Keep Scouting For Oaks, But Avoid Wormy Acorns

The importance of acorns to whitetails--and the people who hunt them--is no secret. Acorns can be a make-or-break deal, especially in the farmless habitat that covers much of the northern half of the North Central region. This fall, at least in the areas I've been walking, the acorn crop seems spotty at best, and it's going to take some serious scouting to find the trees that are producing nuts.

But as I've learned, simply finding an oak dropping acorns is not enough. The nuts have to be palatable to deer, which explains the many times I've found the ground littered with acorns under a sprawling oak with no evidence of deer sign nearby. Usually the explanation is that the acorns are wormy (and therefore bitter) and the surest way to make this determination is to check if the dropped acorns are wearing caps. Capped acorns are almost always wormy and deer will shun them. Acorns without caps are usually healthy and will be devoured by whitetails. On a scouting trip yesterday I found a huge red oak dropping capped acorns, so I cut one open, discovered the worm, and shot the photo above. Since I learned this a few years back from a professional logger, I've learned not to waste a lot of time scouting or hunting near such a tree in the early season. I simply keep scouting until I find the right oak, and the abundance of deer sign that indicates whitetails are hitting this spot.

Three states opened their bow seasons this week, and I'm getting reports of some very nice bucks being taken or seen. One Minnesota bowhunter reported getting a shot at a big 9-point on opening day. Thinking he'd made a fatal shot, he hung his bow up and, as the evening wore on, watched three even bigger bucks walk past his stand. When he finally got down to recover his arrow and mark first blood, he realized he'd just shaved the hair off the buck's back! I'm sure it stings a little now, but I'm confident that in time this unnamed bowhunter will recognize what a special night he enjoyed in the stand.