I’ve already started scouting where to put some stands and blinds. This may seem early to some deer hunters. However, scouting now can lead to tagging a buck during the early season.
It’s been a wet year and there wasn’t a late frost at The Proving Grounds. These conditions often result in large acorn crops. Based on a bit of scouting, I’ve noticed an abundant crop of red oak acorns and a medium to large crop of white oak acorns.
The trees I’ve scouted were on the edge of food plots, roads, etc. It’s much easier to scout for acorn production in these locations this time of year as they will offer a view of at least one side that isn’t blocked by leaves of another tree.
Many species of acorns are greenish colored this time of year. It can be tough to see green acorns when looking up into a green canopy. The shapes or outlines of acorns can be spotted more easily when looking into the side of a tree’s canopy. Closer to when the acorns are ripe, they turn brown and are much easier to see when looking from below.
Trees with less competition often produce acorns more frequently and more acorns than trees surrounded by competition. In addition, acorns produced by open grown trees are often larger than trees that have a lot of competition.
Another very important factor is that acorns from open grown trees often seem to mature and drop a bit earlier than oaks growing where there’s a lot of competition. This is very important information. Where the first acorns drop is often an extremely hot spot for deer!
Most species of acorns are high energy and deer crave energy-rich foods during early fall. If there are lots of oaks producing acorns in the area, it’s much easier to find and pattern deer before acorns are present throughout the timber. Spending time now scouting oaks that are likely to drop acorns first can lead to tagging a good buck during the early season!
We leave our Reconyx trail cameras out year around. This allows us to learn much more than deer travel patterns and current antler size. For example, one of our cameras recently took these photos in sequence. The camera that took these photos was located on the downhill side of a bedding area. Even during the summer, thermals carry scent downhill as the evening air cools.
Based on these pictures, it seems likely that this fawn bedded toward the bottom of the bedding area and not far from the interior road’s edge. Just a few hours later there is a coyote and a doe (possibly the fawn’s mother) in the same area. We don’t know exactly what happened but this is a strong reminder of how predators hunt. They often cruise the downhill side of area where prey will be at that time of day. Coyotes are well documented as extremely effective fawn predators. This is why we trap yearly to help balance the number to predators with prey species and work hard to provide quality fawning and nesting habitat. (The Reconyx trail cameras picked up a video of this fawn. You may watch it HERE.)
Two-legged hunters can learn from this series of images. We need to approach, hunt, and exit from the downwind side of where deer are likely to be while we are hunting. Using trail cameras throughout the year and moving them frequently is a great way to find stand/blind locations and learn from the best predators!
Last week we shared turkey hunting tips for locating turkeys with an owl call. The owl call is the first call out of our vests when we hit the turkey woods. As we go through the day, other calls start to come out to call in or locate those toms.
World Champion Caller James Harrison has some advice for those turkey hunts that don’t go quite as planned, when the toms went the other way or just go totally silent. In these type of hunting situations he considers one of the best tools to use to locate more gobblers a crow call.
Crow calls are louder, sharper and will get the toms to gobble. It is one of James’ favorite tools to get turkeys gobbling.
In the early morning hours, if you’ve tried an owl call without response from the turkeys, James suggest changing things up. You can even use them right off the roost if you’ve got a lot of owls in your area. If the owls are hooting and the turkeys aren’t gobbling, make a crow call.
He definitely recommends using a crow call from midday on.
For those states that allow all day hunting, they are especially good for the afternoon and early evening before the birds go on the roost.
If you’re hunting with a partner have them step away from you (the caller) so that they can listen for the tom’s response to the call (just like with the owl call) as crow calls are extremely loud.
James recommends crow calls with a sequence of three to four short bursts, varied in length. Listen. Repeat.
If you’re “tuned up” you can get crows to respond back and actually call in crows! When another crow responds back, he’s actually locating the turkeys for you!
The more realistic you can be with your crow call the better off you’re going to be when turkey hunting! Locator calls like the owl call and the crow call can be practiced outside without educating the turkeys in your area as you “learn” the calls. So while you’re sitting on the porch, checking trail cameras, fishing at the pond, shed hunting, or just doing yard work – take your crow call along and get some practice in!
A special thank you to James for these helpful tips! We hope they will bring you success this year on your next turkey hunt!
What’s the first call to come out of your turkey vest?
To locate gobblers early in the morning one of the best calls to use is an owl call. It’s one of the best calls to get turkeys to sound off on the roost. (You’ll see Daniel and Clay using an owl call in this turkey hunt linked here.)
After talking with world champion caller James Harrison, I’ve put together a few basic tips for using an owl call. James Harrison is the mastermind and creator of the Harrison Hootin’ Stick by Hook’s Custom Calls.
If you are hunting in hardwoods, it’s important to not call too loudly at first. Owls are naturally only so loud. If a turkey is nearby and you over blow, you’ll scare the tom into not gobbling. It’s best to ease into the call. A modest, softer first “hoot” is best. If all is silent, you can begin to crank up the volume.
If you are hunting with a partner, send them a short distance from you (the caller). That way your partner can listen to see if there is any response to your calls. As the caller, you will have the sound of the call in your ears and may not hear a tom answer.
If you are in open country, try holding the call at the end, grasping it with your thumb and index finger, making an “okay” sign with the end of the call in the middle. Then cup the other fingers to make an open “tube” on the call. This will help you get a little more range out of the call. The pitch is higher and carries a little further to get distant turkeys to gobble.
The more realistic you can make your calls the better off you are. It’s safe to practice owl hooting in the pre-season. Break out the calls, step outside and work on those hoots!
