Some deer hunters won’t step foot in the woods until the rut begins to heat up. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing time but they may be missing out on a superb opportunity to kill a great buck. Hunting during the early season can be drastically different from deer hunting in late October & November. There are not many states with early season firearm seasons, so take these tips for muzzleloader and archery hunting.
Skip The Midday
Warm early season temperatures tend to keep deer off their feet. Save your vacation days for the rut and plan evening hunts for September hunting. For evening hunts, set your stands 50 yards off primary food sources. Mature bucks won’t typically expose themselves during daylight hours, even during the early season. Look for scrapes or rubs just inside the woods. Sign like this indicates bucks are spending time in that area as they wait to go out to feed. Buck trails tend to be less obvious than doe trails but typically run within 20 to 30 yards of primary doe trails.
Keying on food sources is a good idea, hunting over water is even better. This is especially true if there isn’t a lot of water in your area. Deer will browse throughout the day but typically won’t hit a field hard without stopping to get a drink first. If you can hunt a water source close to cover and food, be sure to bring some field dressing gloves along.
Deer are often still on summer feeding patterns during early season hunting. They won’t be this predictable again until well after the rut. A well placed trail camera can give you detailed information about what time a deer passes by, where it is headed, and where it came from. Utilize your trail cameras and most of all, trust them. If you have a lot of deer passing by the camera at six o’clock every night, be in your stand in time to ambush them.
Early season stands should be set well in advance of the season. A month is usually sufficient for deer to get used to stands in the woods. Cutting shooting lanes is vital to early season hunting success. Trees are typically still loaded with leaves in September so having ample space is important whether you’re hunting with a bow or muzzleloader. Don’t be lazy with the wind just because it is early either. Deer use their nose 365 days a year. Always keep wind direction in mind before choosing a stand.
Early season bucks aren’t focused on recreational activities. It’s all about food and cover. This habitual behavior leaves them susceptible to hunters who do their homework before going into the field. One last thing to consider… insects can be brutal in September. Bring along a face net, gloves, and even a ThermaCell.