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DANIEL: Both hard and soft mast producing trees offer a great attraction for critters during certain periods of the year. When the time is right, the GrowingDeer Team loves to hunt near mast producing trees.
DANIEL: Early last fall, Tyler tagged two does over the course of a week under a persimmon tree where those deer were coming in and feeding on those soft, tasty persimmons.
TYLER: (Whispering) Ready?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
DANIEL: Not only do fruiting trees produce great hunting locations in the fall, but if you can find a tree that’s dropping fruit during the summer, it’s a great scouting location to hang up a trail camera and see what critters are in the area.
DANIEL: We have several fruit trees around The Proving Grounds and we recently noticed that one of the peach trees was starting to drop some peaches and it showed a lot of critter sign. So, we put up a Reconyx camera to see who was in the area.
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DANIEL: We look at Reconyx images weekly here at The Proving Grounds and so far this summer, we have not seen any of these bucks except for one. This peach tree was the perfect attraction to get those bucks in frame in the trail camera and now we know there’s some great looking bucks in this area.
DANIEL: By hunting season this peach tree will have dropped all its fruit and won’t be offering an attraction for deer. But it’s a great example; if you can find that limited resource, that food source that deer are targeting or is very attractive to them, it can be a great hunting location.
DANIEL: You don’t have to wait until fall to start identifying mast producing trees. Oaks are starting to produce acorns and it’s a great time to go find those trees that are already producing acorns so you can start putting a plan together for this fall.
DANIEL: Out doing a little pre-season scouting this morning. Looking for acorns. This morning up on this ridge, there’s a small, little, hidey hole food plot and several red oaks around this plot edge. And sure enough, there’s some great acorns already developing on these trees.
DANIEL: What’s really neat about these red oaks is that they’re right on the edge of the food plot. So half of their side is receiving more sunlight. There’s less competition on this food plot side for sunlight.
DANIEL: These two trees right here, they’re together and where they’re together, you can actually see the limbs forming more upward. But on this outer edge where they’re able to receive sunlight where it’s open, the limbs actually branch further out trying to capture as much sunlight out in front.
DANIEL: Acorns are high in carbohydrates and extremely attractive to deer. And it seems that when the acorns fall, they’ll abandon other food sources and target the acorns that taste the best.
DANIEL: There are factors that influence which species and which individual producing tree deer will prefer over the others. You may have noticed in the past that there is one oak in your area that deer tend to go to first, even though other trees in the area are dropping acorns – even if they’re the same species of tree. And that’s because that one tree is producing acorns that may taste a little better.
DANIEL: So, let’s walk inside the timber and see what we find. And I think we’re going to see a great contrast to this tree that’s receiving a lot of sunlight to trees that are inside the timber with more of a closed canopy, reduced sunlight. And I think we’ll see a difference.
DANIEL: All right. I’m maybe 30 yards off the slope from the edge of the food plot and there’s another red oak here. And you can see the trunk is much smaller and those limbs are higher up and the canopy is actually not spreading out, not expressing its full potential. And that’s because that tree is growing up, trying to get sunlight.
DANIEL: I’m going to look up there and see if I see many acorns and see what we’ve got.
DANIEL: Not near as many.
DANIEL: Yeah. So, there are a few acorns up there but not near as many. You look at how small that canopy is, there’s not even as many limbs up there as there are on these trees that are receiving more sunlight.
DANIEL: This tree is just trying to survive. It’s trying to make a hard living in this closed canopy forest. While this tree up here, it’s receiving enough sunlight and it’s able to put that energy, that extra energy, into acorn production. So more acorns than just a few yards away because of more sunlight. And those acorns are going to taste a little better and probably be the more preferred than just a few yards down in the timber.
DANIEL: So, just a great tip to be outside scouting for acorns and trying to figure out where those hot spots are going to be. So, later this summer, you can hang a stand and be ready for opening day once those acorns start to fall.
DANIEL: We often use information like this to create a hunting strategy. Last fall Clay and I were hunting on the edge of a food plot and noticed that deer were targeting a red oak tree out in the middle of the plot. It was dropping acorns and that’s where deer wanted to be, even though there were red oak acorns dropping all around the area.
DANIEL: Clay and I knew those were the red oak acorns that deer were preferring to eat, so we moved in, hung a Summit stand in that red oak, and one afternoon a buck we called Club came right in, started munching on acorns, and we were able to tag him and put some great tasting venison in the freezer.
DANIEL: This is another reason why we really like savannah type habitats. When we go into a closed canopy forest and we use TSI – timber stand improvement – to open up the canopy, allow more sunlight to reach the ground, not only are grasses and forbs flourishing, the trees that we specifically left – those high-quality trees – well, they’re going to be able to maximize their potential. And that also goes all the way down to the acorns that they produce. Those acorns from those trees are going to be more attractive.
DANIEL: At The Proving Grounds our timber is dominated by two types of oaks, red oaks and white oaks. They’ll both produce acorns.
