Whitetail Scouting: Locate the Best Acorns for Early-Season Bucks

Serious deer hunters start to have a common complaint about this time of year: Neck aches. It could be from jumping into bow practice a little too energetically, or hauling hanging stands 20 feet above the earth. But it should also include pains related to craning your neck incessantly to figure out what the mast crop is looking like in your favorite neck of the woods. Acorns and other hard masts will suck deer out of bean fields and corn fields, and this is the time to start a little acorn reconnaissance so you’re not left twiddling your thumbs once it starts raining nuts. Grab a good set of binoculars and a topo map, and mark the prime locations where the various oaks are ready to rain whitetail manna.

White oaks
These are often the preferred acorn, and a mature white oak can pump out thousands in a single season. Not every year is a bumper year, though, so think back over the last few seasons. White oaks seem to produce on a three year cycle, give or take, so if you've had tons of white oak acorns for the last few years, lean times may be ahead.

Chestnut oaks
In the white oak family, but the leaves look like oversized chestnut or beech leaves. The quarter-sized mast fruits draw deer like candy.

Red oaks
The red oak group isn't as high on the favorite foods list of deer as white oaks, given their larger load of bitter tannins. In off years for white oaks, however, red oaks show up on the menu more heavily. If you're not seeing green, young white oak acorns on your scouting trips, log a few red oaks into your strategy as a Plan B that could very well turn into Plan A minus.

Willow and water oaks
These trees sport slender leaves that lack the lobes more typical of oak leaves, but in good years they can pump out incredible numbers of acorns, so many that you can hear the deer crunching them as they walk. That's the sound of a good treestand site.