Tag Archives: Early Season Bowhunting

Early Season Bowhunting Tips

10 Early Season Bowhunting Mistakes

With the opening day of bow season quickly approaching everyone is confident that he/she will fill their tag on an early season buck. Sure, some will. However, if your game plan includes the following mistakes—you won’t.
The opening days/weeks of deer season revolve around one thing—food. And, for the most part, your best chances of success will occur in the late evening hours just before sunset. Hitting your treestand in the pre-dawn darkness with the zeal of a middle school boy attending his first homecoming dance will only cause more harm than good.
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Early season hunts are a great way to get a head start on filling your freezer.

Getting Up Early

You see, no matter how early you arrive in the woods you’re likely going to bump the very deer you are hunting right off of the food source. This is especially true if you are hunting food plots or other agricultural food sources. Still, even big-woods bowhunters will have a tough time getting to the stand undetected.
Getting to the stand in the morning unnoticed can be done if you know the whereabouts of the bedding area and can come in from the back side and set up on a transition route. Even then you run the risk of bumping deer. Your best bet is to wait until midday and sneak in close to the groceries and plan an evening hunt.

Slacking On Your Scent Control

Early season means hot, humid and sticky hunting conditions. The result is an abundance of sweat. Sweat equals odor. Odor will kill your odds of filling a whitetail tag no matter what phase of the season you’re in. However, it’s more easily manufactured during the early season.
It’s no secret that scent control should be a staple of your overall hunting routine but in the early season it is perhaps more important than any other time. This is simply because of the high temperatures and the limited amount of clothing that you are wearing.
Early Season Bowhunting tactics

Choose your scent control system wisely; especially during the hot conditions you’ll face during the early season.

In other words, you’re going to sweat, a lot, and you’re not going to be able to hide it under 5 layers of clothing like you would during the cold conditions of the rut. Also, bucks won’t be running around in a wonder lust condition throwing caution to the wind in early/late September. Instead, they will be using the wind to the utmost as they make their way from bedding areas to food sources. Therefore, if you’re going to slack on your scent control (not that you ever should) the early season isn’t exactly the best time.

You Shot All Summer From The Ground

Unless you plan to hunt from a ground blind on opening day then practicing for weeks standing flat footed in the back yard can be counterproductive. In fact, doing so could cost you the buck of your dreams. Even worse, you could end up wounding an animal and never finding it. How?
You see, shooting from an elevated position presents all sorts of mechanical differences than what is required when shooting from the ground. For instance, bending at the waste in order to keep the angle between the eye and the peep sight consistent is crucial to making a killing shot from a treestand.
Early Season bowhunting mistakes

Hitting the 3D range with your buddies is a better alternative than simply standing in the backyard shooting arrow after mundane arrow into a blank backdrop.

In addition, arrow impact and shot angles change dramatically when shooting from above an animal as opposed to eye level. Only through “situational” practice, shooting from an elevated positions, can you see firsthand which angles present the biggest problems and which will lead to a short blood trail.

You Spent Too Little Time Scouting

Perhaps the best time to pattern a big buck is in the weeks leading up to opening day. Food dominates the thoughts of a deer at this time and they pretty much stick to the same routine unless an outside variable like scouting pressure or changes in food availability change that.
Early Season Bowhunting

Spending time in the pool is great but summer should also be spent figuring out where the deer are feeding and bedding and when they are doing it.

Therefore if you’re going to scout then do it from a distance with quality optics. That will help you keep the element of surprise while still maintaining tabs on the comings and goings of the deer herd. If you hunt in a mountainous settings then trail cameras can be a good scouting tool. Just be sure to check them during the late morning hours when your odds of bumping into deer are the lowest.

You Don’t Know The Favored Food Source

Speaking of food sources it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you don’t know the preferred food source of the deer then you probably aren’t going to be able to formulate a solid early season game plan.
It is important to stay one step ahead of the deer by understanding which food sources will be available not only when the season opens but in the weeks that follow too. This applies to those hunting over food plots as well as the hardwoods.
Bowhunting Early Season

Attractants are a good alternative to bringing bucks in close when natural food sources are scarce or hard to find.

Those hunting hardwoods need to know the availability of mast crops as well as which ridges hold oaks that are actually dropping them. Also, the bounty of food plots can change depending on how hard they’ve been hit during the preseason and how the weather has affected their overall growth.
The bottom line…know your food sources and their conditions before the season starts not after.

