After purchasing broadcast feeders and stocking up on shelled corn in anticipation of the opening of deer season in the Upstate, many hunters are reporting a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from the local deer population, mostly because there’s more natural food on the ground around oak trees.

Hunter Scott Emery of Emery’s Tree Service in Greer said that’s about par for the course for early October. Deer will almost ignore corn where acorns are on the ground.

“I hunt several pieces of property, a couple in Laurens County and one in northern Greenville County,” said Emery (864-895-1852). “The properties in Laurens are raining white oak acorns while the place in Greenville also has a few white oaks dropping.”

Emery said deer typically focus on soft-mast foods like poke berries, dew berries and muscadines until the acorns and other hard mast start falling. Frequently sought out by other hunters for his opinion on the year’s crop, and says he’s happy to tell people what he’s seeing on the job and in the woods but indicated that’s no guarantee of an entire county.

“I work in people’s yards, areas that get fertilized and limed regularly and trees that get plenty of sunshine,” he said. “Just because one white oak in an old neighborhood is dropping doesn’t mean they will be doing the same out in the woods where someone is hunting.”

Emery said there is no substitute for scouting, spending time on the piece of property where you hunt and finding out exactly which trees and what areas are producing.

“I know people who’ll go down in a riverbottom and hang a stand before the season, but you look around, it’s mostly poplars and river birches. It all looks good, but none of those trees even grow acorns,” he said.

Many Upstate hunters felt baiting with corn would create a different environment this season, but that’s not proving to be the case. Along with everyone else, Emery put feeders out, but he has either cut them back or cut them off until the acorns start to dwindle.

“I have buddies in Spartanburg County who’ve been feeding for two months and say the corn is laying on the ground molding,” he said. “The crows and the coons and squirrels are eating good, but for the most part, deer will walk right through corn to get to a good crop of white oaks. Right now, that’s where I’m hunting.”