September 02, 2021
November — it's the time of year that bowhunters wait to use vacation on so they can put an arrow into the buck of their dreams. But is this the BEST time to kill that buck you've watched all summer? In my opinion, it's not!
Why Look To Score Early?
For years I have adapted my season thoughts and strategies around one single factor — patterns! Patterns kills big bucks and there is no better of a time to kill a mature buck than when he is still coming off of his summer routines. Sure, he may shift gears once the velvet strips, but the information gained in the months leading up to the season opener can tell us all that we need to know about this buck in order to go kill him. All bets are off come November, when patterns will matter no longer.
Scout To Score
Scouting is the ticket on an early-season buck! Whether it's trail cameras, long-distance glassing, or a combination of both — which is what I recommend — scouting is the key. Trail camera photos and visuals of your buck in the field need to be utilized with a purpose. Write them down in a notebook on the days when your buck was present, taking note of wind conditions, moon phase, barometric pressure and the temperature. Soon a pattern will form on the wind directions that this buck likes, as well as other factors. These pieces to the puzzle will come in handy once it's time to start hunting!
Reviewing Your Data
This is a very critical step to early-season success because it allows us to focus on the patterns of a specific bucks and details that he has given us. There usually will be a distinct wind direction that he likes to move in during daylight. This is extremely important to take note of, especially if he disappears on you right before the opener. You can then go back and look at what wind he liked to use and what areas would put that wind in his favor. This can help you relocate a buck again!
In order to formulate a plan to kill this buck, we are keying in on not only his details that we have learned, but also the pressure factor. During this time a lot of bowhunters will not hunt because of varying reasons — too hot, too many bugg, too many other activities going on. These will all work in your favor! Don't fall into this trap. Make sure you're out there with with a plan set into place to capitalize on a buck that has not yet felt the human pressure factor weighing down on him. This is the only time during the season that a buck has not yet felt the pressure from humans flooding the woods, and it's a huge advantage!
Make Smart Moves
During the early season we are looking to kill a buck in one of two spots — in the morning while he slips back to bed, or in the evening while he comes out to feed. Pick your poison carefully! In my opinion, evening hunts are best because they allow us to predict movement better and keep away from their bedding areas. Mornings can be great if our data shows that we can beat a buck back to his bed with a backdoor entry, but I only do this is the conditions are perfect and if the buck is not showing himself in daylight during the evenings. Remember, hunting tight to bedding areas runs the risk of not only alerting your target buck, but also the other local deer.
Typically a buck will move before dark. This allows a smart bowhunter — one that is playing the wind that his buck likes best — to slip in midday and catch the buck without any deer ever knowing you were there. This is my preferred method. Find his hot food source and slip in before the local deer are on their feet.
When hanging your stand setup make sure to keep a few things in mind. We need to hunt a wind that is conducive for the buck, not for us! This puts us at an advantage of seeing our buck on his feet in the daylight because we are utilizing his preferred wind against him. Also, keep the trimming to a minimum. We want to try to not disturb him as long as possible, which keeps everything the same. Tipping a buck off to our presence will only hurt our odds of scoring early.
No Target Buck?
I'm going to throw this in here for those who don't have a buck scouted out yet. Utilizing what you are given is the main key. Find the food sources in your hunting areas and rate them from top to bottom. I like to work from the outside in while scouting, which means I start on field edges or pastures and work in toward the timber only if need be. Start at the hottest sources and scout them. Look for trails, tracks and clues that a buck is using this area. Hang cameras if possible to better see what is around, and again utilize them with a purpose. Try to think like a buck on what winds he would use and where he would want to bed, feed, etc. Scouting while you hunt and being mobile will be your best friend in this scenario because it will allow you to move in on what you're seeing or not seeing and make changes accordingly.
Put It All Together
The early season is my favorite time of the year to kill a mature buck. Whether it's a buck you've followed all summer or you're going in blind, this is a great time to cash in on the patterns and details that the local bucks will give you. Low pressure and calm deer herds will indefinitely put you in a place to arrow a nice buck if the work is done and steps are taken to formulate a plan!