Early Season: Tactics and Philosophies
As I sit typing this blog, the first real cold front in months has swept through Southeastern Wisconsin. Bringing with it the constant reminder that fall will soon be upon us. In little over a month the men of fall will once again take to the ridge tops, woodlots, and swamps. Back to the beginnings, back on the hunt, returning to the wilderness of our forefathers. In this blog I will discuss my ideologies on preparation for hunting season, dissect my tactics for early season hunting, and, as best I can, conjure up memories of past seasons.
For the last couple months I have been going through the continuous preparations for opening day of bow season here in Wisconsin. “Glass’n some fields” as it has fondly been named by my fellow Prostaffers at Suburban Standout Outdoors (SSO) is a weekly tradition of packing my truck with camera gear, binoculars, and as many grown men as possible with the chance of filming giant bucks feeding in the fields at dusk. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Along with keeping an eye on the fields, I have also been running nine trail cameras across Wisconsin to cover and scout my numerous hunting properties. From these cameras I can determine where the biggest bucks are, where the doe spots are, where I need to be, and what time I need to be there come opening night. I have lost count of the number of bucks on our hit list. Between all the properties there are at least 25 I’d like to put an arrow into this season.
Honing your skills is what makes the difference between threading the arrow through that softball size hole in the limbs or wounding a world class whitetail. Shooting as often and accurately as you can is the key. Take note I did NOT say as much or as many arrows as possible; a blown rotator cuff from 100 arrow days pulling 70bs on the Hoyt was my wakeup call a few summers back... What can I say, I’m addicted to being prepared! Take your time and make every shot the best shot it can be. I along with most of the SSO staff shoot at 55 yards or further during every practice session. Would I normally shoot a deer at these ranges? Absolutely not. Then why do I do it? Confidence is the name of the game, folks. If I know that I can kill a deer at 75 yards from the countless rounds at the range all summer how well do you think I felt last season when I squeezed the release on my buck at 47 yards? By pushing yourself past your comfortable kill range you become more confident and more deadly at the ranges you will actually encounter on the stand. A good way to start gaining range is by moving your main distance back 10 yards. If you normally shoot the most groups at 20 just move it back to 30. 20 will feel like even more of a chip shot.
The Right Start
When opening morning comes the start of a new chapter in your hunting career begins. Take full advantage of it. Start this chapter off right. Just like a marathon runner bow hunters must pace themselves. The art of venturing into the world of the whitetail is one of finesse and planning. My number one tactic for early season is to stay out of known bedding areas at night and away from the feeding areas in the morning. Simply put, hunt between the bedroom and the kitchen if possible. A lot of my early season evening setups are right along field edges where deer either enter the field or stage before dark. Here I can get in quietly and quickly and I can sneak out once the deer are out further into the fields. In the mornings I swing way around feeding deer and set up off the fields where I can catch deer as they return from feeding at night to bed for the day. By leaving my better spots up on ridges or deeper in the bedding areas untouched until the rut my farms will stay fres longer and less pressure will be placeed on the mature bucks.
All the hunting tactics in the world boil down to this simple statement: “Deer that are unaware they are being hunted are easier to kill.” From scent free showers and hunting the wind, to entry and exit routes, each and every decision you make should hinge directly on making the least amount of impact on your deer habitat. Foreign human scent in the middle of a bedding area even hours after you’ve gone is the best way to move a buck to the neighbor’s pine stand and off your property. It should be every hunter’s goal to cause the least amount of impact and keep the deer unaware of your presence as long as possible each season. A big buck or a freezer filling doe is more likely to move during legal light if they feel safe and secure where they are living.
Fueled by the hint of crispness in the air and falling temperatures a small ember held dormant will once again be ignited in the depths of my soul. My passion to hunt is ingrained in my very being. Only the ties to God and family burn stronger than my drive for the time spent on stand. I will end this blog with a reflection on my past season that started on its opening day. It’s not one of my biggest bucks to date or the times I spent with friends afield. No, it’s on something much more meaningful.
A Pair of Boots
When my grandfather passed two Christmases ago he left me his truck, my now beloved “Blue.” Inside I found the typical items, bungee cords, an old rug liner, and some long lost 22 rounds under the seat. But stuck way back in the bed were a pair of hunting boots. Boots I had seen my grandfather carefully don before many of our escapades into the woods of Shawano County. It was a moment I will never forget. At that very in moment I knew what I had to do to. I wore those boots in memory of him every time I was chasing whitetails last season. Yes they had holes in them (big holes), yes my feet were always wet and cold, and yes, Joe Zalar was always waiting for me to retie them, but for me it was worth it. Those boots were right there the first day we ever filmed for Suburban Standout Outdoors, they led me to my stand the night I felled my biggest buck to date, and they got me home safely after hours perched high in the tree tops. I don’t regret a second of it.
Don’t have any regrets; make this season about more than just the kill or the size of the rack. Spend as much of it with friends and family. Love every second of it. I challenge you to gaze to east on opening morning, through the leaves and slate gray trunks and think of all those that are part of your life. You may not kill a big buck that first sit September 15th 2012, heck, you may not see a squirrel. When you get back to camp the smiles, friendship and love will be there, but the memories of those lost will be with you always. Bring on the fall; I’m ready for a few more memories.
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