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The age-old question about acorns with regards to bowhunting is, “Are acorns a blessing or a curse?” This has been a debate amongst bowhunters for years and years, and still most of us are unsure on how to go about hunting around them. So many questions still arise about the subject of acorn production, and how it can help or hurt you when trying to pattern a hit list buck or any deer for that matter. In this article I’m going to discuss several strategies you can use to hunt acorns early and late season, inform you whether acorns are going to be a blessing or curse for you based on your property, and hopefully answer some questions you might have along the way.
Since last week’s blog was quite lengthy I’m going to try and keep this one on the short side, but still get you the information you need. Here in Ohio, acorns provide a vital food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species even during variable production years. This holds true for almost all states that host an abundant amount of oak trees. Deer prefer acorns over almost any other food source. They’ll munch on acorns before they eat corn, soy beans, native grasses or berries. They’ll feed on acorns until they’re all gone before they even touch any food plot you put in. So a lot depends on whether or not you have a good or bad acorn production year. You can usually find out your state’s acorn production percentages by going to your division of wildlife’s website. Ohio’s numbers have almost doubled from last year making it a very abundant year for acorns in both white and red oaks. A lot can depend on whether or not your area has a late frost in spring. Research has shown that if an area gets a late frost in the spring, the acorn crop for that year will be much lower than a year the area does not receive a late frost.
Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, while others rarely ever produce. The type of acorn also varies from tree to tree. White oak acorns produce acorns that deer love to munch on early season as soon as they hit the ground along with others such as pin oaks and chestnut oaks. On the other hand, red oak acorns contain tannin. Tannin is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that preserves the acorn after it falls. With the bitter taste, wildlife (including deer) tend to avoid eating them when they first fall to the ground. However, as the year goes on, the acorns will slowly lose their tannin, and around late November wildlife will begin crunching on red oak acorns with most of the white oak acorns already consumed.
So it all truly depends on what type of oaks and how many you have in your hunting area. If you have just a few oaks in patches here and there you’re in luck. In a good acorn year, you can pattern your deer early season based off these areas of oaks. If you have a lot of white oaks, but hardly any red oaks, you’ve got a greater chance of success early season hunting around oaks than you will later on. If you have a plentiful of red oaks, but hardly any white oaks, you’re not going to be able to pattern your deer much early season but once the acorns lose their tannin you could find yourself in the middle of a feeding frenzy. If you have a huge abundance of all types of oaks across your property and it’s a good acorn crop that year, it’s going to be nearly impossible to pattern deer. They could feed anywhere across any oak flat with you having no way to pattern them. So for you, acorns may be a curse.
It’s hit or miss when it comes to acorns. It depends on two things: the acorn crop production that year, and the type of area you hunt. Make sure you research your state’s production for acorns for that particular year. Or you can look for yourself. Scout your oak trees during late summer. Research and determine what kind of oak trees you have and how many. Take a pair of binoculars and scan the canopies of your oaks. Take note whether there is an abundance or a shortage of acorns. Doing these things are going to help you tremendously on determining how to strategize your hunting around them. Acorns can be your bowhunting knight in shining armor, or your worse nightmare. Some guys can’t wait for those years when it’s like walking on marbles under the oaks, and others pray there is a late freeze in spring. One thing’s for sure, when it’s a high acorn production year it’s going to change every bowhunter’s plans… Whether it’s for the good, or for the bad.