The good news is that for most of us, the bow season is finally here or at least it’s so close we can start checking the 10-day weather forecast and planning our sits. The bad news is that it’s really easy to screw up during the first week of the season. This is partially due to being a little rusty from nine months of no hunting, and partially due to unchecked enthusiasm that it’s finally here.
This brings to mind something I find myself preaching to my twin six-year old daughters that also applies to most of us during the first seven days of bow season – make better decisions. When they (my daughters, not bowhunters) throw a fit over something trivial, I tell them to make better decisions. When they throw haymakers at one-another over which cartoon to watch like absolute savages, I tell them to make better decisions.
When it comes to this article, I’m going to say it five times in different ways.
The Best Stand Trap
If you’ve done your pre-season work, you’ve got one stand that checks more boxes than any other one. There are probably multiple reasons for this, but the main one will be how it’s set up, what trail camera images tell you about its location, and pure instinct that it is the spot of all spots. This is a good thing, until it isn’t. Don’t push it with this stand in unfavorable conditions. If it’s as good of an ambush site as you believe, then let it happen when your chances are the best. Don’t rush it until everything is as in your favor as it’s going to get.
Set That Alarm
Nearly everyone says that you shouldn’t hunt mornings in the early season, let-alone during the first week of the season. This, oftentimes, is a mistake. Hunting mornings during September takes extra work most of the time. You’ve got to scout out travel corridors that you can get to without spooking deer. Some hunting areas have several of these spots, other areas not so much. You won’t ever know unless you do the scouting necessary to make a good decision on whether that’s true for you. Last fall I killed two great bucks in September in the morning, one of which was nearly 150 inches – on public land. It’s possible; you just have to do it right. Don’t sleep in solely because other hunters say you have to.
Locked On The Edge
We all love a stand hung over a soybean field or maybe a one-acre patch of clover. There’s nothing better than getting into an edge stand in the early-season and waiting for the deer to start showing up. Those spots can undoubtedly be great, but don’t forget there are other options. Staging areas off of destination food sources, river crossings, and random travel routes can all play into an opening-week strategy. By all means, sit your field-edge stands, but don’t forget there are plenty of other options out there.
Early Out, Late In
The tendency to believe that most of the deer movement will happen at first and last light during the early-season can be dangerous to your strategy. Sure, most of the deer will move then, but not all of them. Try to sit an hour longer than you would in the morning and get in at least an hour earlier than you think necessary in the evening. A few years ago, I watched a stud of a buck browse through just out of range in mid-September at 10:30 in the morning. By all accounts, he should have been snoozing away, but he was in some security cover and decided to grab brunch. That decision almost got him killed by yours truly.
Waning Focus & Boredom
The woods are thick, the leaves are still out, and it’s easier for deer to move more quietly now than any other point in the season – at least until the snow flies. A buck can be on you before you know it, and that’s bad news if you’re checking Twitter or are just generally distracted by your smartphone. I don’t know how many buck encounters go the deer’s way because hunters aren’t paying attention due to their phones, but the answer is more than zero. Don’t let that happen to you. Pay attention to your surroundings, and you’ll have less chance of having to try to reach for you bow 45 seconds too late.