Keeping these tips in the back of your mind could land you some success in this early warm weather hunting season.
You are on the edge of your seat, waiting for opening day. Your hunting clothes are washed and prepped, your treestands are in place, and your trail cameras show plenty of daylight pictures. Everything you’ve done all summer has prepared you for opening day.
That is, until you look at the forecast and see that it’s going to be in the low to mid 90-degree temperatures.
You might even ask yourself, Is this really even worth it?
Before we go any further, let me stop you right there. The answer is yes, for a couple reasons.
The first: it is always worth going out hunting. Never let anyone, including a weatherman, unless he predicts dangerous conditions, tell you otherwise. The second reason is that it’s early season and opening day. Now is one of the best times to get out and hunt! The deer are on a pattern, bedding to food, food to bedding, and even with the temperatures rising, deer still need to eat.
So how can you tip the scales in your favor? Glad you asked.
1. Dress accordingly.
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This is as simple as it gets. If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t be prepared, and you won’t be successful. Many times, we find ourselves having to buy the best of the best or the newest and most fitting technology for our hunts. During warm weather hunting, or, like this year’s opening day for me in Maryland, hot weather hunting, you need to be comfortable.
I found myself wearing my base layers all weekend with a pair of shorts so I didn’t look as though I was wearing long johns in the field. Sitka makes a warm-weather crewneck and lightweight bottoms that wick away moisture, not only using Polygiene to kill odors but also helping keep you cool in extreme temperatures. Many of my buddies laughed at me when I wore just those, a pair of socks and low-profile boots with some green mesh shorts, yet I was comfortable and able to sit longer than anyone else the entire weekend.
2. Remain hydrated.
I am one for drinking several cups of coffee and Monster energy drinks throughout the day, but in warm weather, I cut back on the caffeine and energy drinks and replace them with water.
It’s important to remain hydrated. I am not a doctor, nor will I tell you how many glasses of water you need to have in a day. I like to ensure that I, along with my cameramen or buddies and anyone else we’re hunting with, remain hydrated throughout the hunt. This doesn’t just keep you from passing out; it’ll also keep your mind sharp and prepared for the hunt. Plus, if you succeed in harvesting a deer, that’s half the work. Tracking, gutting, dragging and hanging your deer follow the shot, so you want to be sure you are hydrated to maintain focus and drive to follow up on your deer.
3. Know the sun’s path.
Here is where you can get ahead of the game. During the cooler months, you want to be looking on the south and southeast facing slopes. As the sun comes up, it warms these sides of the hills and ridges, and when it’s cooler, deer enjoy soaking up this sun while bedded. Just the opposite occurs when hunting warm weather. You will want to try to stay on the north and northwest facing hillsides, as these will often be shadowed during the day, and temperatures will remain cool.
I like Google’s Sun Earth Tool. This tool allows me to see exactly where the sun will be at exactly what time of day, so I can formulate my strategy based on the shadows the sun creates.
Now, there are many factors to keep in mind, and I will touch on them in the next bullet, but as the deer are transitioning from their summer coats to their winter ones, they will usually try to remain as cool as possible, so looking those cool spots that the sun doesn’t reach could help you find a great bedding location.
4. Locate a heavily sourced, discreet water source.
It’s simple, when it’s hot, not only do humans need to drink, but so do deer. The problem is, where and when do deer visit these water sources and which ones produce better than others.
When you begin looking for a water source, the first thing to keep in mind is finding one that doesn’t dry up. In extreme heat, a small creek may dry up, forcing deer to find a secondary water source. You should keep both of these in mind but also try to find one that’s easier for deer to locate, use and maintain without having to risk exposure or too much travel.
When I look for new public property to hunt, I always look for a water source: not the rivers or large creeks, not the ponds or lakes, but discreet, off-the-beaten-path water sources.
If there is a major lake with tributaries that run down a northern-facing hillside that meets into a thick, low-laying bottom, that’s where I start.
Finding a water source that goes through or into a bedding area is ideal. You will be able to accomplish two things when you find this. First, the deer will usually go to this water source just before heading out to feed. Look for game trails and deer tracks in the banks of the creek to pinpoint where these deer are entering the creek for a drink.
The second-best part of finding this water source that nears a bedding area is using this to your advantage as a means to discreetly enter and exit your stand. Creek bottoms are great ways to stay quiet, low and hidden when entering and exiting a stand, especially one that borders a bedding area. The sound of the water moving through the area as well as the lack of leaves and sticks to crackle and break will suppress the sound of your arrival. Knowing how to use the water source is vital warm weather hunting, both as a tool and a source of hydration for the deer.
5. Stick mostly to evening hunts.
This is an argumentative suggestion, and many will disagree with the idea of hunting exclusively in the evenings during warm weather. If you’re keeping current with your trail cameras and using the information strip to really keep a catalog of deer movement in relation to time and temperature, you may notice a few things this time of year.
As the temperatures climb to above normal, deer activity decreases. Deer don’t like to be in the warm weather any more than you do. Often, you’ll find the deer leaving their food sources in the morning prior to sun-up to get back to their bedding area before first light.
This is quite contrary to the later part of the season, when deer will remain in their feeding area well after sunrise and you can sneak into their travel paths between their food source and bedding area and catch them coming back. With the temperatures climbing, deer do not want to be in the field while the sun is coming up, and many times, they will meet you as you are either walking into the woods or offer you only a few minutes of opportunity after legal shooting hours.
In warmer weather, deer are also eager to get out and hit those food sources in the evening. As mentioned above, it’s best to locate a water source or that staging area that gets shade and cooler temperatures as the sun falls.
Many times, you will find deer make their way to the food plots or fields just as the sun is setting, but often, they will have been on their feet for several minutes prior to this sighting. This is when it’s good to be just inside the wood line in a good staging area or, if you are hunting fields, now is the time to find that water source and any secondary food sources (like acorns, fruits, berries, and the ever-so-underestimated browse) the deer may hit before heading out to the fields. The undergrowth of the forest and the natural vegetation of shrubs, forage, low-growing plants and forbs also fall into this category.
When the temperatures are high, deer often stay in the shady areas, near the water source, and feed on these secondary food sources until the sun goes down. They then move into their primary food sources, such as your food plots or green soy bean fields.
I have to say this again: there is never a bad time to hunt. A bad day in the woods is better than a good day at work. Hunting is not easy, and sometimes you may just find yourself asking why you are doing this. Sure, buying the steak at the grocery store is quicker, less work and, when you add all of your hunting costs up, probably cheaper in the end. But the memories you make, the therapeutic time spent in the stand, and the opportunity to challenge yourself make up for it.
No matter the temperature, no matter the weather, when hunting season is upon us, many times more than not, we want to be out in that stand. Fingers crossed for success and remember to stay cool, hunt hard and hunt smart.