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Get Out for Some Early Season Whitetail Hunting

The early season is one of those things you either love or hate. On the one hand, the early season months are very hot, the bugs are still out, and the deer hunting can be a little awkward if you don’t know how to go about it. But on the other hand, early season whitetail hunting can very productive if you know what the deer are up to and how to capitalize on that.

About Early Season Whitetails

In the late summer time period, the early season deer behavior is somewhat predictable (if you can ever say that about a wild deer). They are generally still in their summer patterns, which means that bucks are likely hanging out in bachelor groups and feeding on a regular evening schedule. They will also likely bed fairly close to food sources (i.e., row crop fields, clover plots, alfalfa hay fields, etc.), even within 100 yards. They probably form these groups as a form of predator detection (since they are more defenseless without their hardened antlers) and use it to sort out the local social hierarchy (without having to spar and injure one another, like they do during the pre-rut and rut).

As early fall (usually September) approaches, the daylight gets shorter and testosterone levels rise causing the bucks to disband from these bachelor groups. Once they break up, they start to utilize their individual home ranges more and change their movement patterns. This state of confusion is likely where you’ll catch them during the early season whitetail hunting time period. A good way to locate them again is to use trail cameras between heavy cover and food sources to find that hit list buck and where he is going. The trick here is to not check your cameras too frequently, as you don’t want to pressure the deer and have a buck stop using an area.

Best Locations for Early Season Whitetail Hunting

There’s one simple answer for how to hunt bucks in the early season: food. Although bucks have likely broken up their bachelor group, their daily schedule is still pretty consistently about food. You just need to find that food source and figure out the best way to hunt it. There are several common food sources you can depend on for early season deer hunting.

Clover Food Plots 

In the early season, most of the green and lush plants of summer are dried out and turning yellow, which means they have lost a lot of their nutrition and water, and are more fibrous. Meanwhile, clover food plots are usually very lush and green still, which can make them really stand out to deer seeking the green forage. The best clover plots are often small ones (about 0.25 acre) tucked into field corners, where bucks feel like they can use it during daylight hours. Back Forty Seed Co.® has a great clover blend that will keep the deer coming back for more.

Natural Mast Trees 

Oak acorns (especially white or bur oaks) and chestnuts are absolute magnets for deer once they start hitting the ground. Similarly, soft mast trees like apples, pears, and persimmons are highly sought after. The hard mast nuts are full of protein, carbs, and fat to provide a balanced and nutritious meal for deer, while the fruit species are loaded with sugar and carbs. If you find a group of oaks or a massively productive apple tree tucked into the woods somewhere, you can bet deer will be feeding there in the early season.

Ag Fields 

Agricultural fields can be hit or miss for early season whitetail hunting. If soybean fields are still green, they will be loaded with deer each night, but if they have already turned yellow and are drying out, the deer typically will stay away from them until the late season. Standing corn fields are still very attractive to deer as they provide some forage and are also prime bedding areas. The deer will really start to feed in them when they have been freshly harvested, but that won’t likely be for a few weeks.

To hunt ag fields effectively this time of year, you need to decide what your priority is. If you want to fill your freezer by hunting early season does, then setting up on the edge of the field is almost guaranteed to get a doe within range. But if you want a mature buck, you should tuck yourself back into the woods a bit (maybe 50 to 100 yards). Mature bucks start to wise up and get cautious this time of year and will let other deer come out and feed first. If you can access a stand along a deer trail back into the woods, you have a good chance of running into one of these mature bucks.

Water Sources 

Although deer meet a lot of their water needs by eating lush green vegetation during the summer, that starts to disappear in early fall, which makes water sources very attractive. They’re especially critical in dry, hot weather since deer already have their winter coats and can overheat without water. Another good spot for water holes or even tubs dug into the ground are near food plots since deer naturally will seek water before and/or after they feed. This can be the extra attraction or distraction you need to keep a buck within bow range for a few more minutes. 