You Dismissed The Attraction Of Water

Unless you’re hunting in areas that harbor creeks, streams or ponds, you really should consider the importance of a water source. Dry, humid conditions will certainly drive deer to any nearby watering holes. Setting up somewhere nearby can certainly be just as deadly as hunting over a food source given the right circumstances.

No Exit Strategy

Hunting near food in the early season means you are going to get caught in your stand while deer are feeding nearby. How are you going to handle this situation?
One option would be to have a landowner or friend drive up (if your stand is on a field edge) and push the deer off of the food source once the sun goes down. This will take the attention off of you and place it on the unexpected intruder.
Another option would be to use a predator call to push the deer away. A little can go a long way so start off softly and if the situation demands it you can get a little more aggressive with your calling in order to achieve the results you want.

Checking Your Trail Camera Too Often

Trail cameras are a double edged sword. On one side they are an awesome scouting tool. On the other they can lead to tipping off the very buck you are chasing. However, that is usually the result of checking the camera too often in the weeks leading up to opening day.
If you know a good buck is using the area then hang a camera and check it once or twice and forget about it until you actually move in to hunt. Checking the camera might reveal the buck isn’t using the area any more but that is much better than pushing him out of the area because you bumped him going in and out to pull camera cards.
10 Early Season Bowhunting

Scouting cameras are only helpful if their use doesn’t disturb the deer you are hunting.

Personally, I would rather adjust my stand sight simply because a buck is no longer there than have to do so because I spooked him. That is the surest way to never see him again. If you live in an area with good cellular service then one of the wireless scouting cameras may be just what you are looking for. If not, limit your trips in and out to view the images.

You Left Your Old Nocks On Your Arrows

This might sound petty but think about the beating your arrow’s nocks have taken over the course of a summer of hard shooting. That sort of beating will certainly take its toll not only your equipment but your shooting as well.
Certainly some of those ‘flyers’ you experienced on the target range can be attributed to worn out knocks. The last thing you want is to pull a ‘rogue’ arrow from your quiver when it’s time to make a shot in the field. Thus, simply buying a new set of nocks and installing them a week or so before the opener will tighten up your groups and boost your shooting confidence and we all know that a confident shooter is a deadly one.

You Didn’t Test Your Broadheads

Why go through all of the above steps and then miss your shot because your broadheads didn’t fly like your field points? The point is you shouldn’t.
And while poor broadhead flight can be attributed to many different things (one being the failure to Walk-Back tune your arrow rest) you’re never going to know your broadheads aren’t flying well until you shoot them. That shouldn’t be the first arrow you loose during the season.
Early Season Bowhunting Preparation

Walk back tuning is a great way to improve broadhead performance.

Make it a point to test shoot your broadheads (fixed or mechanical) before the season starts to ensure they are flying properly. If not, you could run the risk of blowing your one and only chance at the buck of your dreams.


The early season can be a great time to simply put some fresh venison in the freezer or arrow the buck of your dreams. It can also be a nightmare. The choice is up to you which scenario has the likelihood of playing out.

Early season bowhunting tip soft mass

Early Season Bowhunting: Locate Soft Mass

When rummaging through early season bowhunting tips, it doesn’t take much research to realize whitetail’s are the ultimate foodie. It has been said, “For over 90% of the year, food dominates a whitetail’s life.” This means one thing. Locating a prime food source (i.e., soft mass, hard mass, row crops, etc.) which is known to satisfy a whitetail’s cravings, is key to early season bowhunting success.
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One of the whitetail’s favorite food sources during the early season is soft mass. In the Midwest this can include apples, pears, and berries. In the South, you can add persimmons to the list. Therefore, finding a source of soft mass for early season bowhunting can increase your odds by a landslide.

