Food For Deer

I admit I am a deer shooter, not a deer hunter. For years I have not done much scouting. One big reason is the Lyme Disease I got from a tick bite about 12 years ago. Being in the woods when ticks are active in late summer and early fall does not sound like a good idea after fighting that disease for a year.

I am also lazy – the older I get the lazier I get. But I have hunted the same areas since 1982 and watched them change due to logging, but the deer movements have not changed a lot. They may make new travel routes around fresh clear cuts, but they still feed under the same big white oaks they have been using for years.

For the past 20 years I have planted winter wheat, Austrian Winter Peas and clover on a couple of food plots. But this year I got lazier and did not plant much. It is too easy to put out corn now that it is legal. Although you don’t hunt over corn, or over food plots, you just shoot deer that come to you, I hunt only for venison.

On both food plots and corn piles you are more likely to see does and yearlings during shooting hours. Big bucks that are the goal of deer hunters are too smart to come out in the open during the day, except for a few weeks in early November in our area, when they lose their minds during rut.

I have shot a few decent bucks over the years, but they did not excite me any more that shooting a doe or yearling. I think that I mainly because I shot them more by accident than effort. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I respect trophy buck hunters for the efforts they make to put themselves in the right position to kill their dream buck. But for me it is like fishing a tournament. I often know that if I want to catch big fish to win, but most likely won’t catch many and could possibly zero, I have to dedicate my day to trying to get quality bites.

Instead I typically go after keeper fish, hoping for a limit. That does not always work, either, but the odds are better to catch something to weigh in. I do luck up on decent bass sometimes, but it is just luck for me, like shooting a big buck.

When I cut my food plots recently I was happy to see the clover was still growing and doing well. I could not see it until I cut all the weeds off it. And most years some winter wheat comes back from the year before. I can tell this because I usually change areas where I plant it each year.

I was happy to see a couple of the crab apple trees I got from the Forestry Service two years ago doing well. There are no apples yet, but I hope for some in another few years. The natural persimmon trees on the edge of the field have a few fruit each year, including this one, but they never produce much.

I am real disappointed in the dozen persimmon trees that came up in the field. I have carefully cut around them and fertilized them. Last year I saw a couple of persimmons on a couple of trees, but the trees in the field are 15 to 20 feet tall so they should be old enough to be producing a lot of fruit.

I found out there are male and female persimmon trees and no way to tell them apart, other than the female trees are the only ones that produce fruit. I was afraid they were all male but seeing even one or two fruit on a tree tells me they are female.

The biggest tree had two fruit on it last year so I hoped this year would produce a lot more, but although the tree is healthy and lush, there is not a single one on it. I probably should have ordered persimmon trees from the Forestry Service to insure I had good ones, but my laziness made me just do a little work on the volunteer ones.

A few years ago, I got excited to see a tree in the corner of the field loaded with fruit. I thought it was an old crabapple tree near the old house site. But when the Forestry Service tech came to plow my field, he said it was a Bradford pear tree. Deer really don’t eat the fruit for some reason and they cause problems. When birds carry the fruit into my planted pines, the seeds start growing and the young trees put out some chemical that stunts other growth around it. I want those pines to grow!

There is a good article by Eric Bruce in this month’s Alabama Outdoor News magazine about natural food sources for deer. Eric is a true deer hunter and he goes out and finds natural food, travel routes and places to hunt big deer.

I know about a lot of the food sources he describes like Trumpet vines, honey suckle, black berries, green briar, privet, mushrooms and wild grapes. After reading this article I realized I have other natural food like ragweed, pokeweed and beggar weed I did not think about.

Other surprises were sumac and beauty berry. I saw several sumac bushes around the edge of my field, so I made sure to miss them with the mower.

Gun season opens in two weeks and many hunters, and even more shooters will be in the woods looking for food or a trophy. Which are you?