Early Season Hunting: The hardest thing is doing nothing...
The hardest thing is doing nothing…
So as I type this we are a week and a half into the deer season…and I’ve hunted a total of 3 times on only 2 separate days. While that is a huge blessing to have made it out some, it isn’t nearly as much as I wish but is probably about as much as I should have. You see it’s early and while I already have 1 day I regret not hunting…you know because the stand I was going to hunt had this bad boy (RD) step out 30 minutes prior to light being up:
However, as hard as that hit my gut it really is right to not be forcing my hand yet. You see I’ve said many times hunting small acres or small woodlots can be the hardest properties to hunt but also the easiest. Sometimes I think as small acreage hunters we get the mindset of since the property’s size is small we aren’t disturbing much by hunting them over and over again, especially if we have a short and quick access trail. The sad fact is though sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing.
This time of year the mature bucks are not interested in the does…sure you may get lucky and have a lone doe come into early heat or get a really nice racked 2.5 year old getting antsy…but for the most part you can rest assured the big boys don’t have does on their minds yet. Sure the brutes are aware of what is coming, which is why they can be found getting their body weight up by gorging themselves on acorns, standing corn or green soybeans if still present. It is this desire to get their body weight up that leaves them doing a lot of feed to bed and bed to feed type movements…which if bumped during can have a detrimental impact on your pre-rut movements and potentially your rut movements.
I bank a lot of value on the pre-rut each year, probably because it’s the time of year I’ve killed every buck of mine except 2. It’s the time of year when even the mature bucks get antsy somewhat and become receptive to gentle calling, antler tickling sometimes and can be seen hitting staging areas slightly earlier than before and those small food plots that the bucks were not hitting regularly are now seeing more and more action as they attempt to keep tabs not only on the does but create a pecking order with other bucks. It is that time of year where I really start to hunt more…however it is early still and I must force myself to wait.
It is impossible sometimes to fight the urge to hunt so if you find yourself like me and at times it just seems wrong to not go hunt or you have rare time to hunt during early season try to do one of two things:
#1 Have stand locations that are easy to get to, near food and you don’t foresee being prime spots for big buck movement.
This allows you to get your hunting fix, perhaps nail a doe in the process but also keep a close eye on the movements and behaviors of the deer. This observational type hunting allows you to know when things are starting to kick on and to start moving to your prime spots. Some years we’ve utilized an entire property as our early season place to hunt. This has allowed us the ability to not overhunt our prime spots but still hunt as much as we can and still keep an eye on the overall deer movements and behaviors, because you can bet if that property starts showing signs of the pre-rut and rut…the other properties are as well or will be soon.
#2 Be very wise and careful about hunting your prime spots.
This is the option I love to do, but try to not over do. This should only be done sparingly and with the right wind/weather/timing conditions. As an example this year I just hunted a stand we hung near a bedding location exit trail that we know RD utilizes. Now while I won’t risk this 3 straight days like I will later on in the year…if the weather is right I have no fear slipping in there maybe once a week when conditions are right and take a crack at the legend. You must not risk an iffy wind though this early, so a lot of the time this is not an option…however if right this is a deadly option which can lead to great success stories. Just be sure to be extra precaution with your scent because tipping your hand early to these big bucks can have detrimental affects later on in the hunting season.
So while we wait for the bucks to get antsy and the does to start coming into cycle…watch, take notes and wait. It is coming, and when it does that is when you get a little more aggressive with your tactics. Remember though even when we get more aggressive it is done with a purpose and reason behind it still…abandoning reason is when we make mistakes.
On top of what was shared above here are just a few of my early season tips:
-Don’t hunt the morning over food sources…as a matter of fact limit your morning hunts. Morning hunts this time of year are tough. Food is everywhere! Between the beans, corn, alfalfa and acorns deer truly have food everywhere…which means knowing where they will be before light in the mornings can be a very tough thing. Hence why risk bumping them. This time of year I like to hunt the stretches between the food and bedding areas or positioned directly over food in the evenings. **If you know without a shadow of a doubt you can get in without spooking deer than try it...but be conscious you don't alwasy hear or see the deer you spook.
-Don’t call unless desperate. This time of year let them be…it is still very early and blind calling can do more damage than good. Unless I have a buck I’m wanting to shoot I very seldom call to a deer and even then it is softly and definitely non-aggressive in nature. Aggressive or blind calling is a tool of hunting I want to keep under wraps until it is more effective and now is not that time
-Utilize cameras but don’t force camera checks. This time of year it is tough to not want to go in and see what’s on the cameras you have hung, but hold off. We like to wait and only check them when hunting by them or we wait till a rain. Not like a good mist hunting rain, but a true rain. Yes it sucks because you will get wet, but chances are if it raining that much the deer won’t be moving and your scent will wash away much faster than in dry conditions.
-Perfect your gear packing and gear placement now. Practice packing in those extra layers you will need to do so later on, get used to how your pack carries everything now before you need it so precious time isn’t wasted and noise made when it becomes crunch time later. Know and get in a habit of what pants’ pocket or backpack pouch you always put rangefinder, backup release, calls and gloves…trust me you will thank me come later in the season.
God bless and good luck out there everyone!
Small Acre Hunting