Temperatures have been extremely warm throughout December here at The Proving Grounds which has made for some tough hunting. Typically December can be a great month to pattern deer! Temperatures normally are dropping as winter sets in and deer head to food sources like soybeans and corn. With the temperatures we’re experiencing this winter, we’ve had to change from our usual late season setups.
Food sources like Eagle Seeds Broadside blend, clover, or acorns might be the ticket to success during warm years like we’re experiencing now. We’ve been watching our Reconyx cameras a lot lately trying to find the food source with the most activity and red oak acorns seem to be the best! Red oak acorns are more acidic than white oak acorns. Therefore, deer don’t usually eat them as much during the early fall. As the fall progresses the red oak acorns break down, making them less acidic and more favorable to deer. Here in southern Missouri, we had a big crop of red oak acorns and we’ve spent a lot of time hunting around them. Last week Matt and I had a great morning in some red oaks when Matt shot Gappy, a big wide 8 point.
Don’t be afraid to change your tactics at any point during the season! As the weather changes during the fall, your hunting tactics will most likely change as well!
Daydreaming of whitetails,
Hunting season is still open but with conditions unseasonably warm it’s tough to catch deer on their feet before dark, especially if you’re hunting a food source. Under these conditions hunters often debate if they should head to the Summit stands or just stay at home with family. We wonder, “Is it even worth going to the woods?” Deer have adapted to the warmer temperatures and so can we.
Warmer temperatures during December mean a few different things for whitetails. Normal bedding areas may change. We typically see many deer bedding on the south facing slopes during this time of year to soak up the warmth of the sun. However, with the warm temperatures the deer may be bedding on the north slopes to remain cool. This information helps us develop a game plan for hunting. Warmer temperatures mean deer will not need to feed as much. Similar to early season tactics, we will hunt food sources close to bedding.
As bedding areas will change, so will the food source deer are using. Deer will not need grains like soybeans and corn during warm spells. High energy food sources like soybeans or corn produce more heat when digested. Deer help to regulate their body temperature with the food they eat and where they bed. With warmer than normal temperatures, deer will opt to feed on forage like clover or wheat. Warmer temperatures provide great growing conditions for clover and wheat which means they’re green, highly attractive, and still palatable even during late season.
If you are experiencing warmer than average temperatures, try changing your tactics from your normal late season strategy. Take an early season approach, hunt close to bedding areas near a food source you know deer are using. This approach should allow you to remain successful throughout the season, despite the above average temperatures and unfavorable hunting conditions.
Growing Deer together,
There have always been discussions among hunters to what influences the timing of the rut. There are many theories out there, but none provide the factual information based off of physiological processes that occur in deer like photoperiod. Photoperiod is simply the change in the amount of darkness throughout a given day. Summer days are longer than winter days, based on the amount of light there is each day at these times of year. Deer take notice of these photoperiod differences throughout the year and as a result they trigger behavioral and bodily changes.
As light fades from late summer into fall, deer sense this through nerves in their eyes. These signals travel into the brain and determine the amount of melatonin that is produced. When melatonin is produced it then creates a spike in testosterone in bucks and estrogen in does. It is widely known that both testosterone and estrogen are hormones that influence reproductive behavior.
As you know from hunting through October and the time leading into the peak of the rut, bucks and does will exhibit rutting behavior. This can be observed through scraping activity. During early October when the days are longer, with less darkness, the scraping activity is less. However, during late October before actual breeding begins, scraping activity is extremely high. This is not simply ironic, as darkness increases during the month rutting behavior increases as well.
Another important note on photoperiod is that the rate and timing of the photoperiod changes do not differ from year to year in a given location. This is why deer behavior on your Proving Grounds occurs routinely each year. You may not experience the same level or intensity of action each year, but remember weather determines daily deer movement. Warm spells during November do not mean does will not get bred, it may simply mean you may not experience the same rutting activity, but rest assured, the rut still occurs at this time.
