Reading Acorns for the Whitetail Hunt
Hunting trophy Whitetail deer feeding on acorns may be one of the most under rated hunt methods for the harvest of monster bucks. Truth is, especially during the early season Whitetail deer will chiefly feed on acorns, however a hunter needs to be educated on different types of acorns, as well as how to hunt Whitetail deer in acorns in order to successful. Of course, we know that White Oak acorns are the Whitetail’s Achilles Heel. And, with over 450 different varieties of acorns growing in the United States, there are primarily only five types of acorns that are magnets for Whitetail deer. So, what are these natural attractants?
- WHITE OAK (Quercus alba) Grows in either dry or moist situations, but not in wet ones. Height to 100 feet tall throughout the Midwest, with heavy, often nearly horizontal branches; wide-spreading. Leaves: With five to seven rounded lobes in two distinct forms: one has shallow, wide, rounded lobes; the other has long, narrower, fingerlike lobes with indentations nearly to midrib of leaf. Bark: Light gray; rough with long loose scales; becoming blocky on very old trees. Acorns: About 3/4-inch long with a cup covered by warty scales. The Latin alba means “white.”
- RED OAK (Quercus rubra) Grows on upland slopes, on moist bottomlands which face north or east and thus stay cooler. The tree can reach 100 feet. Leaves: Up to eight inches long with pointed lobes (which are not divided again at their tips), segmented to the midrib. Middle and upper lobes point diagonally upward and have bristle-pointed teeth. Leaves are yellowish-green above. Bark: Dark brown to black; smooth on young trees, eventually wide, flat ridges separated by shallow fissures; on very old trees more narrowly ridged. Acorns: One-inch long, oblong in shape. The cup saucerlike, flat, covers about one-third of the nut, and has a fine-hairy fringe. Rubra, Latin, “red.”
- PIN OAK (Quercus Palustris) Under natural conditions a medium-size tree that grows 50- to 70-feet tall in moist valleys, along streams, ponds and swamps, but also sometimes on dry locations. The lower branches spread downward, covering a large area. Pin oak grows faster than other oak species and has become a much planted ornamental. Many specimens provide good fall coloration. Leaves: Medium size, four-to-six-inches long with five to seven lobes, which are deeply divided. The ends of the lobes have two to three small divisions, each bristle-tipped. Leaves are dark green and shiny. Bark: Grayish-brown, smooth for many years. Acorns: Rounded, ½-inch diameter, often striped with many dark lines, with a thin, saucer-shaped cup. Palustris, Latin, “marshy.”
- BUR OAK (Quercus macrocarpa) Grows both on upland and lowland sites, but does best on rich, moist soils; to 120 feet tall. Found throughout the Midwest. Leaves: The largest of any native oak, to one foot long and very wide. Two different basic shapes exist: one widest above the middle, the upper portion shallowly lobed, the lower lobes longer. The other has a deeply lobed central section with indentations coming close to the central vein and a narrower upper part, but still wider than the lower lobes. Both forms are found on the same tree. Bark: Similar to White Oak but darker and more vertically ridged. Acorns: The largest of all North American oaks, about 1 ½ inches in diameter, surrounded by a deep cup, which is scaly and has a hairy fringe at the rim. Squirrels are especially fond of them. Macrocarpa is Greek for “big-fruited.”
- POST OAK (Quercus stellata) Grows in dry and rocky upland woods, to 60 feet tall. Characteristics similar to White Oak: Found in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana. Leaves: Usually with five lobes, two of which, above the middle of the leaf, are broad, forming a cross with the axis of the leaf. These and the top lobe are normally slightly indented. Bark: Light brown; divided by deep fissures and scaly ridges. Acorns: Small to 3/4-inch long, the cup covers onethird to one-half of the nut. The Latin Stellata means “star,” referring to the starlike tufts of hair on the surfaces of the leaf.