DANIEL: One factor that influences how attractive an acorn is to a deer is the tannins. Red oaks have more tannins in them. That tannin acts as a preservative.
DANIEL: You may have noticed red oaks can lay on the ground longer, even through the winter. When we get a warm fall rain, and those white oaks will germinate or rot. And that’s because those white oaks have a lower tannin content. Because white oaks have a lower tannin content, they’re not as bitter to deer and they’re more preferred. That’s why deer are going to target white oak acorns, usually, before they start eating on reds.
DANIEL: Just because there’s a great crop of acorns one year, it doesn’t mean there will be as many acorns every year.
DANIEL: The red oak acorns that will fall here at The Proving Grounds this fall, well, it took two years for them to develop. However, the white oak acorns, they’ll develop and fall in the same year. This is important to note because weather can impact acorn production.
DANIEL: A late, hard frost can damage acorn production. So, if you get a late frost move through your area, you may see a lower acorn crop in the future.
DANIEL: Remember, white oak acorn production would be impacted that year you see the frost. It will be two years before you see the impact of that late frost in red oak acorns.
DANIEL: Not only is it a great time to be out scouting but it’s a great time to work on habitat improvement projects. And many folks across the whitetails’ range are doing just that.
DANIEL: Grant and I have both been traveling a bunch in the past few weeks and working with landowners to help them develop habitat improvement and hunting plans where they hunt.
DANIEL: Each habitat and hunting plan is unique. You can tell that by the onX maps that we’ve created. Each one is a little different to meet the landowner’s specific hunting and habitat goals.
DANIEL: Grant recently toured a property in northern Kentucky and assisted Brian Boyers with his timber stand improvement project. There were several stands of eastern red cedars on Brian’s property and those cedars were creating a closed canopy forest. They were shading out the ground and suppressing those native species.
GRANT: I want to kill all the cedars in here and hack-and-squirt the other stuff and then burn and this will be deer paradise.
DANIEL: Grant noticed that there were several invasive species on Brian’s property. And with the TSI work that Grant had laid out, it was important that Brian address those native species or it was going to be a long road to recovering that native habitat.
GRANT: Well, we’re in an area on Brian’s place and we’re prescribing cutting all the cedars. But if you look here and here and we’re going to look close here, here’s a bad nasty and they’re all over this part of Kentucky. Autumn olive. They were started in coal mine areas to reclaim the soil. And they make a little berry some birds eat. They’re not like a big wildlife thing. And they spread like crazy.
GRANT: If you thin all these cedars – there’s another one right behind us, another one right there – you start looking around. Now see this, the back silver leaf? It’s real silver on the back. You start looking around. These are extremely invasive.
GRANT: You’re gonna have to have the contractor kill these while they’re cutting the cedar. Otherwise, these, it will be a jungle of these and they’re going to be really expensive to control.
DANIEL: While touring the property, Grant made other observations.
GRANT: Unfortunately, this is becoming a common habitat type. Those dead trees were all ash trees. And they were killed by the emerald ash borer.
GRANT: And you’re thinking, “Well, okay. We’ve got some good undergrowth.” But, in this area, there are so many exotic invasives, that I’ve got tons of olive growing right behind me and I’ve also gotten – the lime green stuff right behind me here is multiflora rose. Without fire, the invasive enzootics will take this area over. They’re very invasive.
GRANT: So, I’ve suggested to Brian that this March – this won’t carry a fire now – but we’ve got to get a fire in here now to start reversing the trend, let natives – native grasses, native forbs – have a chance.
GRANT: I think this is probably so far gone, that we’re going to knock it down with fire, then have to come in with a herbicide treatment, set back these very aggressive invasives to let the natives have a chance to take hold and make good habitat in this area.
DANIEL: We love hearing updates and success stories, especially from properties that we’ve toured. And several years ago, Grant and I actually visited a property in Oklahoma. There were acres of eastern red cedars and we recommended they convert those areas to native habitat.
DANIEL: We were thrilled to hear that they felled those cedars, recently used prescribed fire and the results look amazing. We’re extremely proud of the work done by this family as they convert that eastern red cedar, closed canopy forest into an extremely productive savannah type habitat. It won’t be long before native species will recolonize the area and it is lush and productive.
DANIEL: It’s the time of year that we celebrate Independence Day. The day that we declared that we were a free and independent nation. I hope you join the GrowingDeer Team and consider how thankful we are that we live in this great country and the blessings that have been given to the United States of America.
DANIEL: We’ll be scouting for velvet bucks and new tree stand locations as the summer progresses. Make sure you stay tuned on our social media as we’ll be giving daily updates.
DANIEL: While we’re out scouting, every now and then, I’ll find a tick on me and I’ve got to admit, it makes me a little mad. But that little distraction sometimes takes away from what’s all around me.
DANIEL: I hope you don’t get distracted this week, and you slow down, and look around you and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, I hope you listen to what the Creator says to you and the purpose He has for your life.
DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.