Why Early Season Bowhunting Should Include Soft Mass

In their book, Whitetails: From Ground To Gun, Neil and Craig Dougherty address the whitetail’s diet in a chapter entitled, What Deer Need. Here they explain why whitetail will ‘hone in’ on soft mass:
“Actually, deer are what biologist call “concentrate selectors” which means they are very selective about what they eat, and when they find something they like (most nutritious and palatable), they concentrate on it; thus the term “concentrate selectors.” When the acorns are on, the deer flock to them like bugs on a porch light. They return and return until something more attractive becomes available or they clean them up. They select tender greens and forbs in the spring and shift foods with the seasons. A whitetail can get by on woody browse in winter but he won’t be eating much in the way of twigs and bark when tender young greens or berries or fruits are available. Whitetail evolution has left them with narrow snouts that are perfectly designed to pick up the most tender and attractive foods for their environment. They will leave clover and chicory food plots for acorns and often wont eat brassicas until it has been frosted a time or two. Like a person at an all-you-can-eat buffet, they choose what they crave and pass right by the other stuff.”
And few food sources offer the whitetail more of a smorgasbord than soft mass.

Locating Soft Mass

The most obvious source of soft mass is an orchard, but don’t get stuck on thinking you need a few hundred trees to attract whitetail. Deer will travel some distance to feed on soft mass from a single tree.
Soft mass can often be located in the most out-of-the-way places. Here in Indiana we’ve found soft mass on abandoned farms. While living in the West we located several old homesteads which had both berry bushes and apple trees. These hidden gems can be a magnet for whitetail and are often overlooked by other hunters.
If you’re wondering where to set up for early season bowhunting, consider positioning yourself between bedding and a source of soft mass. You just might be surprised who’ll come in for dinner.

Early Season Bow Hunting Tips

Tried and Proven Early Season Bow Hunting Tips

Little compares to the anticipation that accompanies early season bow hunting. From the scouting and strategizing to the camaraderie shared with bow hunting brothers, early season can seem almost sacred.


Although it requires a delicate balance of action and patience, early season bow hunting can be the perfect time to arrow a trophy. While some bowhunters put their stock in the whitetail rut, others choose to wrap their tags around trophy antlers at the very onset of archery season. Knowing that early season can be extremely productive, here’s a few early season bowhunting tips you can incorporate into your strategy that just might have you tagging out earlier than normal.

5 Early Season Bow Hunting Tips That Have Been Tried and Proven

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1. Find The Food

To adequately put together an early season bow hunting strategy will require locating whitetail food sources. Although deer may have ample browse in early season, you’re likely to find them feeding where they can devour the best nutrition. In the Midwest, that might be in a foot plot or soybean and corn fields that have yet to be harvested.


Another great food source is acorns. Especially in early season, deer prefer white oaks. Whitetails will ignore other favorite foods as soon as the white oaks start dropping their candy.


Whitetail guru Doug Howlett says, “A heavy acorn crop will keep bucks in the cover of the forest and out of the fields even when they hold prime soybeans or corn. Monitor when acorns begin to drop, and when they do, that’s where you need to be. Even if Farmer John just cut his corn field and littered the ground with waste grain or the soybeans are lush and green, the cover of the forest and the protein in the acorns will keep bucks hidden from sight unless you’re there to watch. Think about it: If I called Danny to tell him I was making grilled cheese sandwiches and then someone else invited him over for pizza, where do you think he’d go?”


By finding these food sources you can identify where a buck is coming to dinner. With a quality food source at their disposal, whitetail can be patterned more easily, giving you an opportunity to be in your stand when the dinner bell rings.


2. Scout And Pattern


When putting together an early season bow hunting strategy, there is no substitute for scouting. Today’s trail camera technology makes it possible to determine a bucks early season patterns, which in turn enables you to capitalize on his vulnerabilities. Careful placement of multiple trail cameras can help to nail down a bucks time of movement, travel patterns and behavior characteristics during daylight hours. If you can time a bucks movement during daylight hours, you know there’s a great chance for a harvest.
Cameras such as the Covert Code Black will even send pictures to your phone or email, keeping your hunting area scent free and saving you countless hours driving to and from your property.


When you boil it all down, the ability to pattern a mature buck is what separates the legendary from the lucky.


Another effective ways to gain an edge in early season bow hunting is to set up at a safe distance and scout out the food sources in your hunting area. Whether it’s with a spotting scope or binoculars, spend some time watching the area you plan on hunting to determine the wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure and moon phase that coincide with a particular bucks travel pattern.


Adam Hays III has scouting down to a science. With three 200-inch-plus bucks on his roster and others that top 170 inches, Hays has proven that pre-season scouting is the key. Hays secret is to locate a trophy buck and scout him from a distance until he is intimately acquainted with that deer, its habits and movements.


