Bowhunting for Beginners - Early Season Whitetail Tactics
- 16 Nov, 2019
Whitetail hunters wait all year for opening day. Early season bowhunting is a great way to get into the woods before rifle season and to capitalize on some stellar deer hunting. Bowhunting in warm weather can be challenging, especially for hunters who are new to the sport. There are ways to maximize your chances of success, however, and putting in time and research is a great way to start. Here are some tips and tactics that will improve your chances of success and help you shoot that trophy early season buck with your bow.
Do Your Research
Deer often move in a predictable pattern in the early season. Whether they’re in bachelor groups or traveling with does, trophy bucks often develop a routine before the rut. Research is important throughout the season, but if you can figure out how deer are moving before the rut, you’ll have a solid chance of intercepting them traveling to a food source or returning to bedding areas.
Trail cameras are a great way to understand how deer are moving and what time you should be in the woods. Set trail cameras in likely pinch points, travel corridors, and food plots to understand where and when deer are moving. After you understand where deer are, dedicate a day in the woods to observation. Trail cameras can only tell you so much and spending a day in the woods observing deer before you hunt them can lead to higher success rates.
Hanging Your Stand in the Right Location
Hanging your stand in the right location may be one of the most important factors during early-season bowhunting. If you’ve done your research, you know how deer are traveling and which areas they frequent during daylight hours. That’s half the battle.
Once you find your spot, however, it’s important to make sure your stand is concealed properly and high enough so deer won’t detect you. It’s also important to place your stand in an area that is easily accessible so you can slip in undetected during the morning/afternoon.
It also helps to have an escape route. Deer are often found feeding in groups during the early season, so if you’re hunting over a food plot it’s possible they’ll feed past legal shooting time. Place your stand in an area that allows you to enter and exit the woods without being detected by feeding deer. If deer are too far to shoot, exiting the woods undetected will allow you to hunt the same property in the future without interrupting the patterns of the deer.
Choose the Right Camo
Early season hunting necessitates the right clothing system. When temperatures drop in October and November, thick systems are important for warmth and for concealment in the woods. In August and September, however, clothing systems are different. Bugs are prevalent and temperatures are often warmer, so choose a system that’s breathable, lightweight, and bugproof.
Odor management is also important during the early season. Whitetail have an impeccable sense of smell and will often spook if they smell a human scent in the woods. Dressing light helps, but other precautions can be taken to conceal your odor when hunting in the early season.
First, wash all clothing with odor killing detergent. Many companies make soaps and detergents that mask the human odor and using these increases chances of success in the early season. After washing to eliminate scent, wait to dress until you’re in the field. After dressing, use odor eliminating spray as a final method of concealment.
Practice Makes Perfect
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s worth reiterating. Summer is an easy time to get outside and shoot your bow. Practicing with your bow will allow you to understand how far you can shoot, how accurately you can shoot, and how much time you need to place an arrow where you want it. Of course, if you’re new to bowhunting, you also want to sight in your bow so it’s accurate.
Shooting in the yard is a great way to practice, but shooting in a stand will help, too. When hunting from a tree stand, angles change and surroundings differ, so take some shots at a target out of your stand before the season begins to become comfortable with your environment and potential shots.
Calls and Strategies in the Woods
Once you’re in the woods, there are a number of different strategies you can use to draw deer within shooting range. Deer are most vocal during the rut (later in the season) so aggressive grunting and bleating probably isn’t the best strategy during earlier months. That being said, deer use vocalizations year-round as location calls.
Stay soft and subtle with your calling. Does and fawns communicate with soft bleats during this time of year so if you’re targeting a doe, subtle calling can be effective. Bucks are also curious during the early season so pulling a buck across a field with a soft grunt is a worthwhile strategy. As long as you don’t call too aggressively or too often, calls can be an effective way to attract a deer during the early season.
While “still hunting”, or hunting by walking on the ground, is a great way to intercept rutting bucks with a rifle, it’s not a good strategy when bowhunting during the early season. Walking through the woods leaves a scent trail and can interrupt deer that are sticking to a routine. If you pattern deer and understand how they’re moving, hunting from a tree stand is the best method of attack. Tree stands can be expensive and hanging them can be time-consuming, but your chances of success will drastically increase. They provide more concealment, more time to draw your bow, and a more efficient way to hunt before the rut.
Spend Time in the Woods
Finally, you may not shoot a deer during your first hunt (or your second, or your third). Deer hunting can be challenging and difficult, so stay persistent. Use every hunt as a way to learn about how the deer are moving and what strategies work best. Use what you’ve learned to make adjustments throughout the season to increase your chances of success. And enjoy your time in the woods! Not every sit is going to result in a trophy buck, but being outside in the woods is a great way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.
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