I was set up on a white oak ridge Tuesday evening, when, 30 minutes before dark, I heard a deer approaching. I’d honestly set up with the intent of killing a doe, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a pair of 8-pointers at 40 yards and heading my way. Both were hard horned, and their coats had that slick gray look of fall. Both were nice deer, but the larger of the two was a definite shooter. I stood up, clipped my release to the string and readied my stance.

Trouble was, these bucks were engrossed in the acorns, and those acorns were scattered. It was entertaining watching them scurry from tree to tree, gobbling up whatever nuts they could find, but frustrating, too; I couldn’t get a standing shot through the foliage.

At the last minute, rather than step into my shooting lane, the bucks turned away from my stand and faded from sight. Just before dark, I listened as they clashed their antlers 100 yards or so away. Playful sparring, for now. The mood won’t be so friendly in a few weeks.

Harry Pozniak, owner of River Valley Farms in Cadiz, Kentucky (270-206-1145), is seeing a similar behavior shift on the land he manages. He sent us this nice trail camera image as an example.

“They’re on the white oaks, big time,” he says. “Mineral sites went dead. Bait sites went dead. Beans are yellowing up, and deer have disappeared from them. A few does are coming to the clover plots right at dark, but if a guy wants to kill a mature buck right now, white oaks are where it’s at. The big problem with that is once a buck finds a favorite tree, he’ll often bed right underneath it. That makes hunting in the oaks really tough.”

Pozniak books up during the first week of Kentucky’s bow season, but he prefers to stay out of the woods this time of year when possible. “It’s just too easy to educate those big deer right now, so I’d rather wait a few weeks for the rut activity to pick up,” he says.

He also noted an uptick in activity around persimmon trees, many of which are just now ripening. “Funny thing about persimmons, guys tend to scout them, not see any fruit on the ground underneath a given tree, and figure they’re not falling yet. A lot of the time, lack of fruit on the ground just means the deer are keeping them cleaned up.”