Food Sources for Opening Day
Your countdown is ending as opening day comes into sight. You’ve shot your bow, gathered your gear, and you’re ready to pick a spot to hunt. Your opening-day spot might be loaded with deer now but void of activity within a week. Therefore, whether you bowhunt farmlands or the big woods, keep a few considerations in mind when choosing a site.
Farmlands: September Opener
Food sources are plentiful in crop fields during September. Soybeans are lush and green, and alfalfa is freshly mowed. It sometimes pays to be aggressive and sneak into a buck’s bedroom back in the woods, but a patient wait on a field edge can pay off on opening day. If you don’t release an arrow on Day 1, you can gain valuable intel by watching destination food sources.
Whitetails typically bed near food sources the first few days of bow season. Soybean fields offer lots of food and enough tall vegetation for deer to feel secure while feeding. But when soybean leaves turn yellow in late September, deer generally avoid them like a bad habit. Lush alfalfa fields are another solid food source, so dedicate a few evenings before the opener to glass them. Most deer (bucks, especially) prefer to enter fields from the lowest spot about 30 minutes before dark. Low spots help conceal deer in rolling fields, and falling thermals create a vacuum that pull scents to wary deer. A treestand ambush overlooking a low point’s entry trail can help punch your tag on opening day.
Farmlands: October Opener
Soybeans attract deer into October, but turn less desirable as their leaves yellow. Bowhunters can take advantage of that fact by focusing on small field corners that remain lush and green. This tactic is effective when hunting large fields, and helps you pinpoint potential feeding locations. However, if most bean fields have yellowed before Oct. 1, count on deer transitioning to alfalfa or clover. The last remaining green food sources focus deer activity when grain fields are dry and ready for harvest.
Big Woods: September Opener
Fruit-bearing trees in isolated pockets of a big woods are whitetail candy stores. If you’re lucky enough to find an apple tree in a timbered landscape, focus your efforts nearby in September. Apples usually start falling in late August, long before most oaks start raining acorns, which makes them ideal food sources in states with early- to mid-September openers.
If you don’t find an apple tree, shift your efforts toward spots with recent logging activity. Whenever loggers open a forest canopy, the understory receives sunlight that triggers growth. Woody browse in clearcuts attracts deer near and far.
Big Woods: October Opener
Acorns begin dropping from oaks in late September through mid-October. Deer prefer them to nearly any other food. Focus your opening-day efforts by hunting near a white oak that’s shedding acorns. A white oak’s rounded leaves distinguish them from red oaks. If you locate an isolated white oak that’s productive, hang a stand within bow range on the tree’s downwind side. Plan your ambush, and soak in an action-packed night on the edge of your seat.
Food sources vary by where you hunt and when your state opens its bow season. Regardless of where you hunt opening day, you’ll usually encounter low hunting pressure and still-patternable deer. Therefore, bowhunters often enjoy exciting opportunities to fill their tag quickly during the season’s first few days.