Hunters should focus on soft mast for early season deer

Deer will go out of their way for certain foods

Throughout the early hunting season, deer and other wildlife species get the opportunity to eat a wide variety of foods. Agricultural fields, food-plot crops, and native foods are growing around every corner. During the fall, the native food component can be a combination of tender twigs and leaves, as well as many other types of woody and herbaceous matter. These run-of-the-mill food sources can provide nutrition. But they will not generally attract deer to a certain area. On the other hand, deer expect to have fall mast crops and will go out of their way to take advantage of these food sources. And that’s especially true for soft mast.

Soft-mast crops, including fruits and berries, are fleshy foods loaded with vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. Not only are they nutritious, they are the ice cream of the forest. Persimmons are one of the best soft mast to have on a property in the Carolinas. Deer can smell the ripening of persimmons from long distances.

Persimmon trees will draw deer from far and wide

Soft mast like persimmons are deer magnets in early fall.

The scientific name for the persimmon tree is Diospyros virginiana. And diospyros translates from the Greek as “food of the Gods.” Deer absolutely love the fleshy orange fruits from persimmon trees. These fruits are deer magnets and very plentiful in rural regions of the Carolinas. Persimmon trees will grow in about any soil type, with the exception of flooded, anaerobic soils of the swamps. Typically, persimmon trees are found in dry communities.

In addition to persimmons, deer will feast on a wide variety of soft mast that’s intermittently available throughout the year. In the fall, crab apples, wild plums, muscadine grapes and dogwood fruits are available. While soft mast can and will provide a hot spot early in the fall, the availability of soft-mast food sources is very short lived and will only provide deer with a good food source for a few weeks. But when they are available, the feeding will be fast and furious. Also, areas where pear, apple and Japanese persimmons are planted can be good places for deer in the fall season.

While the acorn drop sustains deer for much of the fall, the soft-mast production period will bring deer in like mad and shouldn’t be overlooked for hunters looking for a super place for an early fall stand.

Click here for the 2019-2020 deer season outlook for the Carolinas.

About Jeff Burleson 1312 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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