Hunting in the Mid-South Sea of Acorns

Most Mid-South hunters and contacts that I’ve spoken with this fall report a bumper acorn crop. In western Kentucky, where I hunt, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a record crop. Oaks of all species are raining, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s difficult to walk quietly across a hardwood ridge due to the piles of acorns on the ground.

We all know to “hunt the white oaks” when they’re falling because they are a deer’s No. 1 preferred food source. But when there are so many acorns on the ground, and literally mile after mile of white oak ridge available, how do you begin to pinpoint deer activity in the timber?

I haven't figured out a reliable tactic. Harry Pozniak, owner of River Valley Farms in Cadiz, Kentucky, and a regular Rut Reporter contact, says that deer will even bed right underneath an oak they like, making it all the more difficult to approach.

In a situation like this, I like to take a page from the bass fisherman’s playbook instead. When there are huge numbers of shad present, getting a big bass to notice a shad-imitating crankbait can be tough. Savvy anglers either make that crankbait appear like a wounded shad so that it stands out, or throw something that looks like a crawfish (or a frog, or something besides a shad). Good and abundant as those shad may be, a bass still likes a bite of something different on occasion. Deer are the same way.

This past weekend was Kentucky’s early two-day muzzleloader season. My brother, Matt, was in to hunt, and hoping for a doe to put in his freezer. There were endless acorn options for the deer—but not too many young turnip plots, like the one shown in the photo above. Although we think of brassica plots as a late-season food source, deer relish the tender young greens as well. Matt found the plot full of sign, and so that’s where he camped out.

After passing on a couple young bucks, he shot his doe shortly after sunrise on Sunday morning. Did he miss some action up in the timber? No doubt he did. But he knew, given the fresh sign in those turnips, a deer would probably step into them for a bite sooner or later. And it did.