How does this help you as a hunter? Now you know what influences the timing of the rut. Most importantly you know that the influencing factor, photoperiod, does not change from year to year. As you prepare for the rut and schedule time off or time afield, I suggest you do so at the peak of pre-rut activity. The odds are in your favor the most at this time because bucks are chasing and have not yet been locked down by receptive does, offering more opportunity for you to cross paths with one of your hit list bucks. I hope you take the time to study and further read on photoperiod as it also determines many other important events for whitetails each year.
Growing Deer together,
The middle of October can mean a lot of things for hunters throughout the whitetail’s range. For the GrowingDeer.tv Team it usually means we start adjusting our hunting strategies. Along with testosterone levels rising, deer behavior and their preferred food sources are changing. With these changes it’s important that we adjust our approach to coincide with deer movement.
When season opens up in the middle of September we focus on food to cover setups. We’re usually hunting between bedding areas and an Eagle Seeds Broadside plot or a White Oak tree that’s one of the first to drop acorns in the area. Once October starts, more and more acorns have fallen and the deer spend more time in the timber. The disadvantage for us is nearly 80% of The Proving Grounds consists of timber and a large portion is oaks. This means acorns can be found in most places on the property. Instead of trying to find one tree the deer are utilizing, we must change our approach and start hunting bottlenecks and travel corridors. Finding a single tree that deer are using is almost impossible. Finding the bottleneck deer are using to get to those trees is something we can do!
Changing food sources during October is also something hunters in crop regions can relate to. A large portion of soybeans and corn will be removed during the fall causing drastic changes in deer movement. Successful hunters have to adjust their hunting strategies to correlate with the harvesting of crops.
Daydreaming of whitetails,
Staging areas are some of my favorite stand locations! I hunt most often at The Proving Grounds, in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. The area is primarily timbered with few natural openings. In this type of habitat deer, including mature bucks, seem to readily use small openings before larger food plots, etc.
I’ve created several staging areas by clearing brush and trees. Some of these are simply nooks off larger food plots and some are 100 to 200 yards away from a primary feeding area. I often place Trophy Rock’s Four65 mineral in the staging area as well as maintain it in Eagle Seeds' Broadside blend. I almost always create a mock scrape in the staging area also! This combination of mineral, forage that is attractive during the hunting season, and a mock scrape has proven extremely effective at attracting mature bucks during daylight hours.
It’s very important to find or create staging areas that allow hunters to approach without alerting deer. This means the approach, hunt, and exit need to occur so that deer in the local bedding and feeding areas won’t be downwind of the stand/blind location. This characteristic of staging areas is probably the most important determinant of its location!
Staging areas give hunters a big advantage that’s rarely discussed. Because staging areas are usually between primary bedding and feeding areas, it means deer are traveling through them. This means hunters can often approach staging areas before a morning hunt and/or leave them after an evening hunt without alerting deer. This is in contrast to hunting both bedding and feeding areas where it’s often difficult to approach during the morning or leave after a hunt without alerting deer. Therefore staging areas can often be hunted more frequently without “burning out” the stand.
I’ll be hunting staging areas this fall! Whether you find a natural staging area or establish one I hope you have an opportunity to hunt these great habitat features also!
Growing Deer together,
Fall is here and that means deer season! Many hunters have already had the opportunity to hit the woods. If your season has not yet opened or you are waiting for your first opportunity, chances are you are excited.
Unfortunately, early season hunting is usually paired with warm temperatures. If hunters do not adapt their hunting techniques for warm temperatures, they may regret it later. Hunters often wear long sleeve shirts and long pants and it doesn’t take long to begin sweating. Sweat smells and is hard to hide. As hunters, we want to reduce our scent while in the woods. Here are a few tips to help fight early season temperatures.
- Wear lightweight clothing. Breathable and vented clothes help keep your body temperature low.
