Salad Done Whitetail Style

In a previous article I mentioned the concept of locating Soft Mast such as wild, ripe, fruit to pinpoint the location of deer during the weeks when this food source is available.

However, once this food source has passed, deer living in forested areas are forced to return to feeding on woody plants called Browse.  Browse consists of a variety of grains, forbs, legumes, leaves, vines, and tree buds and locating browse becomes far more difficult for the deer at this time of year.

Browse foods are very important to the continued survival of any resident deer population because they are available during different times of the year and thus they provide a constant source of nutrition. The disadvantage is that browse is widely scattered and therefore you cannot rely on browse to  draw the deer to any specific location at any specific time.

When attempting to locate deer either before or after the Mast Fall, it is a wise strategy to use the sign’s of the deer’s browsing activity to lead you to their bedding area.

  You should look for such species as Honey Suckle, Sweet Briar, Poison Ivy, Sumac, Dogwood, Maple, Yellow Birch, Aspen, Choke Cherry, White Pine, White Cedar, Hemlock, and various types species of mushrooms just to name a few.

In fact, because deer have been known to feed on over six hundred different species of plants, the real trick to locating deer browse in your particular area is to first look for piles of deer droppings and note their consistency. If they appear to be a pile of discrete pellets with a fibrous consistency, then the deer in that area have been feeding on browse and thus, you should look for signs of nibbled ends on the surrounding foliage and then note which species have been nibbled on the most.

For instance, here in the southeast, our deer love Honeysuckle flowers and Sweet Briar vines. In fact, I have seen Honeysuckle vines that were almost completely devoid of flowers and Sweet Briar vines that were nibbled almost to the ground. Consequently, noting this sign of deer feeding activity will invariably clue you in on what types of Browse the deer in that location are feeding on.

Also, because deer need to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet, they often feed on numerous different plant species within their home range and that selection of plants is constantly changing according to the time of year.

Each deer needs to consume an average of 5 to 8 pounds of browse per 100 pounds of body weight each day. When, deer are feeding on Browse, their dropping piles will be copious but widely scattered because they need to cover a wide range of forest in order to find enough Browse to fulfill their needs. However, finding and following these dropping piles is like following a series of street signs that will lead you through the deer’s home range and eventually right back their bedding area.

     Consequently, finding deer during the time when the Soft Mast is falling is often as simple as finding an Apple, Pear, or Persimmon tree with ripe fruit or a wild Muscadine or Scupernong vine with ripe grapes falling and setting your stand up nearby. However, locating them either before or after the Soft and Hard Mast Fall when they are forced to return to feeding on Browse is often a much more difficult task. Thus, the best strategy during this time of year is to use the signs of their browsing activity and their dropping piles to lead you to their bedding areas and then set up on an incoming/outgoing trial nearby.

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