By Mark Fike
Hunting is not all about the taking of game but it is certainly the main goal of most hunters. Nothing really beats having a great hunt and then being able to enjoy it in the months after the hunt when you sit down to a great meal.
However, not all hunters are successful. Some don’t think things through or plan well and their success is always dictated by that.
For a number of years when I first started deer hunting I always hunted where I had previously seen deer. However, some years I had really tough times punching a deer tag and I kept wondering what I was doing wrong. It was frustrating.
Later I could not believe how stupid I was when I realized that despite me always seeing deer in a certain area, say in a grove of white oak or red oaks, the deer were not always going to come to that stand of oaks.
Why? Some years there were no acorns. Sounds silly on my part, right? I mean who would keep looking in the kitchen for food when the pantry and fridge were empty? I think what caused me to be somewhat slow on the uptake is that in those lean years, I did get a deer or two but never filled my tags. I got just enough to cause me to blame lower population levels or disease for my “bad luck.”
When I finally realized what I was doing wrong, my success at tagging the meat I needed shot up.
So, the lesson is that hunters need to scout areas where game animals normally feed to be sure there IS food there during the season when you will be hunting. No food = no game.
Some years the acorn crop is lousy. When that happens, deer and turkey tend to gravitate to soft mast when they can find it. Think pears, apples and other fruit when available. Next, they will hit fields to graze grass and other greens.
A few weeks ago, our writer, Mountain Man Mike, wrote a story about an archery mule deer hunt that went awry when he found himself in a huckleberry patch and constantly encountering bears. The bears knew where the groceries were!
We need to know where the groceries are when hunting. If a nearby ag field is full of unharvested corn or soybeans, then deer and other game will be feeding heavily there and much less in the woods until the food is gone and then they will switch to food that is available.
Waterfowl are the same way. They won’t frequent ponds or swamps devoid of food. They hit fields that have leftover grain in them.
This season, before you head afield, take the time to check the hunting area for food sources. Hunt the food sources if you want to be successful at taking home some meat.
If you happen to own your own land and plan on owning it for a while, it may be wise to actually plant various food sources for game animals so that when the years are bad for one source of food (white oaks for instance) you have some other mast, grass, ag or fruit trees that will fill that void and keep the deer coming to your property to eat.