July 22, 2016
If you want to shoot a buck on opening day, you need to get to know his patterns and tendencies so you can strike when the moment is right.
Some whitetail bow hunters long for opening day while some don't even get serious until the rut cranks up.
Those differing attitudes likely have a lot to do with the way we perceive our chances of finding a buck before the season, learning his movements and creating the right setup to tag him early in the season.
Let's take a look at a systematic approach to killing a buck in the first few days of the archery season.
The end of summer and early fall finds bucks in some of their most predictable daily patterns of the year. They are not being pressured or hunted, they are often in bachelor groups of 3-10, and they show themselves in daylight with a degree of regularity that will not be found again until harsh winter weather bunches them up around any remaining food sources. And it's all about green feed.
Find The Food Sources
Alfalfa, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, clover, hay and oat fields are some of the best places to find these bucks feeding in the late afternoon. If possible, put an Evolved Harvest food plot where you can observe it, and Evolved Attractants if they are legal in your area.
Find a good observation point and spend your evening hours looking over the food sources and taking note of where the bucks are entering the fields. They usually have just 2-3 spots they prefer, and wind direction may dictate the entry point. Make sure you note which entry points they tend to use with what wind direction.
Many mature bucks are very cautious about entering the open areas during daylight. This becomes even more so once the velvet is off the antlers and the testosterone levels are slowly increasing each day as the amount of daylight shortens.
Bucks often hang back just off the edge of the field and observe the behavior of does and smaller bucks before exposing themselves.
I call these areas staging areas because that's what the bucks are doing, staging before entering the field. They often hang out there for as much as 30 minutes or so. These areas are characterized by lots of fresh rubs and a view of the field. They are often in areas where the bucks can test the wind coming from the field. These spots are dynamite if sweetened with some Evolved attractants or a mineral lick.
As soon as I find the entry points being used by bucks I get cameras in place. I cannot overstate the importance of minimizing intrusion in these areas.
If you just go walking in there looking about, there's a good chance the deer may be on edge for a few days, or may start using a different entry point. Whenever possible, I try ease in there and hang a couple scouting cameras right before or during a rain. Not only will the rain mask any noise, it will help to eliminate human scent.
Hang Stands Early
Now that you have developed a plan, it's time to get a treestand or ground blind in place. By now you have likely figured out that in certain winds, the bucks tend to use one area and in other winds, they tend to use another. This never seems to be cast in stone, but if you observe often enough, you should have noticed some trends.
Just like camera work, I like to hang stands or set blinds right before a rain so my scent will hopefully be drowned out before the deer arrive. Cut a minimal amount of brush and saplings to open a couple shooting lanes. Go in, get it set up, and get out of there. The next time you go to that stand, you are expecting to kill a buck.
It's important to take the time and plan your entry and exit routes. Can you get in there without your scent blowing into the area the deer are coming from or their bedding? Can you sneak out without blowing the deer out of the field? These are important issues, and the time to analyze the options is when you are placing the stand, not when you are hunting it for the first time.
Patience For The Perfect Conditions
Now the season has arrived and we are very excited to get in the stand and shoot that buck we have been dreaming about. The bachelor groups and late summer patterns are breaking down so we need to strike early. But hold on, this is where most hunters blow it.
All that hard work goes for nothing if you make a move at the wrong time. Since your first time in the stand offers by far the best chances to kill that buck, you want to make the most of it. When the wind direction and speed allows, it's time to make your move, but not until the conditions are right. Do it right and you'll be wrapping your tag on a buck while others are still dreaming about the rut.