So, you’ve been following the deer on your property around all year. At dawn, they cross a certain road. At dusk they come to a certain feeder shortly after it goes off. When bow season begins, you bag yourself a couple deer and start hunting for that trophy that has eluded you for some time. Just as early November rolls around, you grab your rifle and head for your deer stand that is perched just on the edge of that 20-acre field. Only this time there are no deer. What changed? The simple answer is, we did. Deer can sense danger and they can certainly smell man. Most of the year people will see deer and not pay them any mind. As hunting season grows closer, man is spending more time in the forest. We leave our scent everywhere we go and the deer know this. I’ve have been hunting my whole life, and trust me when I say that deer most definitely know when hunting season begins. Food sources for the deer also change, as the months get closer to winter. This is another cause of their altered pattern. Throughout the year, deer become accustomed to eating in agricultural areas. Clover, alfalfa, corn, winter wheat, oats, soybeans, peas, sweat potatoes, and apples are all on a deer’s menu. As fall rolls around however, farmer harvest their crops and clear most of the food out of the way. This causes the deer to alter their eating habits to stay full through the winter.
So where do the deer go when their patterns change? Usually they will head deeper into the brush so they feel more protected. They will also tend to be more nocturnal, coming out only in the middle of the night to feed. As the harvest passes, Mother Nature starts to supply deer with their favorite food. A vast supply of acorns start to fall from the trees, and the deer are content to deal with this through the winter. It is important to track secondary food sources after the seasons change. Cloves are good until the first frost hits. After the frost, however, cloves die off and deer tend to ignore them. Some successful hunters will plant purple-top turnips. These turnips will last through the frost, and the deer will happily munch on them. If you are going to plant a food plot, try to keep it in thicker brush, since the deer will be more likely to spend time there. A deer in the brush is far more comfortable than a deer standing in the middle of an open field. These food sources may be your only link to finding out where those elusive little whitetails are hiding.
During the Summer months, deer will try to stay in large packs. Bucks will hang out with other bucks, and the deer will move as a group even across open ground. However, after the buck’s antlers come out and they shed their velvet, things start to change. The males will see each other as rivals. The first sign of rutting behavior is often sparring among bucks. Sparring may take place between bucks of equal stature or between a dominant and subordinate buck. Initially, these are usually short-lived, low intensity, pushing and shoving matches. These sparring matches may help establish the dominance hierarchy among males. As the peak of the breeding season approaches, sparring matches may give way to full-blown antler fights. These generally take place between bucks of similar hierarchical status. During the rut, bucks will make scrapes on trees or the ground with their antlers. This serves as a way to communicate through scent. If you find a rub spot, you know there is a buck around. It would be smart to put a food plot and a stand nearby.
Taking note of these changes will help ensure you catch that buck that has eluded your sights the past few seasons. Being pro active about where you plant food and where your stand is located is essential to tracking and bagging that trophy you have always wanted.