Deer hunters in Arkansas pursue a variety of avenues in trying for better chances at success.
In general, they attempt to find where deer are and set up their hunting stands, blinds or stools there. They look for deer travel routes. They look for “sign.” They go to places where they or someone else has had success in the past. And they seek sources of deer food.
All these methods work — sometimes.
That vague term “sign” generally means places where bucks have left their marks. Rubbed bare places on small trees and saplings is a coming “sign.” Scrapes on the ground where a buck has pawed a bare spot then sprinkled on it is another. The latter is a territory marking action.
These are buck things. They do not indicate the presence of doe deer.
Food takes in both bucks and does.
So what do deer eat here in November? A variety of items, of course, like deer do all through the year. There is no one food that dominates the diets of deer, but there are some that draw deer, depending on availability, of course.
This time of the year, acorns are a drawing card for deer — if acorns are abundant. Here in November 2013, the acorn crop is a good one, but it is somewhat spotty according to wildlife biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and with other agencies. Some areas are teeming with acorns, but others are below average.
Hunters keep this in mind and look around. They see good amounts of acorns on the ground, and they conclude that deer will likely be back feeding on acorns rather than out on the edges of fields making forays for soybeans and other crops.
Acorns and soybeans are deer foods that any hunter can identify and try to use to his or her advantage. Other deer foods are less likely to be known and recognized by folks with weapons in their hands.
In November, deer have a smorgasbord of food from which to choose, although not always in abundance or in variety.
The deer still browse like they do at other times of the year. They nibble on tender things, the tips of bushes, shrubs and trees. They eat leaves and grass. They eat fruit and berries, and here is something hunters can focus on.
Find a persimmon tree, and you have found a spot to wait in ambush for deer. But you had better hurry. Other wildlife relishes ripe persimmons just as deer do. If hogs are around, the persimmons will be gone in a hurry. A secret is to look for persimmons on the ground, not orange ones still in a tree. Persimmons on the ground are ripe. Those in trees are not. And you know what an unripe persimmon does to your mouth. Deer know, too.
Berry vines and bushes and trees mean both fruit and tender tips and leaves to deer. Muscadines, wild grapes, mulberry, hackberry, dogwood and beautyberry all attract deer this time of the year.
When November arrives, much of the green vegetation used by deer is gone. Earlier ripening berries and fruit like wild plum and blackberry are gone. But leaves of these plants are still on hand to some extent.
Many good hunters, if they are truthful, will tell you they cannot recognize different shrubs, bushes and trees in the woods. Any hunter, however, can see acorns on the ground and berries on bushes.
Hang around these. Deer may show up for a bit of dining.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock.