management is managing your mast crops. That means for hunters and land managers in the Carolinas and Georgia – acorns.

When surveying land to consider for a lease or purchase for recreational purposes, it’s important to take note of the amount of mast trees, and the types. Most hunters know that deer prefer white oak acorns over all others, and their annual output makes them ideal for this habitat. But we shouldn’t forget the other mast bearing trees. These include the red oak, water oak, hickory, beech, to name a few. While most of these will bear annually, the red oak bears every other year and the beech on a more random basis depending on the environmental factors.
As a deer hunter in early season, finding a mast bearing white oak or a white oak grove is better than most food plots. Deer migrate to these trees and their dropping acorns with abandon. As most states this year, the draught took its toll on most mast bearing trees. The acorns are smaller and in many cases falling earlier than before. As hunters we need to be aware of these factors and hunt accordingly.

Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey coordinator for the South Carolina Department of natural resources says, “when I hunt, I want to hunt where the deer is going to be, and for me that means the food. And nothing beats white oak acorns in the early fall.” Most biologist agree with Ruth, deer love white oaks. Ambushing bucks in these areas is a preferred method. Hunting oaks in the mornings will more times than not, push deer out of these groves before sun up. The better option is to hunt in the evenings and be in place when the deer come to feed. As the pre-rut approaches, bucks will come to these oaks earlier in search of does that come many times several hours before the end of legal shooting light. Being in place sometimes four or five hours early isn’t out of the question for most hunters.

When setting up in acorn groves, look for well used trails coming from bedding areas, archers will want to set up along the fringe of the white oaks if possible and get the deer as they enter the area, while gun hunters can actually set up much further away when possible. White oaks, have a large canopy and this often shades out understory, so ground clutter is normally at a minimum, this allows for further shots and less obstruction for hunters. While some archers like to set up in the middle of the oaks to allow for more opportunity, it’s important that if you choose this approach, climb high and make certain you are out of the line of sight from approaching deer.

As the acorns are beginning to thin some, take note of other oaks on your property, oaks will often drop about the same time, but there will always be an early and late tree or group of trees, knowing where these are will increase your chances for success as the season progresses.

On the land I hunt we have white oaks all across the landscape, and we have kept detailed records of when trees begin and stop dropping their acorns. While there is some variance, it helps us to key in on specific areas that are typically early and late. This also helps with the red oaks and their semi-annual mast production. Knowing when it’s the right year to hunt them keeps us from wasting our time hunting on an off year.

Deer hunters are habitual, and we like to hunt the same places and same stands, but being mobile and willing to go where the food is will increase your chances for success exponentially. As the season draws near, look for and hunt the oak trees you have on your property and you will increase your chances for filling your tag.