 

Early Season Whitetail Hunting Tips

Now that you know what the whitetails are doing and some good hunting locations, let’s dive into some early season bow hunting tips. First, make sure you have the right early season bow hunting clothing that blends in well with the season and isn’t too warm. Badlands® has several early season clothing options for you that are great. You’ll also want to be careful with early season scouting. While it’s important to know where the deer are to inform your hunting strategy, you also don’t want to ruin your hunting area by suddenly putting all kinds of human scent out there and busting deer off the property. It’s important to use early season scent control clothing even when checking trail cams or scouting so you minimize your scent contamination. Try to scout from the road or other non-intrusive places using Vortex® optics to see where deer are feeding. Then while they are bedded during the day, slip in from the food side and see if you can find some clear deer trails.

Try to locate a rub line if you’re targeting mature bucks, because rubs made during the early deer season are generally made by mature deer. Pay attention to which side of the food the rubs are on. If the rubs are primarily on the opposite side of the food, you know they are making them in the afternoon on their way to the food source, which means it would be good to hunt that area in the afternoon. But if you find them on the food source side, they are likely making them in the morning on the way back to their beds, which means you should hunt in the morning.

  

Generally though, early season whitetail hunting is best in the evenings near food sources, as we mentioned above. This is good because it allows you to sneak in from the food source side and hang a stand within the woods a bit. Early season bow hunting stand placement is important because you don’t want to educate the deer before you can really start hunting them. You should be able to then catch a buck during daylight as he approaches the food. But remember that larger bucks usually let young ones feed before them, so don’t shoot the first buck that comes through! Make sure to use an Ozonics® unit so your hunting area stays as scent-free as possible. After shooting hours, make sure you have a way to leave the woods without going back towards the food source. If you do that, you will bump all the deer off the field and likely spook bucks from using that pattern again.

Hunting early season whitetails is a lot of fun if done correctly. Besides the rut, there’s probably no better time to take a mature buck. Get out there and make it happen. 

Summer Deer Scouting Tips to Build Your Buck List

Deer season is fast approaching. Will you be ready when the time comes? Early season deer hunting will often find deer in their summer patterns and bucks holding in their bachelor groups. This is a great opportunity to wrap your tag around a trophy, but how are you going to find that number 1 “hit list” buck? Observation through summer deer scouting is key. Follow the tips below to make the most of the time you have during summer.

Chances are if you are like many hunters you might not have enough “good” hunting spots, and unless you own a lot of land you either hunt public ground or have to seek permission to hunt private ground. If you have not yet secured ground to hunt on now is the time to knock on a few doors asking for permission to hunt new ground. Things have changed over the last few years and it is more difficult to be granted hunting permission, but it can still be done with a little legwork. Remember all a person can tell you is no. If that happens politely accept the rejection and move on to the next landowner.

Summer Deer Scouting Tips

For those with a ground or for those with newly secured hunting land, you need to start planning for the upcoming season. It might be hard to wrap your thoughts around deer season in this heat, but bow season is just a few short weeks away. It is far easier to think about summer vacation than sitting in a tree stand in the fall. Many hunters need to get out of that mindset and start thinking like a deer hunter.

Vehicle Scouting

Get out and put some miles on your vehicle. Bucks will obviously be grouped together in their bachelor groups and will come out to eat well before dark. Travel the back roads and use your binoculars to glass for feeding deer. Be careful to stay far enough back to not alert them of your presence and take down notes as to where the deer are entering and exiting the fields. It is not uncommon to take a drive and see deer feeding in just about every bean field. Also, pay close attention to your food plots from afar if you have any out.

Log Your Observations

It will take good optics to observe deer. You want to be close enough to see where they are moving, but still far enough away that they will not see you. Deer have patterns, and they seldom detour from them during the summer. If a buck is doing something one day, he will probably do it again the next day as long as the weather cooperates, or he is not feeling pressured.

