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The Best Food Sources for Big Woods Whitetails

I remember watching whitetail hunters hunt big food plots in the great outdoors for years. It was a wonderful experience, and one of my favorite memories was when I thought how fortunate they were to have such food sources. As I grew up, I became more obsessed with hunting whitetails in the woods. Although there are plenty of good food sources in large timbered areas, it can be difficult to identify them and requires many tactics. There are many food options in big woods. I will however focus my hunting efforts on three. These are applicable to all whitetail species in North America.

Acorns The number one food source for hunters when it comes timbered areas on private and public lands is Acorns Acorn-producing oak trees can attract deer in the fall. The deer can be drawn to the best food plots by a white oak that drops acorns in October. Just imagine how it would do in an area with monotonous timber. There are many types of oaks in the United States. The most common are the reds and the whites. Because of their low levels of tannic acids, white oaks are preferred by deer. Acorns can be found on the ground as soon as September, and in good crops as late January. It can be difficult to identify oak trees in the middle of other hardwoods. The leaves and colors of oak trees change more quickly than those of other hardwood trees. You can use fall imagery online for trees that stay greener longer. Acorn crops can vary from year to year so take a pair if binoculars with you and go out in the middle of August or early September to see what trees are producing.

Apples I find it like finding a goldmine when I go scouting. When I’m out in the woods, I come across an apple tree. Apples are a great food source and attract deer to your yard during daylight hours. I have found that they outperform all other food sources. Apples are like a sweet treat for deer. There are some downsides to relying upon apple trees. They can be inconsistent in producing apples, especially in Northeast areas where there is a possibility of a late spring freeze. They are also easy to find and accessible for other hunters, which is a downside. Apples are usually not part of my early season plans since they are most likely gone by October middle. However, you might be able to find an apple that drops later in the season. Apple trees can be found in many places, but I have seen them most often in the bottoms or near water. New Growth Mast crops are a favorite food source for deer in big woods, but they are not as important as you might think.

Woody browsing is a major part of deer’s diet, but it can be difficult to find because it seems to be everywhere. The logging cut is where you will find the most browse. The sun shines through a cut and encourages new growth. This will provide food for deer and cover the ground when the vegetation grows up. The loggers will leave the tree tops untouched after cutting an area. The tops of the trees provide food for the deer in the leaves and the twigs. The timber is starting to age and new trees sprout, while green grasses start to grow. After a while, the area will begin to age and briar, blackberry and dewberry bushes will start to grow thicker, providing more food and cover. The logging cut becomes more old and mushrooms begin to thrive on the logs and stumps. This provides a new food source that the deer can eat. Sometimes, chokecherry trees can be found that produce snacks. Logging cuts don’t always provide a single food source, but there is a buffet at one location that can be used as a multiplier.

Logging cut can be easily located on an aerial map. You can locate them on federally-owned public lands by using the onX Hunt app and turning on the timber cutting layer. These areas can be identified by large, open areas with a brown color that indicate a newer cut or thick, bright green areas that indicate an older cut. The color of the area can change depending on the time, but it is still useful. A deep dive into hunting big woods log cuts can be found in the video I made.  If you are willing to look, there are many food sources in the big woods. You can find your “food plot” by doing E-scouting with boots-on the ground confirmation and some woodsman ship.

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