The month of November gets all the attention. Even though most seasons start sometime in September, most hunters are still counting down the days until November and rightfully so. But are hunters overlooking the month of September. I think so.
September gets a bad rap. It doesn’t have the cold temperatures, it still has lots of bugs flying around, and, oh yeah, there’s no rut happening. But September does have one thing, soybeans. The rest of this article will focus on four ways to incorporate soybeans into year hunting strategies.
One major key to early season success is patterning bucks throughout the off season. Probably the easiest way to do this is to do some velvet scouting of bucks using soybean fields. Whether these fields are smaller food plots you created or large ag fields, it is important to scout these fields throughout the summer to pinpoint buck travel patterns. When you are scouting soybean fields it is natural to get caught up in just looking at the deer using the field. But if you want to increase your odds of tagging an early season buck take note of the locations they enter the field, there direction of travel through the field, and the time of day they enter the field. Deer will begin to eat soybeans the minute they start to grow, so you can start your summer scouting almost immediately, giving you plenty of time to figure out when bucks and does are using the field. This is important because the field may be heavily used by does and not bucks, but because you took the time to do your summer scouting over soybeans you can focus your hunting on other areas.
Another thing early season scouting can do is help you find early season groups of bachelor bucks. This is the only time during hunting season that so many good bucks could be so close together and easy to pattern. These groups will still be on a fairly consistent bed to food pattern. So if you can pattern a group of bucks using your soybean fields in early September you will have a really good chance of tagging one once the season begins.
Using Soybeans to Hunt Bedding Areas
One thing to remember about using soybean fields for summer scouting purposes is that the old mature bucks may not be using it until after dark. They are smart and have reached that mature age for a reason. They want to feel secure when they are eating in large fields and to do that they wait until dark to enter the field. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a chance of tagging him. You will just have to alter your hunting strategy. The key in this situation is to find the bedding areas that are near the soybean fields you are scouting. Once you find these bedding areas you will want to set up on the travel routes that connect the bedding area to the food source. This will allow you to catch a buck traveling to the soybean field during the last few remaining minutes of shooting light. The buck won’t be in the soybean field during daylight hours, but he will be moving to the field during daylight hours and that is where you need to be during the early season. This type of stand site will not only allow you to hunt food sources for both evening and morning sites, but it will also be an effective stand site throughout the rest of the season because you are hunting near bedding areas. Just as it is when you are hunting bedding areas throughout the rest of the season, you need to pay close attention to wind direction and sent control so you don’t pressure that mature buck too much early on. You can move in for two or three sits with the correct wind, but if you haven’t tagged him by then, you should back out and find another location. During the early season we often focus on the food sources, but the right approach might be hunting the bedding areas surrounding early season food sources like soybeans. This strategy can work really well for high hunting pressure areas like public land sites.
Hunting the “edge”
An important aspect of wildlife management is creating “edge”. Edge is an area where two different habitat types come together. These areas are important for wildlife management and they can also be a perfect stand sight for the early season. In the Midwest it is not hard to find an area where a corn field borders a soybean field. This type of edge, where two different food sources border each other, will be very important as the deer begin to switch food sources. As the season goes on and the soybeans begin to brown up, they become less desirable to deer and the corn actually becomes more desirable. Neither food source is necessarily a go to location for deer, so setting up in an area that allows you look down the edge of these two food sources will allow you to see deer transitioning from both areas. Even if the deer are not using the corn as a food source, they will often times use it as a source of cover. We usually think of hunting a timber edge that borders a soybean field because the timber provides the cover that deer will enter the field from. But large corn fields will also be used by deer as a source of cover to enter soybean fields. Another aspect of edge to identify is field corners. Field corners and 90 degree meetings of timber and soybean fields will act as small staging areas for deer before they move farther into the field. Setup over these areas and take advantage of how this type of edge will create more security for deer entering the field.
Soybeans as a Late Season Hunting Strategy?
If you have the luxury of leaving your soybeans standing throughout the hunting season, they will become a very effective late season food plot. Soybeans are mostly identified as an early season food plot crop and rightfully so, but they can also be a powerful food source during the late season. Deer will move away from the soybeans when they begin to brown up, but be patient because they will return to them during the late season. During the late season deer are very limited in the food sources they can choose from and if the soybeans are left standing they will provide deer with the most bang for their buck. Soybeans will provide high amounts of protein and fat which deer greatly need in their diets during the late season. Set up on a travel route that leads to a standing soybean food plot and you will have a dynamite stand location for the late season.
The first key to hunting soybeans in the early season is scouting the field to make sure bucks are using the property. Once you have identified a good soybean field, locate the travel routes that the deer are using to get to the field. If the deer you are after is using the field during daylight hours, setup where that travel route enters the field. If that mature buck just won’t step out during daylight hours find the bedding area that he is using and setup back in the woods on the travel route that connects that bedding area to the soybean field. Finally find the areas of the field that create “edge”. Areas where the soybean field borders corn or where the field makes a 90 degree angle with the surrounding timber. Setup over these areas to catch a buck transitioning from one area to the next.
Soybeans are very nutritious all year round and will continue to be a very attractive food source throughout the hunting season. Use them to pattern bucks before the season starts and then move in and create the perfect stand site overlooking a soybean field to tag an early season buck.