With hunting seasons only days away for many folks, it’s time to dive into early season strategy in earnest. We’ve been preparing for this for months now, but when the first couple days of the season arrive it’s time to put your plan in action. Where will you sit on that first day?
If this question still has you scratching your head, you’re not alone. I myself am still figuring that out! That being said, I wanted to share with you a few important factors to look at when choosing your stands for those first couple days. So here are four key’s to success for the perfect early season stand site.
Between Food and Bedding: As many of you know, the early season lives of most deer are consumed mostly with feeding, bedding and moving between the two. That can make things easy for you as a hunter in the first couple days of the season. If you can pattern a buck moving between his bedding and feeding area consistently, move in quick before other hunting pressure forces this buck to abandon his feeding pattern. Getting between food and bedding is always a safe bet, whether in the morning or the evening, so find those travel corridors and set up.
Over the Right Food: Not only do you need to find a stand in the early season that is between bedding and food, but you also have to find one that is between bedding and the right food. As we’ve discussed before, deer are selective feeders, so that means deer will favor certain food sources at different times of the year and actively choose to frequent those sources that are the most nutritious or palatable. In the early season, when so much of your strategy hinges on deer hitting these food sources, you need to be sure you know which sources are being hit. Corn will be hitting hard by October, but most beans will be turning and losing their palatability. Green food plots can pull in deer this time of year, but be aware that as soon as the acorns start falling, they’ll attract a lot of deer. Keep on watch for these changes, and adjust your early season stands accordingly. If you’re hunting the wrong food, you’ll be having some long, boring, deerless nights.
Water: This time of year water can be a huge factor as well. Especially during those hot spells we sometimes get in September or October, if you can set up on or near a water source you’ll have a strong chance of seeing some activity. Hunting water can be particularly effective if good water sources are rare in your area. If you’re lacking water in your area, consider putting in a small watering hole. I’ve read of many people using this tactic to draw in deer from many properties around and having great success in the early season.
Low Impact: Possibly the most important factor to consider when choosing early season stand locations, in my opinion, is making sure it is low impact. What do I mean by this? I mean you want to be able to go in and out of this stand and hunt it without pressuring your deer too much. If you’re not actively on a patterned deer, you should be particularly careful to avoid contaminating your best stand locations. I typically will keep my best spots for the rut, and try hard in the early season not to blow out my top locations. That being said, in the early season you need to work particularly hard to have stealthy entry and exit routes, while also having the discipline to save your best spots for the right time. The less pressure you put on the property in the general, the more success you’ll see later in the year.
With crunch time well upon us, now is the time to finalize your plans for those early days of the season. Make sure to take inventory of the above factors when choosing your stands, and you’ll be much more likely to see early success. Hopefully this year mosquitos won’t be the only thing you’re killing during the first hot days of the hunting season!