Two possible reasons exist for why, in every deer season, there is an early run on big bucks in the first stages of archery hunting and then it slows to a trickle until guns are legal.
The first is the most obvious, that hunters catch deer by surprise early with their first intrusion into the habitat.
But the most likely reason, and one offered up by a couple of avid hunters, is because once the acorn crop starts its heavy fall from the trees, deer don’t have to move much to eat.
And in October and early November, moving to and from food sources is about the only traveling big bucks will do.
When Tony Mills began patterning the big buck he killed (Pending Warren County record bow buck downed) earlier this year called Half-Rack, he knew his window of opportunity was short.
“Around here where I hunt, we have a lot of oaks and when the acorns start falling, the bucks disappear quickly,” Mills said, in discussing what led to his 170-inch gross 15-point in Warren County. “I knew I only had a couple of weeks of the archery season to get him before the acorns fell and he’d disappear until the rut.
“That’s a problem we have around here every year we have a good or at least a decent acorn crop. If bucks don’t have to move we don’t see them.”
When acorns are seemingly everywhere, including buck bedding areas, the trophy-racked deer just don’t move.
Mills was able to get his buck, putting an arrow through Half-Rack as it moved in the afternoon from his bedding area towards a feeding area the first week of the archery season.
Longtime archer Terry Johnson of Brandon said he laughs at the thought of hunting acorns at his oak tree-laden camp near Goodman in Holmes County. He is still looking for his first big buck this year.
“You can try to find the hot oak tree but good luck with that,” he said. “There are so many white oak acorns falling right now that it’s a crap shoot. You set up on one and they will go to another. You set up on it the next day, and they move to another. I’d rather find another food source that is concentrating deer and what I really like to look for is persimmons.
“I find that when acorns are plentiful, deer will eat those, but for variety they will go to another food source. I figure they are like me in that you eat the same thing every day and it gets boring, even if it’s steak and ice cream. If you can find a good persimmon tree with ripe fruit, you have a pretty good chance of seeing deer.”
It’s not a sure way to get a trophy buck, but it can open some doors.
“I’m not promising you a big buck will step out there in daylight to eat them but you can usually find some does, and if you are lucky maybe a subordinate buck will sneak in early to get some fruit before the dominant buck shows up,” Johnson said, adding that he used that strategy in the past to get his son and daughter, each, their first bucks during the youth gun season. They each killed 8-points under persimmons that Johnson had passed on during archery season.
Johnson will occasionally use the technique to get a doe for the freezer and perhaps another for charity, with the hope that a big buck will make a rare mistake while he’s in the stand.
“I’ve seen a shooter this year but he stopped short of committing to the persimmon tree,” he said. “He walked up to within 65 yards but stopped and looked at the does and a young buck already feeding there and walked away. I moved my stand to the other side of the persimmon tree and hope to catch him doing that again. I’m going back when the wind is right (south) and hope to get him.”