By Mark Kenyon
Savvy whitetail hunters know that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to your hunts. With this being the case, many of us save our best stands and vacation days for the most ideal of time periods, that being the rut. This is sound logic, but sometimes waiting for the rut can be a big mistake too. When conditions are right and the stars align during the early season, you can have just as good an opportunity for success as at any time of year.
With relatively unpressured deer and consistent bed-to-feed patterns the early season can be a stellar time to tag a big buck. But there are a few specific factors and conditions that can lead to this time period being an especially high percentage bet. If any of the following three factors line up for you this early season, it’s time to move in for the kill.
Hot Food Source: During the early weeks of fall, the food source of choice can change often. If you’ve got intel on what the current “hot food” is at the moment, you’ll want to key in on it ASAP, as it could change again over night. Acorns, apple trees, or isolated green food plots can all be dynamite early season attractors.
Daylight Walker: Most mature bucks live largely nocturnal lives until the rut, but if you can sight or capture trail camera pictures of a “shooter” early in the season during daylight, that’s a buck worth hunting now. Hunt him while he’s still sticking to a bed-to-feed pattern and comfortable enough to be active during shooting hours. (Want more insight into the importance of daylight sightings or pics? Check out this post in which Bill Winke of Midwest Whitetail explains his thoughts on using daylight trailcam pictures to determine when to move in on a buck – Bill Winke On Nocturnal Bucks)
Weather: There is no factor that more consistently gets deer moving like a cold front. If you’ve got a drop in temperatures or some light precipitation with a cold front on the way, plan to be in the woods. There’s almost no better time to hunt the early season. (For more on cold fronts and why I love them so much, check out this blog from last year – For Big Buck Success, Capitalize On Cold Fronts)
I’m particularly excited for the beginning of my Michigan archery season because of this last factor, weather. We’ve got an awesome cold front hitting at the end of this week which will be bringing some rain along with it too. It seems the stars are aligning for an great early season opportunity and you can bet I’ll be out there to take advantage of it.
I hope the next time one of these factors is present in your neck of the woods, you’ll be out there too.