Use these proven strategies to tag out on an early buck.
When hunters think of the best time to tag a mature buck, most people immediately think "THE RUT!"
While the rut may be the most exciting phase of the season, many good bucks are also taken during opening week. Besides, the weather is nicer and you won't have to suffer numb-butt from long hours in a stand to tag an early buck. Here's how.
Late Summer Scouting is the Key
To harvest an early buck, you need to know where one is living. The good news is that bucks are often hanging together in bachelor groups and keeping regular patterns in the early season. Late summer scouting sessions can be used to determine if a shooter buck is using your hunting area or if you should look elsewhere.
Prior to opening day, hunters should glass food sources in the evening, particularly soybean and clover fields. Make sure you are not alerting deer to your presence as this may influence their pattern. If a shooter buck is spotted, note the exact spot he entered the food source.
On opening day, arrive early and set up a stand along the buck's entry route.
Use Knowledge Gained from Trail Camera Photos
Trail cameras are a useful tool in determining early season strategy. Some models have time lapse or field scan modes that take a picture every minute for the last 1/2 hour of daylight.
Check your camera cards at midday if possible. Deer will likely be bedded nearby, so get in and out as quickly and quietly as possible. If a buck you would like to shoot shows up on a food source during daylight, hunt him immediately.
Patterns can change overnight at this time of year and the sooner you get after a buck showing daylight movement, the better.
Hunt Over Water
If water sources are limited in your area, placing a stand near a water hole can be productive. Hunt the stand on those hot, Indian summer days when buck movement elsewhere will be slow.
Your early buck might come in looking to quench his thirst. Be there when he does.
Hunt Staging Areas
Mature bucks will often stop short of large agricultural fields and wait for darkness to settle before entering these large food sources. Staging areas are located just inside the cover and often include a smaller, but concealed, food source.
If possible, hunters should use natural or man-made openings to create mini-food plots near larger food sources. These mini-plots are a great place to tag an early buck.
In the early season, deer are relaxed and less wary after going several months with no hunting pressure. Don't squander this opportunity by letting them know they are being hunted.
Maintain a strict scent control regimen while scouting, hanging stands, checking trail cameras, and especially while hunting. Make sure you can enter and exit your stand locations without spooking deer. The goal is not to let any deer see, hear or smell you in their territory.
With a little scouting and strict attention to detail, these tips will help you on your way to tagging an early buck.
What is your strategy for opening day? Tell us about it in the comments section below.