Finding White-tailed Deer by Following the Acorns

As a wildlife photographer, one of my favorite subjects to photograph in the fall is the beautiful White-tailed Deer. When autumn arrives, whitetails go into a feeding frenzy, gorging themselves on acorns to fatten up before the winter. If you want to find deer in the fall, look for the acorns!

Whitetail Buck Feeding On Acorns In The Leaves
White-tailed Deer Buck Feeding On Acorns In The Leaves

White Oak Acorns Are Whitetail Candy

In particular, whitetails love white oak acorns. To them, white oak acorns are like candy, much sweeter than the more bitter red oak acorns. Over the years, I’ve learned that to reliably find and photograph fall whitetails, I need to locate where the white oaks are producing nuts.

Deer prefer white oak acorns due to their lower tannin levels, which gives them a sweeter, more palatable flavor. They will walk right by red oak trees to feed on white oak acorns instead. The key difference is that white oak acorns have lower levels of tannins, the naturally occurring compounds that give some acorns a bitter, astringent taste.

Whitetail Buck Searching For Acorns
Whitetail Buck Searching For Acorns

Timing is Everything for Photographing Feeding Deer

Around here, white oaks start littering the ground with their acorn treasures in late September or early October but the exact timing can vary depending on the location and weather conditions. Once they start falling, it’s a bonanza for local deer. Unlike red oaks, white oaks drop their nuts quickly over just a few weeks. So when I start noticing white oak acorns on the forest floor, I know deer activity is about to pick up.

Even among white oak trees, deer tend to prefer specific ones. Through observation over the years, I’ve noticed deer gravitating to certain trees over others. There seems to be some individual trees that deer just love. Perhaps it’s a bigger tree that produces more acorns, or it’s situated in an ideal location near bedding areas. But the deer will keep returning to their favorite white oak to feast on the sweet nuts as long as they are available.

Whitetail Doe On The Search For Acorns
Whitetail Doe On The Search For Acorns

Not All White Oaks Are Equal in Deer Appeal

Once I’ve identified some prime white oak acorn hotspots, I start scouting for potential photo blinds. I prefer using natural ground blinds, concealed by branches and brush. In ideal conditions, I’ll set up my blind weeks ahead of time so the deer get accustomed to it. Then I wait for the perfect moment to photograph the deer enjoying nature’s bounty.

Setting Up the Perfect Deer Photo Blind

When the time is right, here is my typical setup for photographing whitetails feasting on acorns:

  • Use a tripod and telephoto lens. The tripod keeps the camera steady and allows me to frame close-up shots of the deer without spooking them.
  • Wear camouflage clothing. Deer have excellent vision so I blend in wearing camo.
  • Get to my blind before dawn. Deer tend to be most active at dawn and dusk when feeding.
  • Remain quiet and patient. I’ll sit motionless for hours waiting for that perfect moment to capture on camera.
  • Respect the deer. I never disturb or harass the deer just for a photograph. Their needs come first.

So if you’re looking to photograph fall whitetails, scout for white oak trees loaded with acorns. Find where the deer are feeding, set up your hide nearby, and get ready for some outstanding wildlife photography. Following the acorns will lead you to autumn whitetails.

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