column and photo by Josh Boyd:
As summer begins to transition into the early days of fall, the whitetail experience a transition of their own. This transition can easily undermine a well structured strategy that a hunter has assembled through a summer of diligent scouting. Patterns that once seemed absolute in their consistency, suddenly carry no weight.
As September comes and goes, deer begin to respond to a series of factors that influence changes in their daily pattern. These factors influence where deer bed, where they feed, and how they interact with one another. When the daily patterns of deer in an area shift, hunters can often be left flustered at the ensuing change in deer behavior.
One such factor that heavily influences deer behavior is the location and availability of favored food sources. Deer will naturally gravitate toward food sources that are in high supply and can be reached in relative safety. The need for quality food is key to deer survival and dictates much of their day to day patterns.
During the month of September, much begins to change in regards to whitetail deer food sources. Deer have spent the summer months gorging in agricultural fields on corn and soybeans. Now as corn begins to be shelled and soybeans turn in color, whitetail deer food sources are drastically altered.
During these late summer and early fall months, another monumental change takes place within the diet of deer in south central Kentucky. Oak trees begin to drop their yearly bounty of acorns. As available standing crops dwindle in acreage, deer begin to transition into standing timber to take advantage of the plentiful acorn crop. This in itself can cause a noticeable shift in deer patterns and behavior.
It is also during this point in the season that bucks begin to break away from the bachelor groups that they have been members of during the summer months. As this takes place, many mature deer limit their daily movement to a considerably smaller range than that of the summer months. Because of this, deer that were once visible in fields and river bottoms during the summer months suddenly appear to vanish to the watchful eyes of many hunters.
Mature bucks also tend to transition to an increasingly nocturnal pattern during this time span as well. It is common for daytime movement to become minimal and trail camera sightings of a particular buck to be contained to the cover of darkness. This presents a compelling problem for deer hunters who are attempting to hunt these nocturnal bucks.
As deer begin to shed their summer patterns, a hunter must scout heavily, just as they had during previous points during the weeks leading up to bow season. New information must be gathered in order to readjust your hunting strategy to counteract these changes in pattern.
One of the most efficient ways to scout deer during this transition phase is with the use of trail cameras. In many cases, the deer that you had on camera during the summer months have not went far from their previously recorded locations. By stationing a series of two or three trail cameras in varying locations throughout the property that you hunt, you are able to cover and scout a large amount of land at once.
As pictures begin to be captured of deer within the area, cameras can be moved to a better focal point to conclude more about these newly established patterns. Once images of these deer are being captured with some regularity, time and date stamps on these photos can be used to correlate movement and establish a strategy. You will once again be able to distinguish key food sources and bedding cover, as well as how deer move in relation to these features.
If you find hunting success to be grinding to a halt, avoid the feeling of discouragement. Instead, regroup and reevaluate in order to put yourself back in contention to fill your tag. This year skip the transition period blues. Adapt, overcome, and get yourself back in the game.
Note: the thoughts and opinions expressed by Edmonson Voice guest columnists and authors of submitted articles are their own, not necessarily those of EdmonsonVoice.com