For this reason, a hunting logbook is a great way for deer hunters to keep track of deer movements and behavior. Comparing similar weather along with times and dates of deer movement can help you determine when and where to hunt. Early season deer hunting will find deer holding on to their summer patterns that you are seeing now.

A log should include the date, time, weather conditions (temperature, barometric pressure, and cloud cover, or lack of), as well as the size, location and activity of each deer you saw. Continue to keep a log book throughout the season too. Next year keep a log book as well. When you do this for 3 or 4 seasons you will really begin to notice how weather conditions play a big role in deer activity. Keeping a logbook will make you a better, more successful hunter. The data you have collected will not allow you to know where a deer will be at a certain time of the day 100-percent of the time, but logs will give you a good idea what to expect under certain conditions.

Boots on the Ground

After all your scouting from afar is done and you have a good idea of what deer are living where you will need to get your feet on the ground and do some up close and personal scouting to narrow down exactly what the deer are doing. You might not see the deer enter a particular field or see them leave after dark, you might not know exactly what trail they are taking. However, you should have a good general idea where to start looking and hanging trail cameras.

When scouting always take the same precautions that you would when hunting. Wear rubber boots, your scent free hunting clothing, try not to touch limbs, etc. with your bare hands and use scent elimination spray. Try to do your scouting mid-day to lessen the odds of bumping the deer. These little things are often overlooked during scouting.

Summer Trail Camera Strategies and Tips

Trail cameras are a good scouting tool that many of us rely on. If you are still building your hit list and have not yet graduated to patterning a hit list worthy buck start with minerals or feed. A supplemental attraction is a good way to start developing a hit list during the summer.

If you’re at the stage of patterning a buck worth hunting start hanging your cameras and checking and moving them every other week to learn more about the deer you will be hunting. On grain fields and food plots, figure out what trails the deer use to enter and exit the field. It is important to note which trails the bucks use, and which one he does use. You do not want to be set up on a doe trail hoping to shoot a buck that might never walk past. You should also consider setting the camera up on a time-lapse mode to survey the entire field or plot for activity. This setting is a good insurance program opposed to setting the camera on just one trail.

There are few things you should do when using trail cameras to help improve your odds of not spooking deer. They include:

1. Spray your camera with scent-elimination spray and use rubber gloves when handling and installing the device. Your scent may spook game, and the salt from hand perspiration is a magnet to bears. Otherwise, you may get one great image of bruin tonsils, but that’s all.

2. Test the camera once in place. Even better, practice at home on a bird feeder or bird bath to make sure you know where the camera shoots and how it operates. You may want stills or video and you must know how to adjust for each. Such projects are great for keeping youngsters entertained in summer months.

3. Finally, invest in quality batteries. In most cases cheap is good, but you want batteries that will last a long time to invest a few extra bucks to purchase batteries that will last.

Putting the Observation to Work

By now, you probably have a good idea as to what the deer patterns are. If you have not got all of your stands and ground blinds in position for the upcoming hunt, now is the time to do so. While you are out there go ahead and cut shooting lanes. If you can get this all done well in advance of the season, you are less likely to disturb their routines.

You do not want to get carried away with your shooting lanes. Too much disturbance and the deer will take notice. But, by making cuts now, the bucks should have plenty of time to get accustomed to the changes. Invest in quality pruners and saws. There is no need to buy a new saw every year when you can spend a few more dollars and have one that will last for several seasons.

You might even consider creating some man-made funnels. Some examples would be to create an opening in a fence if you are the landowner or have permission to do so, mowing a path through tall grass, obstructing one trail to force deer to want to take another. Anything you can do to help persuade the deer to go where you want will help. But, there is no guarantee that they will cooperate.

Bow season is fast approaching so now is the time to act on these summer deer scouting tops and get busy locating deer. You might just find an unbelievable buck to add to your hit list that you can set your sights on when the season rolls around.