Shoot or Don’t Shoot, Part 1 (Episode 243 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: If you hunt in an area where they’re oaks, then the white oak tree is the number one species of concern.

GRANT: The actual white oak species has a broad range going from close to the eastern seaboard all the way out to the edge of Kansas. A typical white oak tree has some distinguishing characteristics.

GRANT: It’s gonna have a lot of deep lobes and on the end of the lobe it will be rounded and no sharp points. The reduced level of tannins in a white oak acorn compared to other species of oaks, make them taste less bitter to us and I assume the same for a deer.

GRANT: So, all things being equal – the same rainfall, insect problems, everything else – the white oak acorns are to be preferred, especially during the early season.

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GRANT: During late July, August is a perfect time to get out and do some scouting and see if the white oaks are forming acorns in your area. Because if they are, when they hit the ground, deer are likely to abandon all other food sources – crops, anything else – and go to eat acorns off a white oak tree. If you can find some white oak trees that are going to produce acorns in a couple of months, you’ll have a hot spot come deer season.

MATT: Look at that. That’s a big ole brute there. Big ole chest. Thank you, Grant.

GRANT: If you’re in the middle of the forest, you probably have to take your optics and scan up in the tree to see if it produced acorns. We’re just about 50 yards from where we looked at a previous white oak tree. It had a quite a few acorns developing and this tree – I can't find any developing this year. A good friend of mine, Dr. Craig Harper at the University of Tennessee, has identified three primary characteristics that determine whether a acorn tree will produce on any given year: genetics, weather and insects.

GRANT: 50 yards. We’re assuming the same weather, probably same insect population, same soil moisture, all that. Clearly this tree is genetically different than the tree right up the ridge.

GRANT: Oak trees make flowers – like flowers in your yard, but they're much smaller. And if it frosts while that oak tree is producing flowers, those flowers will not develop into acorns. So, oaks on a ridge top are much more likely to have acorns on any given year than the valley floor where they're more likely to suffer a late frost.

GRANT: Another advantage to being on a ridge top is tied to those same thermals, but in a different way. We can walk into and hunt trees on a ridge top without the wind swirling or the thermals giving us away as likely as a tree in the bottom.

GRANT: Another factor related to the genetics of an individual tree can be taste. I've often hunted in an area with several white oaks that were producing acorns. So many acorns on the ground it’s like skating on marbles walking to your stand. You get in there and day after day, the deer go to an individual tree out of that whole grove of white oaks. Clearly some trees just produce nuts that taste better than other trees.

GRANT: (Inaudible at 3:39)

GRANT: Depending on where you hunt, you're probably about a month or so from deer season opening up. So a lot of guys throughout the whitetails’ range are doing exactly what I’m doing, checking out their trail camera pictures and seeing which bucks they might be able to hunt this fall.

GRANT: As hunting has kind of changed throughout the whitetails’ range, more and more people are looking for a mature buck and not just any buck. Several years ago, I was at a scientific meeting visiting with some other deer biologists when a guy walked up and handed us a jawbone that he said was from the Hanson buck, the world record typical buck. We took turns going off in a corner and staring at it and looking at it. We come back and all shared our estimated age and to a person, we all estimated the world record buck was three and a half years old. That’s just one example, but clearly, antlers are not always the best indicator of age.

GRANT: I’m gonna assume in a real hunting situation, you’ve got about five seconds to make your mind up of shoot, don’t shoot. For this game, let’s assume the rules of the property are harvest bucks that are four years or older. The first thing I want to do is try to see the deer broadside if possible. Broadside allows me to see the whole body shape of the deer and the first thing I’m looking for is a noticeable hump over his shoulders.

GRANT: Here’s a recent Reconyx picture of a buck that’s quartering-to, but mostly broadside. So, I’ve got my five seconds going. The first thing I see is a definite hump over the shoulders. The neck merges at the bottom of the chest with a little bit of flesh hanging down here. That’s an obvious sign of older age. His legs look proportional in length to the body, but his front shoulders are clearly appear bigger than his hams. If I saw this buck coming through the woods, I’m pulling my bow back and slapping a tag on him.

GRANT: Realistically, we’re in the office. We have more than five seconds, so let’s take this buck apart in a little bit more detail.

GRANT: Clearly got a potbelly showing. Looks like the back is going up, but I think that’s just because of the stride. The front shoulders look big. And I think if we were looking broadside at the deer – if it wasn’t quartering-to – that even look bigger, proportionally larger than the hams.

GRANT: One thing we see from this view very clearly – is the neck merges at the bottom of the chest even in June. That’s a definitive sign this is an older buck. Broad across here and some loose skin here. Clearly, I think this buck is four years old or older and he’s gonna be on our hit list this year.

GRANT: Let’s just go ahead a couple of pictures and now we’ve got a great situation. We’ve got the same buck in the middle of some bucks that are not as mature. It’s obvious from this angle that this younger buck’s neck merges much higher than this buck. Clearly this deer is not near as mature. Clearly, there’s a large difference in overall body size between a mature buck and these two immature bucks. Now remember, this is free ranging property in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. There’s no commercial ag fields anywhere around. Some food plots, some habitat management, but no 40 acre ag fields. These deer are big for the area but not what you’d expect to see in Kansas or Iowa, somewhere where there’s ag everywhere. You always have to judge deer based on their location as well as their general body shape. It’s relatively easy to call a buck a shooter if it steps out and you see that swayback, potbelly and really defined shoulders.

GRANT: We’ll tune up on a couple of the easy ones. Then we’ll move into some of those mid-age bucks which tend to give a lot of us more trouble.

GRANT: As part of your preparation for deer season, enter our contest to win some free BloodSport arrows shipped to your door.

GRANT: Whether you're scouting for acorns or going out with your binoculars watching deer late one afternoon, take a few moments and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching

GRANT: Oh, there’s some big ones up there in top too. Did you see those in the very top up there? There’s some doggone golf balls up there.