Food For Thought – Use Food Sources to Locate Deer
What Whitetails Eat in the Midwest in the Early Season with Toby Bridges
Editor’s Note: Although some hunters take bucks around scrapes, along trails, near saddles in mountains and at creek crossings, you'll often find hunting near the food source where the white-tailed deer feed at the time you hunt the most- consistent way to pattern the deer and to locate a stand where you can harvest a buck. The whitetail's preferred food source changes from early season to mid-season and at the end of the season. Also as you travel around the country, whitetails in various sections like different plants, shrubs and nuts indigenous to these regions. To learn where to hunt when, we've asked some deer hunters to tell us the food sources they hunt at three-different times.
Toby Bridges, a longtime white-tailed deer hunter with bow and black powder, explains, "The toughest bowhunting of the year occurs in Missouri and Iowa where I hunt at the first of the season. White-tailed deer move very little during the early season because this region usually has a huge mast crop falling in the first 2 weeks of bow season. The whitetail deer primarily feed on white oak acorns, which you'll find very abundant in this section of the Midwest. The deer don't have to move very far to locate food. Generally when deer don't move, then bowhunters have a difficult time finding them. Oftentimes, whitetails will have to move further to locate water than they will to get food in the early season in the Midwest. I hunt creek crossings and watering holes in the early season especially if we've had a drought."
Since whitetails are much harder to pattern in the early season in the Midwest, Bridges believes you should go after the deer rather than expecting the deer to come to you. However, when you move into the deer's core area, you run the risk of spooking the deer you hope to take. According to Bridges, "I determine where the deer are feeding before the season and put my stand in a position to get a shot without leaving very-much human odor or disturbing the deer. In the early season, the less I hunt from a stand, the better my odds for bagging a deer. If I hunt from a stand too frequently, the animals simply will leave my hunting area and go feed in another place, because they have so much food available." Bridges also mentions that he likes to hunt white oak acorn trees on ridges. His favorite area to hunt during the early season will be a stand site on a 1/2- to 3/4-mile-long ridge about 20-yards wide. "I can go to that stand site with a favorable wind, set-up on the downwind side of the ridge and usually not spook deer going to or from this stand site. Then as the whitetails feed along the ridge, I often can get a shot.”
Tomorrow: Hunting Midwestern Deer During the Mid-Season and Late Season With Toby Bridges