(To see how to use an owl call visit Hook’s Custom Calls to see the “how to” videos on their page.)
Tracy Woods for the GrowingDeer Team
Lindsey Martin has a crack at a hit list buck named Twin Towers! Plus, GrowingDeer interns get in on the action as they help our doe management goal and remove predators at The Proving Grounds!
Folks have been asking us about GrowingDeer logo wear for Christmas presents. Drake has quality hats available with the GrowingDeer logo. Orders placed by December 18th will arrive in time for Christmas!
Watch an awesome Reconyx video of a bobcat stalking its prey!
new weekly blog:
Grant shares his post rut hunting strategies and tips for tagging a buck!
Tip of the Week:
Cold weather gear can make it hard to maintain shooting form. Practice wearing those layers, so that you will be prepared for that next encounter!
If you were unable to fill a tag by the end of the rut, it can be easy to get discouraged. Don’t give up! Post rut hunting can be very productive. Similar to the pre rut, it comes down to predicting when the deer are going to move and being in your stand when they do.
We are currently in one of the first real cold fronts of the season here at The Proving Grounds. This seasonal, colder weather will impact deer movements after several weeks of warmer than average temperatures. It’s also “post rut” so our hunting strategies have changed. We’re hoping to close the gap on a hit list buck. Cactus Jack and Swoops seem to be on a regular pattern. We’ll be hunting stands in their home range given the right wind direction. In the meantime, the does and fawns will be going to the plots to feed along with bucks that are trying to replenish calories lost during the rut. Chances are most of the does will already be bred but there is one variable that’s still in play: the “fawn rut.” This is the time frame when doe fawns have reached approximately 70 pounds and enter puberty making them receptive for breeding.
When this occurs depends heavily on the food sources available. A doe fawn that lives in ag country where there are plenty of crops to eat will come into estrus sooner than a doe fawn living in heavily forested areas. In our area, typically the “fawn rut” will occur during late December to early January. However, due to the wicked drought in our area body weights are down and fawns may reach puberty later than average this year.
In years past we’ve used this strategy successfully: find food plots frequently being used by does and fawns, then hunt those plots where a hit list buck might follow in one of those receptive fawns. This is exactly what I did during December 2013 when “The Trashman” went down (watch episode 163 here).
Whether you’ve already filled a tag or not, don’t let the post rut blues take you out of the hunt!
It is the rut and Grant’s hunting a mature buck! Learn how Grant adjusted his hunting strategy specifically for the rut. The plan worked and Grant tagged one of our top hit list bucks, Head Turner!
Montana Decoy is offering the perfect gift or starter pack for any deer hunter! Includes Freshman Decoy, Teaser Tail, Rattle Cage by Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls and Messenger Grunt call by Hook’s Custom Calls. Only at Montana Decoy.
new weekly blog:
Wanting to spice up your meals and try something different? Here
is a standard recipe for jambalaya with a few modifications to make
it work with venison!
Tip of the Week:
Cat food is a cheap, meaty-smelling bait that works great for trapping nest predators such as raccoons and opossums.
It’s prime time for hunting, so Grant heads to Kansas in search of a buck! Watch as Grant and Daniel scout, hang, hunt, and encounter multiple bucks! Then see Pro Staff member James Harrison get on the board!
Watch as a young buck and a squirrel play what looks like a game of hide and seek!
new weekly blog:
In this blog, Grant shares strategies for hunting bucks during the rut!
Tip of the Week:
Controlling scent on decoys can be key to luring deer into range!
This year has been the best for hunting the pre rut that we’ve seen in several years! Hunters in a wide range of states (Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and more) have shared how they are seeing more deer than previous during the pre rut.
This most likely will change in a matter of days. Bucks don’t need to move much during the peak of the rut. This is when the highest percentage of does are receptive and bucks don’t have to travel far to pair up with a doe. Once with a receptive doe bucks often tend her for 24-36 hours. Often, neither the buck nor doe will travel far during this time.
During the chase phase of the rut bucks aren’t following a food/cover pattern. They are moving throughout their home range in areas they believe they have the best chance of finding a receptive doe.
Hunting stands that were placed overlooking scrapes will not be my first choice at this time. Why? Because bucks or does rarely use scrapes during the peak of the rut.
Bucks and does tend to abandon most scrapes during the chase phase of the rut. It seems bucks don’t wish to spend energy checking and/or maintaining scrapes when checking the wind often yields much better results of finding a receptive doe.
During the rut bucks will focus primarily on checking scrapes that are in a travel path between areas they will be seeking does. If I find scrapes that are maintained during the chase phase of the rut that can be a key stand location!
It is important to think about how bucks will be traveling during the rut. Research has shown that bucks will be up and on their feet, moving up to 4X more than the “normal” distance. This is the time to hunt bottlenecks, pinch points and travel corridors.
As always, there’s usually more deer activity just before and after a strong cold front so I’m always watching the weather forecast!
With a new food plot created and planted, the GrowingDeer Team sets out to find the best tree to hang a Summit Stand! See how we select a hunting location to approach, hunt and exit without alerting deer. In addition, Grant shares one of his favorite food plot techniques to ensure that deer have quality forage during both the warm and cool days!
Louie is one of the top hit listers at The Proving Grounds but we think he may be hard to see this season. Can you find Louie in this Reconyx clip?
New Weekly Blog:
The color of a deer’s coat during the early season can help hunters select stand sites. Read this week’s blog to find out why knowing the daily temperatures and a deer’s coat color could help you become a more successful hunter this season!
Tip of the Week:
Your hands are often the most exposed. If you don’t wear gloves, black face paint is a great alternative to help break up the color and make movement harder to detect.