Category: Hunting Blog

How to Identify Red Oaks Vs. White Oaks by Their Leaves

By GrowingDeer,

Knowing which types of acorns deer prefer during the early (from the white oak family) versus late (from the red oak family) season can be a key to hanging stands in locations that fit your hunting schedule.

White Oak and Read Oak Leafs

White oaks have rounded leaf tips with deep rounded lobes. Red oaks have pointed leaf tips with burrs or bristles and the lobes may be jagged.

Clsoe up of White oak and read oak leaves and new acorns

One viewer shared with us that the difference was once explained to him by this analogy: “The red man used arrows:  pointed tip leaf, Red Oak.  The white man used bullets: rounded point leaf, White Oak.”

White oaks are a super-attractant for deer. They can be an invaluable resource for success in early season. Deer seek and eat fresh white oak acorns. They will abandon most crop fields, food plots, etc., when fresh white oak acorns are available.

Different species of oaks produce acorns with varying quantities of tannic acid. The acid content determines the palatability of acorns, with white oak acorns generally having less acid content than acorns from red oak species. Hence deer tend to prefer acorns from white oak trees during the early portion of the fall. I tend to concentrate on white oak species during the early season. It is possible to hunt a limited resource of the best tasting acorns even among an abundant supply of acorns.

For a good technical guide to identifying white and red oaks check out:

If you are more of a visual learner, I share how to identify white oaks at the GrowingDeer episode:

Great hunts begin long before climbing into the stand. Scouting and planning are key for a successful hunt. We’ll be sharing what we find when scouting acorns in coming episodes!

Enjoy Creation!




Will Soybeans Grow with a Thick Mulch Layer?

By GrowingDeer,

Worried that soybeans won’t be able to grow through a thick mulch layer? Don’t worry, they can!

A soybean is a big seed that has a lot of energy! It will germinate and reach right through that mulch!


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Habitat Improvement and Hunting Plan: Southern Missouri Example

By GrowingDeer,

Daniel and summer intern Scott McAlpine recently toured a property in southern Missouri and worked with the landowner to develop a habitat improvement and hunting plan.

This property had several cattle pastures that could easily be converted into food plots. It is much easier to convert pastures or previously cleared areas into food plots than to clear timber. 

Daniel strategically designed plots to create multiple bottlenecks/hunting locations while meeting the landowner’s hunting goals.

While touring Daniel found multiple smilax plants with heavy browse which told Daniel quality food was limited. By adding more quality food deer could express more of their potential and create better hunting opportunities.

Daniel also recommended the landowner use TSI to open the forest canopy and allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. Through the use of prescribed fire these areas could be managed for native grasses and forbs and provide quality cover and native browse.

After the tour, Daniel sat down with the landowner and used @onxhunt to map out the food plot and TSI locations. The landowner can now use the map in the field as he begins his habitat projects.

OnX map marked for new food plots and habitat work

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Habitat Management Tips: How to Make This 180-Acre Property Desirable to Deer

By GrowingDeer,

Daniel recently toured and designed a habitat improvement and hunting plan for a 180-acre property in southern Missouri. The timber on this property had been harvested during the mid-90’s. The result of this harvest was a closed canopy forest containing low quality trees.

closed canopy,low quality trees

The timber stand offered no quality food or cover for wildlife. There were several stands of cedars that also created a close canopy. Daniel recommended using a chainsaw to fell all the cedars and use hack and squirt to terminate the hardwoods to open up the canopy. The landowner will leave a quality hardwood tree every 50 yards or so but terminate the rest. This will create a great savanna habitat of scattered trees and vegetation growing below. With sunlight reaching the ground and management through prescribed fire, native grasses and forbs will flourish, providing great cover and browse.

this property had large hay fields

There were also several large hay fields. These fields could easily be converted to food plots and provide deer quality food and create incredible hunting opportunities. Daniel recommended that the landowner begin implementing principles from the Buffalo System to improve the soil and provide deer forage throughout the entire year.

After touring the property (see Daniel’s Tracks from OnX), Daniel drew up a plan that increased quality food, provided quality cover, and great hunting locations. In an area that is mostly cattle pasture and low-quality timber, these improvements will make this property one of the most desirable to deer as they seek quality food and cover. We look forward to updates from the landowner and hearing about his hunting seasons!