- Wear a short sleeve shirt to the stand. Once you are in the stand, switch to a long sleeve shirt. Minimize scent by placing the short sleeve shirt in a gallon Ziploc® bag and store it in a backpack.
- Leave a few minutes early. Having extra time to walk slowly to the stand can help keep you cooler and reduce scent left in the woods.
- Use scent control. Spraying down with Dead Down Wind field spray before walking in can help control scent. Dead Down Wind field wipes are also nice to wipe down with after climbing into the stand
Even though conditions can make hunting the early season tricky, there are ways to tag that early season deer. Stay cool and enjoy getting back into the woods!
Managing whitetails with you,
There are scent control products that range from clothes to laundry detergent all the way to toothpaste and hand sanitizer. You may ask, “Are all of these products truly necessary?” That depends on your goals. Look at the video below and pay attention to this buck’s behavior.
It is clear that this buck, Déjà vu, is scent checking the twigs and stems that are close to the camera. What the video does not show is our presence at this location a mere 16 hours earlier. We visited this camera to swap out memory cards. We may have left some scent on the trail and most likely on those twigs and stems that Déjà vu is inspecting so intently. Even after 16 hours of time this buck clearly still smells and recognizes foreign odors on the trail.
Now do you think all of those scent control product are necessary? If Déjà vu can smell the twig we rubbed against while checking this camera after 16 hours has passed, I can only presume that when I am hunting or making my way to and from the tree this same scenario can happen time and time again. It is important to remember that each time you are in the woods more scent is left behind. For these reasons the best opportunity to harvest mature bucks is often the first time you hunt a stand.
Remember to be intentional and deliberate every time you enter and exit the woods!
Growing deer together,
Early season is here! The big question is which stand are you going to hunt? Yes, you need a favorable wind, but what else? Grant has some tips on what features every early season stand should have to make your hunt a success.
Watch this episode to learn how to easily recycle food plot nutrients and create better soil. Better soil means bigger antlers and a healthier deer herd.
Soybeans in small plots. We tried a new soybean variety this spring called Whitetail Thicket. Its viney growing tendencies might make it excel in small food plots. Now that fall is here, we checked the plots planted with Whitetail Thicket to see how they’ve withstood the browse pressure this summer.
This time of year we receive a lot of questions like, “What's wrong with this deer?” Grant has an idea of what most of the folks are asking about.
Tip of the Week:
It’s a great time to get your fall food plots started. A little rain and you’ll have fresh, tender food all the way through late season.
Wanna see more deer? Scout the oaks now! Acorns can be a HUGE factor in deer patterns. We’ll show you how we scout acorn production. Then we create a new hidey hole food plot by hand. We’ll show you a step-by-step guide to get this killer spot started. Trouble! We found a problem in one of our best hunting plots – then we found a solution. We'll show you how we ROSE ABOVE the problem.
Tip of the Week:
Bring deer closer to your stand by creating paths of least resistance in key areas.
As antler development is beginning to wind down, hit lists begin to develop. Hunters have had the opportunity to inventory the individual bucks based on antler characteristics. With individual bucks clearly recognizable, the next step is to develop a strategic plan to tag these bucks. Antler characteristics are just one of multiple aspects that make each buck an “individual”.
Each hit list buck exhibits certain characteristics that influence the chances of that deer being harvestable. Some of these characteristics can easily be examined in a series of trail camera photos you have received through the summer months. When examining these photos, ask yourself the following questions:
- When are the bucks being photographed, daylight or nighttime?
- Is the area the buck using accessible to me?
- Can I hunt the deer in transition or over a hidey hole food plot?
- Will the predominate wind allow me to reach my stand undetected?
Ask yourself these questions as opening day nears. Answers to these questions can help you narrow your hit list down further to strictly huntable deer and maximize your opportunities afield. Don’t simply let antlers dictate which stand you hunt, use your resources to determine which hit list buck provides you with the best chance to fill a tag! Be sure to share your success with us here at GrowingDeer.tv.