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Use Your Ears When Scouting Deer

Bob Walker | Mossy Oak ProStaff


On the first day of deer season, I went with one of my buddies and his 10-year-old son to help this young boy try and take his first deer with a bow. He had been practicing all summer long, and he could shoot accurately out to 30 yards. 

We went to a summer food plot that had a good stand of clover, because the winter food crops hadn’t been planted yet. We had been watching deer feed on this clover field throughout most of the summer. There was a big white oak tree on the edge of the food plot, and it had already started dropping acorns. Our stands were in a white oak tree that had just begun dropping acorns too. Every deer that we saw out to 100 yards went to the white oak tree to feed on the acorns. Even though we had scouted this field several times prior to the season, the white oak tree wasn’t dropping acorns at any of those times. Identifying food sources is a major key in scouting for deer.

When most people scout early season, they walk and look. Then they walk some more and look some more. But if you'll watch deer as they walk through the woods, especially during early bow season, the deer will walk a little ways, stop, look and listen. The deer aren’t listening for a hunter or a predator as much as they’re listening to hear acorns dropping. When deer hear those acorns dropping, that’s like hearing the dinner bell ring, and those deer will feed on the tree that’s dropping acorns. So when you’re scouting just prior to or at the first of bow season, don’t walk and look. Walk, stop, look, and listen to hear acorns hitting the ground. 

When my friends and I were going to our bow stand, we approached the green field as quietly as we could. We stopped every now and then to listen, and that’s when we heard the white oak tree on the edge of the green field dropping its acorns. We already had a stand 30 yards from the white oak tree on the edge of the green field, so we were able to get into that stand very quietly. 

The edge of the green field had quite a few acorn trees surrounding it, and we knew the green field was being utilized by the deer at the first of bow season. We hadn’t been in the stand very long before we saw does coming  across the clover field and going toward the white oak tree. Our hunter was a 10-year-old young man who never had taken a deer with his bow. Therefore, does were very much on his hit list. In the area where I hunt, we usually try and take as many does as we can at the first of bow season to keep our herd in balance and also to reduce our deer herd. Then more food will be available for the bucks and the does in the late season. 

When the first group of does reached the water oak tree, they were very calm. They had no idea that we were there. Although the deer were 30 yards from our stand, we decided that we wanted to wait until a deer was within 25 yards or less before we told our young shooter to take the shot. We were really excited and thought the deer would come within easy bow range of our stand. Then all of a sudden something in the woods spooked those does, and all the deer came running under us and ran across the field. 

When you're in a stand watching deer, while bowhunting, and suddenly they spook, the first thing that most bowhunters think is, “The deer must have smelled our human odor,” but that’s not necessarily true. Bobcats, coyotes, feral dogs, wild hogs and other predators will spook deer too. In our region, one of the most common predators is feral hogs. Hogs eat acorns just like deer do. Often when you find a tree dropping acorns, hogs as well as the deer will have pinpointed that same tree. Where I live, deer just can’t seem to tolerate hogs. Although we didn’t see the critter, we did see that there was something in the woods that spooked the deer feeding under the acorn tree. 

About 45 minutes later, the deer moved back into the field and went to the white oak tree to feed. When we finally had a doe at 25 yards, our young hunter drew his bow and made a perfect shot on the big doe. Once the doe took the arrow, she ran out 140 yards before she went down. We stayed in our stands for a little while. Finally, we decided to get down out of the tree and go look for the deer. When we found that big doe, we had a really excited young bowhunter who had accomplished his dream of taking a deer with a bow.

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