Archery openers are literally days away across much of the North Central region, and anticipation is running extremely high. And with hunters already submitting trail cam photos like the onehere, it’s easy to see why. This pic of a central Illinois giant was sent to me by Joe Gizdic, agent with Whitetail Properties and an avid whitetail hunter. Joe came whisker-close to killing this buck last fall, then found its matching sheds this spring. He estimates the buck’s current score in the mid 220s, B&C.


But this is more than a photo of a great big whitetail; it also tells a story. You’ll note that the buck is walking through a soybean field, one of the premier summer food sources in the region. Due to a late, wet, spring, many ag fields never got planted this year, and those that did grow a crop are behind in normal growth. This is going to have a huge impact on deer hunting this fall, at least for those who hunt on or near farms. Whitetails are never far from food, and if you’re hunting a farm that didn’t get planted or has a suffering crop, you may see fewer deer than normal and scout harder for the ones you can hunt.

But there is, thankfully, an X-factor at work. The spring may have been cool and wet, but when oak trees were budding, temps remained moderate…meaning the acorn crop could be good to excellent this fall, and I’d take a stand of oaks dropping acorns over the best food plot any day.

Another observation I’m hearing from a lot of hunters is that antler growth seems a bit behind this year, particularly in regions that experienced significant snow fall throughout spring (we had a measurable snowfall the first week of May here in Minnesota). I definitely noticed this earlier in the summer, but it seems that bucks are catching up in antler growth now. I do feel there will probably be more velvet bucks shot, at least in areas with an early opener; North Dakota’s archery hunt will be underway when you read this, and I hope to post some photos of velvet bucks taken by bowhunters soon. Let the season begin!