Patterning Early Season Bucks
The rut gets most of the attention and for good reason. Bucks are running everywhere trying to find that one receptive doe. There is no doubt that the rut can be an exciting time of year to be in a tree stand. But with bucks running everywhere the rut can be unpredictable both in good ways and bad. It can be almost impossible to pattern a buck at this time of year. Add to the fact that there are more hunters in the woods and for certain properties the rut can actually be a tougher time to hunt than other times of the year.
As deer season approaches, for some bow season is only weeks away, now may be the best time to put your tag on a dandy buck. Yes, it may be hot, the mosquitoes are large enough to carry you out of your tree stand, and thoughts of summer are still fresh in your mind, but deer at this time of year are often more easily patterned than any other time of the year. Learning how to pattern and hunt early season bucks may just be the key to a successful season.
Find The Food
The most important aspect of having a successful early season is finding out what the deer are eating. During this time of year deer are trying to consume as much nutritious forage as possible to help them prepare for winter and the rut. During this time of year deer are on a very strict feeding to bed to feeding pattern. By finding the areas preferred food source you will find exactly where the majority of the deer are eating during the evening. Deer, being unpressured this time of year, often enter these fields earlier in the evening. This is great for hunters. During the rut bucks are extremely pressured, but early in the season deer have not been hunted for months and feel comfortable entering fields with plenty of shooting light. This is great news for public land hunters who often have trouble with bucks becoming mainly nocturnal. If you are a public land hunter and can find a preferred food source near or on a piece of public land you will have a great chance of harvesting a doe or buck during the early season.
During September there is no better early season food source than soybeans. If you can locate a field of soybeans, you will be in for a great night of deer hunting. Clover and alfalfa are also great early season food sources.
So far when talking about early season food sources we have only talked about fields, but there is another great early season food source that doesn’t grow in a field. Acorns are highly selected by deer during the early season. White oaks acorns are often preferred this time of year over red oak acorns, but either variety is a good early season attractant.
Get Out And Scout
After locating the preferred food source on or near your property it is time to scout the area and make a game plan going into the season. Bucks are changing their movement patterns this time of year, so scouting is important. It is also important to scout several different times throughout the weeks leading up to opening day because of the fact that bucks are moving to different areas.
As we mentioned earlier acorns are a great early season attractant for whitetails, but in years with heavy acorn crops scouting can be difficult. This is because deer do not have to leave the cover of the woods to get to their nightly meal. This shortens their daily movement making it hard to scout and making the deer even harder to hunt. Also lots of trees producing acorns means widespread food. Because of this deer do not concentrate their feeding like they normally do in a soybean field, again making scouting and hunting more difficult. That makes scouting even more important.
What To Look For
So, what are you looking for when scouting before the season starts? In areas with soybeans, alfalfa, or clover, you are looking for where deer are entering that specific field. Once you have sat over the field for a few evenings you will begin to see a pattern. Once you do, take a look at an aerial map and see if there is good access to the area if you were to put a tree stand in that spot. If you have good access, go in during the middle of the day and hang a stand. Be sure to take all precautions are preparations as if you were hunting. You know that deer are in the area and using that exact location. It does you no good to hang a stand if you alert every deer in the area.
The best thing to do in an area with lots of acorns in to use trail cameras. Find highly producing acorn trees, with lots of deer sign and hang a trial camera. Check the trail camera every week and hang a tree stand if a shooter buck is using the area. Just like I mentioned above take all precautions when hanging the tree stand and check the trail camera as if you were actually hunting. It is best to check the trail camera as minimally as possible.
Hunting The Early Season
You have the deer patterned, so now it is finally time to get in the stand. When hunting private property with minimal pressure it is best to start on the outside edges of the property. This way you are not putting too much pressure on the deer too early in the season. If you are hunting public land, you can’t afford to do that. If you are not aggressive and don’t go after the bucks you have patterned you will so the opportunity. Other hunters will slip in and harvest the buck or other hunters will create so much pressure that it will force deer to alter their patterns or go nocturnal.
Patience is key in the early season. Make sure everything is right before you hunt. The early season can be a great time to put your tag on a buck, but you don’t want to become careless and ruin the rest of your season before it even starts. This means having good scent control, hunting the correct winds, and having great entry and exit strategies.
It is also important to remember that even if you have scouted the deer on your property before, that patterns change from year to year. It is important to scout every year to make sure you have the latest information.
Early season deer hunting can be great. Bucks are often easy to pattern as they travel predictably from bedding to food every evening. By hunting smart and using the information gained from evening scouting trips you tag a buck before most have even started to hang their stands.