Rut-Report, Rut Reporters 2015, Whitetails, Big Buck, Joe Gizdic, Scott Bestul

Acorns are always a game-changer for deer and the folks who hunt them, especially this time of year. That first drop of nuts can make deer abandon other food sources like someone has poured Tabasco sauce on them.

But here’s the thing—or, actually, two things. First, it’s critical to remember that whitetails are notoriously fickle in their food-source preferences. They get on something new and fresh, and it’s like putting half a dozen pizzas in front of a teenage boy and telling him to feed himself for a couple days. He’ll be giddy at first, content for a bit, and then a switch will flip. Pretty soon he’ll be rooting through the fridge because (and I’m quoting from experience here) “there’s nothing to eat around here.” Deer are like that. They’ll go bonkers over acorns for a time, but if there are other options, count on them to explore them after the excitement of the nut drop fades.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the whitetail’s world is drying up this time of year. Acorns, browse, corn, and beans are all tasty and nutritious, but they are downright arid now. This makes any green food source—alfalfa, clover, forbs, various food-plot plants—highly attractive to deer. In fact, from now until freeze-up, I’d put them very near the top of whitetail food preferences.

Joe Gizdic, owner of Tall Tines Outfitters and land specialist with Whitetail Properties banked on a green-field strategy when he took his 15-year-old daughter, Jordan, out for the opening of the Illinois Youth Season last weekend. “We have a good acorn crop this year, but with all the food sources drying up this time of year, it’s tough to not sit a green field,” Gizdic says. “Besides, I like to sit with Jordan, and I had a great box blind set on a field of Whitetail Institute Wintergreens that I’d over-seeded with tillage radishes. The brassicas are tops after a hard frost, but in my experience, deer absolutely love the radishes in mid-fall. While we didn’t see nearly the number of deer we would have had there not been a bunch of acorns in the timber, we definitely saw enough to keep Jordan interested.”

One of those deer—the 159-inch buck pictured above—showed up with about 30 minutes of daylight left. “I had no idea this buck was on that farm,” Gizdic says. “I never had a pic or sighting of him. But I told Jordan if she wanted him to go ahead. The buck was standing at 80 yards, and she made a great shot with her muzzleloader; the buck dropped in his tracks.”

Congrats to Jordan and Joe, and if you’ve got green food sources available on your hunting property, don’t give up on them, even if there are acorns raining in the timber.