Archery season opens next week and if you are anything like me, you cannot wait to climb into your stand and see what happens. With the abundant mast in most areas, the game will be spread out making it difficult to locate, but with good scouting, you should be able to find potential stand locations and be in the right place when the deer are moving.
Preseason scouting makes a big difference, if you know where the food is most concentrated and how the deer are entering this location you increase your odds dramatically. The presence of well-worn deer trails entering fields and stands of mast trees are a good indicator of where and how many deer are feeding in a location. If there are a few rub trees nearby then all the better as this is a sign that bucks are using the area and a good place to set up to intercept a buck as he comes in to feed or check out the does.
Deer and bear will change their food preferences as they become more available. Earlier this fall these game animals where hitting apple trees very heavy as the apples began to ripen then the cherry started falling and many deer and bear turned their attention to the sweet cherries as a preferred food. As the acorns start to drop, the animals will shift their attention to the acorns but will still feed on any available mast as they travel from bedding to feeding areas and fields. For this reason, I think a stand location that offers several different foods will be very productive this year.
I selected one location that has not been very productive for me the past few years but it is loaded with beech and cherry this year with a few large oaks scattered throughout. The cherry and beech are laying thick on the ground and the trails leading through this spot show some very heavy traffic that has not been present the past few years. Oak is a bit spotty this year but I found one red oak that is loaded with acorns and placed my stand nearby.
This is a remote area not known for a lot of deer but it does hold some nice bucks, I have not seen this much mast in this location since I harvested a nice ten point buck several years ago, so I am hoping to see another bruiser this year with the similar mast conditions.
Deer will shift food preferences throughout the season and it pays to have a few different stands to hunt near different food sources. Fields are always a hotspot as deer like to venture into the open at night to feed on the grasses in the open fields and a stand located on a good trail leading into these openings will normally give you an opportunity to take a deer.
Bucks prefer to stay hidden until nightfall but will often feed along the thick edges if there is protective cover and some food to browse on as they await dark. Fields edged with apple trees and thickets should prove good this year with the high yields of apple and other soft mast available around many openings.
The bucks will often use these thickets as cover while searching for does as the rut approaches and positioning a stand near rubs and scrapes could provide a shot at a very nice buck as he sneaks around the edges looking for does coming into heat.
One location I am looking forward to hunting is at the base of a steep brush choked ravine as it comes off the main ridge leading into a thicket that borders a field with two apple trees in the corner.
Between the ravine and the field is about thirty yards of open woods with a good crop of cherry and beech, which I hope, will be a staging area for bucks before they enter the field toward dark. I have never hunted this spot before but the abundance of food and the number of does present plus a few rubs indicates to me that there will be a nice buck in the neighborhood especially once the rut starts heating things up.
The amount of mast this year may seem like you are likely to see game anywhere, and you may, but finding a few hotspots where the food is more concentrated than surrounding areas can make a big difference. There are pockets where the oak hit very well where just around the hill, it produced little or not at all.
Likewise, with the beech and cherry, if you can pin point some small areas where the food is even just a bit more abundant and has the benefit of good protective cover, I believe you give your self the best opportunity to be in the right place when game is on the move.