Acorns, persimmons and other mast are the candy of the forest that deer deer hunters seek each autumn. Find these and you may have better success.
When deer season approaches, hunters often think of the splash of acorns on the leaf-covered forest floor — deer candy that can often determine hunting success. But there are many other mast-producing trees that can also be beneficial and attractive to deer and deer hunters.
Early on, soft mast trees can be extremely attractive to deer. From crabapples to plums to persimmons, they provide a deer magnet for early season bowhunters. Although they might not last nearly as long as acorns, soft mast can be an important food source for a limited period of time.
Throughout the whitetail’s range, there is a variety of hard mast being consumed by deer. Even though acorns are the main focal point for many hunters, there are several other hard mast species to keep an eye out for as additional food sources.
Though not nearly as prevalent across the country or landscape where they are found, chestnuts can be very attractive to deer during the fall. They do not stay palat- able very long, but are high in starch and sugar, and low in fat, providing a good dietary food source.
While not as preferable as acorns, hickories are plentiful across the whitetail’s range. This food source is not as palatable to deer, and will often be left alone when other hard mast foods are available.
One of my favorites is the beech nut (American beech). Probably the most undervalued hard mast, beech nuts are an excellent source of nutrition for deer. They can contain up to 20 percent crude protein and 50 percent fat — making them a good option for maintaining muscle mass and energy levels throughout the fall.
Every hunter knows how the presence of hard mast can make or break a hunting season. This is more evident in predominantly wooded areas, or after large agricultural crops have been harvested. But hunters shouldn’t become totally focussed on acorns.
Of course, nothing will replace the mighty oak and its nutritious and attractive acorn. But in the event those are in short supply, the alternatives mentioned can attract deer and provide them with needed nutrition — and also provide hunters with ambush opportunities.
The best way to determine what the alternative hard mast producers are is to get out and put your boots to the property. While oak and hickory trees might be more consistently found throughout the timber, American beech and chestnut trees are likely to be more sporadic. But when you find one, you’ve likely just found a new stand location.