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Bob Frye: Revealing look at best days for hunting deer

Bob Frye
| Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, 4:18 p.m.
Doug Oster | Tribune-Review

Which are the best days to hunt whitetails?

The first time wildlife biologist C.J. Winand of Maryland was asked that question, he thought someone was pulling his leg.

“It's any day that ends with a Y, right?” he said.

That's not necessarily true.

Winand investigated the idea. He found an Auburn University study looking at deer movements during daylight hours in relation to hunting. It was revealing.

The study found deer movements were pretty high Fridays. Then, Winand said, come Saturday, the “weekend warriors” showed up.

“Deer movements went drastically down,” he added.

They stayed hidden for the next two days, still scared. It was only Wednesday and Thursday that they got active again, he said.

That cycle repeated itself week after week.

“The take away message is, if you only have one day to hunt, I don't know if I'd hunt the weekend,” Winand said.

“Hunt either Thursday or Friday. You'll get more deer movements.”

Here are some other deer hunting facts to consider:

• Every deer hunter knows to hunt the oaks, right? They produce the acorns that deer and other wildlife thrive on.

But there are times when it's better to hunt one species than another.

White oaks — called the “ice cream tree” by some — drop acorns that are tastier, ie. less bitter, than those produced by red oaks. They also drop them sooner.

So if you have the option, hunt white oaks earlier in the fall and red oaks later.

And if you want to remember how to tell them apart, white oaks have leaves with rounded edges, red oaks leaves with pointed edges.

• How many deer do you have on your land and how many do you want?

That's a question to ask when determining which does to shoot.

Research has shown a 2-year-old doe — a new mother — will give birth to 1.5 fawns, on average. She will only successfully raise one, however.

Older does, those age 6 and up, will give birth to two fawns on average and raise both successfully.

So if you have the opportunity to shoot an older versus a younger doe, take the younger one. You will get better recruitment and better sustain the herd with more mature does on the landscape.

“They're better mommas,” Winand said. “And they're harder to kill anyhow.”

• Letting a buck live for a few years at least gives him a better chance to grow big antlers.

Sounds obvious, right? But how dramatic will be the change in antler size?


According to research, a 1.5-year-old buck will, at most, exhibit 28 percent of his antler potential. Let him get to 2.5, though, and he will show off 60 percent of what he could be.

That goes to 80 percent by age 3 and 90 percent by age 4.

By the time a buck reaches 5.5 years old, he's likely at 99 percent of his potential. He will stay there a bit before going back down as he ages.

So if you want bigger bucks, let them walk, but not forever.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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