Important Considerations When Buying A Hunting Property: Texas Example

By GrowingDeer,

A viewer recently asked me about a property he was considering purchasing to follow his dream of owning a hunting property.  It’s always fun looking for a property.  This guy was wise and already knew to consider access, distance to shopping, healthcare, etc.

I always start evaluating a property for wildlife management and hunting by considering the existing sources of food, cover, and water on the property and within about a mile in each direction.

texas pasture with pond

I noticed ponds on this property so water isn’t an issue. It appears the remainder of the property is pasture with a few trees.  For wildlife it would be best to convert a portion of the pasture to produce food (deer don’t consume grass) and cover.

I prefer to have the best source of at least one of food, cover, or water in the neighborhood.  The resource which is the most limited often varies by season.  Given the amount of acreage on this Texas property, it would be wise to consider which resource or resources to manage based on availability during the period when it is primarily to be hunted.

Another consideration when purchasing a property for wildlife management and hunting is the neighbors.  It’s very important to understand the neighbors’ hunting and wildlife management goals and objectives. If they are vastly different, there will most likely be issues and/or tough compromises during future ownership of the property.  Not understanding the wildlife management and hunting practices of neighbors before purchasing a recreational property is one of the most common mistakes I encounter when assisting folks that recently purchased a property.

Enjoy creation and may God bless you with wisdom when you decide to purchase a property,


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Benefits of Rotating Prescribed Fire

By GrowingDeer,

Prescribed fire can be a great management tool! Here, you can see three bedding areas with the date they were last burned.

fire history of the proving grounds

Burning during the dormant season (late winter) tends to promote native forbs. Burning during the growing season (summer) favors native grasses.

By rotating the use of prescribed fire during different times of the year (growing season/dormant season) it creates a mosaic of habitat types.

The fires from August 2019 and February 2020 are currently growing rapidly! They are providing quality native browse. In a few months these areas will provide quality nesting and fawning habitat. The area burned during 2017 is providing great cover for critters now- should they seek this type of cover.

This diversity habitat of food plots, native food and cover located in close proximity is extremely productive for wildlife year round!

Enjoy Creation!

Clay O’Dell



Habitat Work: What to Do with Encroaching Cedars?

By GrowingDeer,

I received the question below from fellow hunter:

“I was recently helping with a prescribed fire in central Iowa when we ran into an area of saplings encroaching an old grass land. I see you have recommended both cutting at ground level and spraying, as well as hack and squirt, then burn. The area is 15 acres of old CRP but over half is overrun with 10-15’ tall growth. We hope to convert most back to native grass and a few acres for food plots. Is there a reason for one method more than the other? Is there ever a time to mechanically cut all the brush at ground level and maintain with annual burns?”

cedar tree being cut under the lowest limb

I gave him the following advice:

It sounds like you are doing some nice habitat improvement work.  If the area where saplings have encroached is to remain in native grass/cover then there is no need to expend the resources to cut the trees assuming they aren’t cedars.  The easiest way to control eastern red cedar is to cut them below the bottom limb.

Hardwood species almost always sprout after being cut.  They can be cut and then an herbicide applied to the stump within five minutes of felling the tree.  This requires lots of time and resources.  I prefer to use the hack and squirt method.  This is a much safer, faster, and less expensive method of controlling hardwoods and allows the sun’s energy to reach the soil.

There’s some excellent information at this link about which herbicide to use and time of year for different species.  Please note that the best results when using the hack and squirt technique almost always occurs when it’s used during the late summer. I don’t recommend using this technique when sap is rising.

A regular rotation of prescribed fire, especially during the growing season, will keep hardwood seedlings from becoming established.

Enjoy creation,




Farming for Worms! Food Plots Need Worms for Better Soil

By GrowingDeer,

One thing I really enjoy is seeing how many worms are in our food plots. Why? Because there is a correlation between the number of earthworms in the soil and therefore deer herd quality. That’s because earthworms really improve the soil, making forage more nutritious…so more earthworms, bigger antlers per age class. Here’s a quick check of the earthworms in this food plot and a brief analysis of what it means.

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