John's Journal...

Food For Thought – Use Food Sources to Locate Deer

How to Hunt Deer Around Food in the Northeast

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Although some hunters take bucks around scrapes, along trails, near saddles in mountains and at creek crossings, you'll often find hunting near the food source where the white-tailed deer feed at the time you hunt the most- consistent way to pattern the deer and to locate a stand where you can harvest a buck. The whitetail's preferred food source changes from early season to mid-season and at the end of the season.  Also as you travel around the country, whitetails in various sections like different plants, shrubs and nuts indigenous to these regions. To learn where to hunt when, we've asked some deer hunters to tell us the food sources they hunt at three-different times.Click to enlarge

Thomas C. Hicks of Albion, New York, has hunted whitetails for 20 years. Since he only can bag one buck per season in his home state, he scouts extensively and looks at many deer before he decides to loose his arrow. Primarily by hunting over food sources, he gets his buck almost every season. Hicks begins to scout for his next year's buck after the last day of bow season. "I want to know where the big bucks have bedded and bred because more than likely an older-age class buck will not move his bedding site unless someone disturbs him," Hicks explains. "I've learned the deer's bedding and breeding regions usually form the core of that particular buck's movement pattern year after year." Once Hicks knows that he has a big buck to hunt and pinpoints where that buck has bedded and bred, he next has to determine what that buck will feed on at the first of bow season.

Early Deer Season:

"During the early part of the season, the deer prefer to feed on wild apple trees and alfalfa in my region," Blum reports. "If you can pinpoint an apple tree in the woods, you often will find a trail worn deep into the earth where the deer travel to feed on the apples. You may want to take a stand along that trail for a good opportunity to see a buck. Although apple trees will concentrate deer, you easily can spook the deer away from the tree if Click to enlargeyou put too-much human odor in that area. Then the deer will continue to feed around the tree but primarily at night. Too, you'll find alfalfa fields a more-reliable food to hunt near during the early season. If I can locate an alfalfa field close to the buck's bedding region, I’ll watch with my binoculars to see how the buck goes to the field and his bedding site. Well before the season starts, I go to the trail the buck uses to exit the field and set up my tree stand about 100- to 150-yards away from the field and closer to the bedding area." Then long before daylight, Hicks moves to his tree stand, carefully remaining well away from the field and downwind of the field. He wants to get into his stand before the buck leaves the alfalfa field at first light. He hopes to get a shot at the buck as he leaves the alfalfa field and moves to his bedding site. "If I can find an oak tree dropping nuts within 100 to 150 yards of the field, I'll set up a tree stand within 30 yards of that tree for an afternoon stand," Hicks explains. "I
know the tree acts as a magnet to draw-in and hold deer that will go into the field just at dark."Click to enlarge


During the middle of the season, deer usually quit eating alfalfa and start feeding on acorns. Then Hicks concentrates his hunting on the nut trees. "In the middle of the season, bucks try to build up fat for winter and the rut," Hicks comments. "They will feed heavily under the nut trees." One of the best bucks Hicks bagged last season held in a swampy area with ridges running through it. Nut trees concentrated in this section, and these nut trees drew the bucks like a magnet. But Hicks doesn't hunt just any oak trees. He's prepared these oak trees for the time he will hunt them. "I put fertilizer twice a year around the oak trees I plan to hunt," Hicks says. "I fertilize them in the early spring just as the leaves begin to form, and then I fertilize again in the early fall before the nuts start to drop." Hicks has learned that fertilizing the trees he plans to hunt in mid-season causes those trees to produce bigger nuts and more nuts that the deer tend to prefer more than other nuts in the area.

Late Deer Season:

At the end of the season, Hicks searches for high-energy feed such as corn, dogwood plants, other sprouts and leafy plants in the woods. "My favorite high-energy food to hunt during the end of bow season is clover patches," Hicks explains. "The deer will dig through the snow to find clover and feed heavily on it. I plant clover patches for the deer where I hunt. They also will exhibit this digging behavior to locate corn lying under the snow. I don't know how the deer can find ears of corn under a foot of snow, but they do." Hicks wears snow camo when he hunts during the late season. "I take a stand between the fields where the deer feed on clover and corn and where the bucks bed," Hicks says. "Most of the time I often see a buck coming to those fields late in the afternoon and get a shot then."

Deer usually feed each day.  If you understand which foods they prefer to eat in various sections of the country throughout the season, where you can locate these foods, and at what time of day they come to this food, you more consistently can bag a buck each season.

Check back each day this week for more about "Food For Thought – Use Food Sources to Locate Deer"

Day 1: What Whitetails Eat in the Midwest in the Early Season with Toby Bridges
Day 2: Hunting Midwestern Deer During the Mid-Season and Late Season With Toby Bridges
Day 3: Jerry Simmons on Hunting Southeastern Deer During Early Deer Season
Day 4: Jerry Simmons Tells How to Hunt Southeastern Deer in the Mid-Season and Late Season
Day 5: How to Hunt Deer Around Food in the Northeast


Entry 529, Day 5