By Mark Kenyon
Each year I’ve hunted mature whitetails I’ve slowly become more and more aware of the importance of being low pressure. When I think about it, I don’t think there is a more important over arching philosophy than this. If you want to see, hunt and kill mature bucks – you must limit the pressure on them at all costs. To do this, in the past I’ve focused on not hunting my best stands until the rut, not entering my hunting properties for a few months before hunting season, never hunting with a bad wind, planning careful entrance/exit routes and much much more. This year, the quest to become more low pressure continues and I’ve decided to take a pretty drastic step. I’m giving up my October morning hunts.
I used to be a huge proponent of the idea that “you can’t kill a deer on the couch” – meaning that when ever I have the chance, I should be out hunting. But last year I started realizing that sometimes, if conditions aren’t right, you can actually hurt your long term opportunities on mature deer by hunting every chance regardless of conditions. That said, I’ve begun focusing more on the quality of my hunts more-so than the quantity of them. With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to be giving up the majority of my morning hunts in early to mid October this year. Here’s why …
I first got the idea of cutting out October morning hunts from Don Higgins, an occasional Wired To Hunt contributor, in his book “Hunting Trophy Whitetails In The Real World.” Don explained that the amount of early/mid October activity in the mornings is relatively low for mature bucks, as they typically return to their beds in the morning before daylight. When hunters enter/exit the woods on morning hunts, they end up spooking many more bucks than they ever have a chance of encountering. By a disproportionate amount, this ends up pressuring the bucks and forcing them into nocturnal behavior or relocating before the hunter ever has a chance to see them during daylight during the pre-rut or rut phases when they would be more likely to be visible. For this reason, Don has chosen to almost completely eliminate his morning hunts in early and mid October.
When I think back myself, I’ve seen this to be true in my own hunting experiences and I’ve realized that I’ve probably hurt my hunting chances more than helped them by trudging into the woods every possible morning in October. That said, here is my plan. In October, I’ll be completely eliminating early/mid October morning hunts on my #1 property – as I need to keep pressure on this farm at near 0% until the rut. If I can do that, I know I’ll have a very good chance at a dandy buck come late October or early November. I’ll also significantly reduce my morning hunts on my other properties. But, I won’t necessarily completely eliminate all morning hunts – as there still can be some decent morning activity, it’s just less common. When the conditions are right for a successful morning hunt and I have the right location available, I will still head out, I will just focus on secondary properties I have permission on or public hunting areas. Once late October gets here, lets say maybe October 25ish, I’ll be waiting on that first good cold front. Once that hits, morning hunts will be fair game again and I’ll be in the woods every second I can.
Cutting morning hunts out of the equation may seem drastic, and quite counter to the popular belief that the more you’re in the woods, the more chances you’ll have to kill a big buck. But as I’ve learned lessons over the years, it seems that I keep coming back to the benefits of keeping pressure low. In the case of morning hunts in early/mid October, the risk of spooking bucks seems much higher than the potential possibility of a daylight morning encounter. Because of this, I’m going to be playing the odds and refraining from these morning hunts in most situations, at least on my best properties. Hopefully this will keep pressure very, very low in my best spots, and when the rut phases finally arrive I’ll have a bunch of unaware, very comfortable, big bucks trolling my property during daylight!
I’ll keep you posted this fall on how this goes. Hopefully it will help, maybe it won’t. Either way, I’ll keep you posted and hopefully we can both learn something from it!
So what do you think? Is this too drastic a step to take? Will I be missing out on too many hunting opportunities? Or do you think I am smart to be reducing pressure in this way? I’m definitely open to your thoughts – so let us know in the comments!