Acorns are the spice of life.
They won't be found on many gourmet's menus, but to deer, ducks, squirrels and turkeys, acorns are the steak in an otherwise unexciting menu.
Acorns are often such strong drawing cards that hunters spend a lot of time concentrating on them. But, from a hunting standpoint it isn't always a great idea.
October deer hunters usually find success by concentrating on food sources. Then, they can hunt the area with a great chance of getting a shot at a deer. But that changes in good times when acorns are abundant. Deer are moving, but it's hard to predict where they will show up because the forest is a virtual smorgasbord of food.
It is difficult, especially for a muzzleloader who needs to get within 50 to 60 yards for a shot, and even more so for a bowhunter who needs to get within 30 yards.
It can also be difficult when acorns are scarce and scattered and other food sources become a part of a deer's diet. But, there are ways around that if a hunter shifts hunting tactics from the food source to the deer.
David Hale, half of well-known hunting and game calling duo Knight and Hale, believes if hunters have to concentrate on food, they should find areas that have options.
If it is dry as it has been for much of the country, water is a good place to start. Then, they should find areas that not only have acorns, but other green forage and soft mast such as persimmons or honeysuckle.
But the best bet is to look for areas Hale calls "doe pockets."
"No matter what type of mast you have, you will always have pockets of does," Hale said. "A doe will live within one-quarter mile from where she was born, a buck will not."
That is a big key right now, he said. Depending on the moon phase bucks will start getting in a pre-rut pattern. Hale said he will abandon much of the contemporary tactic of following rub lines this time of year.
If doe pockets are hard to find, or if hunters know of one that they can't get to but can get close enough, then they should concentrate on travel routes. The best areas have always been funnels.
The same is true now, and if it is a buck the hunter is after, that is probably the best place to start. With the first steps of the pre-rut season showing, bucks will be traveling to get nearer the does. And paths of least resistance for them to get there are good places for hunters to start.
All of that will change, however, later in the season once breeding does are at a premium, and a buck will need to start running rub and scrape lines to find his deer.
-- Steve Bowman