Early Season: Worst Enemy Is You
“Merry Christmas,” the wife smiled and half yelled-half mocked to me as I walked out to the living room this past Saturday. It was October 1st and that meant the bow hunting opener in Indiana.my “Christmas.”
I smiled, started brewing some coffee and immediately caught myself instinctively looking outside reading the weather and was happy I’d made the decision to wait till the afternoon for the first hunt of the year. It was wet and rainy and storms were scheduled to continue till around lunch…not to mention the wind wasn’t good for any of my early season spots.
It was early…plenty of time left in the game.
Which brings me to the point for this article, overcoming ourselves in order to harvest a big mature buck which most likely is the goal of 90% of those reading this; and the remaining 10% are lying.
Each year I like any other hunter cannot wait for opening day to get here…however I liken it to racing in that if you watch the beginning of a marathon and then that of a sprinting event you quickly realize where I’m going with this.
Hunting mature bucks is a marathon not a sprint. Very rarely does it happen overnight.
Now this does not mean you cannot capitalize an ambush on a big bruiser that first day, I personally did that once, hunt long enough though and you quickly realize this is the exception not the rule. If one truly wants to consistently hunt the highest age bracket of bucks in your personal area one must truly be willing to hunt smart; which no does not always mean harder or more often.
As I sit here typing this I’ve officially had just 1 hunt…it would have been 2 but “bow issues” kept the second one from occurring (different story for a different day). The point though is both of those hunts were extremely low impact, and honestly what one might consider low percentage hunts for trophy deer. It’s early though, and I have slowly become patient and willing to use early season as an observational time period to gather as much knowledge on deer movements as I can and move in the instance it appears it is needed. I wasn’t always that way though and suffered from making what I now refer to as Early Season Traps which oddly enough were all my fault.
The four most common traps I see hunters falling into during the early season are the following:
#1 Hunting food in the mornings.
Trying to slip into a food location stand in the morning in the early season is something I just HATE doing. Far too often you will spook or bust the field upon entry…and that leaves you simply playing the waiting game to see if things cool off enough for something to return. Only way I’m hunting food in the morning is if I have a killer entrance which is (100%) guaranteed to have no interference with deer in the food source or it is a back up location/property I have solely for not ruining my primary spots.
#2 Hunting Inside Bedding Cover
It’s your best stand every November…but here we are in early season and you’re already showing your cards before the game as even truly begun. Very rarely do I like to hunt inside of bedding cover even during the rut (edges fan) but I would never consider hunting inside them in the early season. Mature bucks have but one job in life that trumps eating, sleeping and breeding; staying alive to do those things. By tromping around in their bedrooms you might as well just let them know they’re being pursued and personally escort them onto neighboring parcels with less early season pressure.
#3 Hunting When You Can
I get it, and to an extent I also hold to the belief “You can’t catch a fish if you’re not fishing” but I also have grown to realize just hunting because I can doesn’t mean it is right. If cameras or sightings are not showing movement, the temps are hot….I’m simply not going to go. Why? Because why even allow my presence to be possibly felt after a hunt leaving than to not have it felt at all? What do I benefit from hunting when temps, sightings and everything else say nothing will be moving in the early season? Nothing…so don’t do it.
#4 Hunting Your Best Stands
Now, granted if like me your best stands in the early season are quite different than your best stands come the rut or even pre-rut. However, many of us suffer from trying to remember to protect those awesome stands we all have when the bucks start chasing…they are not chasing so don’t hunt them like they are. Hunting smart would not have you in the same spots now as they would then 9 times out of 10.
In closing I encourage you to use your hunter’s gut as well in the early season. Just yesterday (the 8th) I got up in the morning for a hunt…walked downstairs grabbed my transportation clothing bin and stopped. The wind had me down to just 2 possible spots this early in the season…and both would be pushing it or be potentially damaging the locations for later in the season. I put the bin down and went back to bed, it was hard to do but it was the smart thing to do.
It was the 8th not the 28th, it is a marathon not a sprint.