The white oaks just outside my office window are loaded with big, juicy acorns and they are coming down rapidly. Acorns are a favorite of white-tailed deer. Coupled with the plentiful food plots scattered across our region you have the combination for the best bowhunting opportunities of all time.
Acorns pelt my roof as I write this story. The white oaks just outside my office window are loaded with big, juicy acorns and they are coming down rapidly. Acorns are a favorite of white-tailed deer. Coupled with the plentiful food plots scattered across our region you have the combination for the best bowhunting opportunities of all time.
Last Monday evening I sat on my bowhunting stand high in a black oak in McDonald County near the North Fork River. I was filming for Chance Hollingshad of Devil’s Backbone Outfitters.
Chance and his dad, Joe, manage 1,700 acres for deer and turkey in the rugged region. That evening we sat on two-acre food plot high on a mountain ridge. The view that lay before us was spectacular.
I filmed Tim Czellesvik, The Thinking Woodsman, arrowing a 19-pointer on the property last bow season. Chance had his sights set for a 160-class buck that roamed there regularly as well.
Food plots are an integral part of the Devil’s Backbone lands. Bowhunters hunt them often, particularly early in the season.
An hour before sundown, Chance whispered to me that there were does coming through the woods straight at our stands. Soon I heard the light crunching of leaves as a mature doe and her fawn of the year eased from the woods into the plot. They walked straight to the pond a mere 30 yards from our stand hide.
After quenching their thirst, the pair of deer mozied across the plot to a big black oak tree, which squirrels had been working all afternoon. The ground was littered with black oak acorns. Chance and I could hear the crunching sounds as the deer steadily picked up acorns.
Deer greatly prefer white oak acorns over black oaks. The presence of the deer under the black oak indicated that, either the white oaks did not make corns , or had not begun to drop them yet.
Black oak trees produce acorns every other year, while white oaks produce every year. Should the white oaks fail to produce, the black oaks often fill in the gap.
Within 20 minutes, five more deer joined the original pair under the black oak tree. Does and fawns munched away, filling their bellies with the highly desirable acorns. Most nibbled at grasses and clovers as they wandered away from the oak, after eating their fill of acorns.
Darkness closed in without a buck showing itself.
This same scenario has repeated itself thousands of times across the Ozarks since bow season began September 15. Many hunters, no doubt have hunted public properties, but thousands of others have had the distinct advantage of hunting over food plots, which they planted themselves.
Food plots are not a recent invention, but their usage has become more prevalent in recent years, because of their effectiveness at attracting deer and other wildlife.
Gary Klossner, of Rolla, is a big believer in food plots and has had great success at harvesting trophy bucks from his plots. He bought land, cleared areas for food plots, brought the soil up to test and within a couple of years harvested a 180-class buck with his bow. He repeated the feat last bow season with a buck which made Outdoor Life’s website. “High quality food plots are deer magnets,” Klossner said.
“Establishing food plots is the easiest way to begin killing deer on a consistent basis,” Dusty Snelson of Snelson’s Wildlife Habitat Management said. A well known bow hunter in the area, Snelson has taken many trophy bucks with his bow, but strives to do better each season.
Snelson brought his dreams to the forefront last year by establishing a food plot business. “I love putting in food plots,” he said. “It is amazing what can be done with a rough piece of land. Of course, the better the land quality, the better the food plot, but every Ozark farm has marginal areas that can be turned into decent food plots. Clearing, spraying, bush hogging, tilling, planting, fertilizing...I can do it all. And, landowners are often quite surprised at how quickly deer will begin using those areas.”
Blends of food plot seeds are now made for practically any situation. No till seed varieties are available that bowhunters can use in wooded situations. They only need to rake the leaf litter away enough that seed can make contact with the soil. Then it is only a matter of waiting for a rain for the seed to sprout and grow into a small deer magnet in the woods.
Facebook has been covered up with photos of happy hunters who have already harvested deer, many from food plots which the hunters had planted themselves. Many of those same hunters will, no doubt, harvest another deer from the same food plot after the regular firearms deer season begins.
“Food plots may be planted with plant varieties that will carry deer through the entire hunting season,” said Snelson. “Turnips are a favorite. Deer will dig turnips up all winter. You can still hunt over them, up to January 15 when bow season ends.
The Missouri deer population is down slightly from the ten year average, but still quite healthy with well over 1 million animals. There has never been a better time to incorporate food plots into your deer hunting plans than now. And as Klossner says, You’ll be happy you did.”
Good luck bow hunting and wear those safety harnesses!