Hays attributes this tactic to Miles Keller who called this “Hunting from the outside in.” What Keller meant was, “…he would start on the outskirts or fringes of a bucks territory, and methodically move in slowly, getting closer and closer to where he needed to be to kill a buck. He didn’t want to dive right into a bucks core area, make a wrong move and blow him out. He would observe from a distance, try to figure out how he could get closer without alerting the buck, and keep moving closer (safely) until he knew exactly what the buck was doing and exactly where he needed to be to get a shot.”

Scouting and patterning are early season bow hunting tactics that require a lot of patience, but in the end they are sure to pay big dividends.


3. Check Water Sources


Early season bow hunting means late-summer heat. Not only does this create a need for the bowhunter to stay hydrated, but the deer as well. Although deer receive plenty of moisture from the foods they eat, they do require hydration. If you have access to an isolated pond or water source, check to see how much the deer are using it.


A water source is also a great place to set up a trail camera and monitor the water for activity. If you’re in an area where there are numerous water sources, it maybe difficult trying to use water as a drawing card. If it’s been hot and water is limited, then it just might be the ticket. Scout for tracks and check travel routes to and from the water hole. Many a trophy have been harvested over a well-used water hole.


Big deer aficionado Mick Hanback writes, “Working water into your early season routine is smart any year and especially this fall with the epic drought. The hotter it is, the more deer drink and linger in the shade around water. A river or creek, or pond or swamp that isn’t too stagnant is best. Sneak to a water hole from downwind and set up quietly, because some deer are sure to be bedded close in the cover. During a hot spell you might score from a water stand morning or afternoon.”
Early Season Bow hunting

4. Limit Your Impact


Patience is not everyone’s forte, but it’s a must when hunting trophy whitetail. Early season bow hunting success comes down to making sure you aren’t the one making the mistakes; leave that up to your opponent.


Wait until the wind is perfect and the conditions are just right before heading to your stand. Simply put, “Stay out until it’s right to go in.” With applications such as the Scout Look app you can have instant insight into what the wind is doing in your particular hunting area. As difficult as it may be, if the wind is wrong don’t go to the stand.


Pay attention to every aspect of your scent control. From breath to boots, make sure you’re limiting the scent you leave behind in every way possible. I personally prefer not to hunt a stand more than 8 hours in a week. There’s no science in that number, it’s just a goal I set to limit impact and prolong my chances in that given area.


Dan Perez of Whitetail Properties offers a helpful tip and suggests setting up alternate stand locations to keep your impact to a minimum. Perez says, “Depending on the situation, I average a different stand location every two days. In addition, I give each stand at least two days rest, and generally my morning stands are in different areas than my evening stands. It’s been my experience: afternoon stands are not productive during this period. During the early season it is far more effective not to draw any attention to your location. At different times rattling and grunting can be very productive whitetail luring techniques. However, early on, your goal is to intercept your quarry as he travels between his feeding and bedding area, or at his feeding and bedding area, or at his feeding area. Granted, bucks do quite a bit of sparring during this period, and the tickling of antlers would probably draw their attention. Nevertheless, if they catch you, the game is over.”
Season only comes once a year, but if you blow an opportunity at a buck of a lifetime, it’s not worth the rush to get in the stand. Be patient.

5. Have An Entry And Exit Strategy


Most early season bow hunting strategies include a food source. The ultimate goal is to intercept a buck as he travels from his bedding area to the kitchen. Whether a foot plot or row crop the idea is to set up just off the travel corridor and wait for the buck to head to dinner.


In some instances the lay of the land will limit a bowhunters path of entry and exit to and from the stand. This is one reason I don’t usually hunt first thing in the morning when hunting a food source. Most entry routes demand I chance an encounter in the field or on the edge of the field where a buck may be heading to bed or may already be bedded. It’s all too likely I might bump the deer, so to limit my overall impact, I don’t risk it. This is all part of an early season strategy and helps limit overall impact.


The same principle applies on an evening hunt. It’s best not to exit the stand until it’s dark, this again prevents the possibility of alerting deer to your location. When the sun sets and you exit your stand, don’t risk walking through the field that your buck may be feeding in. If possible, make an alternate route to and from your stand. Natural drainages, ditches and low-lying areas are great for this. If you don’t have some sort of natural exit route, make an alternate exit route. It’s work, but well worth the time and effort.


If you hunt row crops and are fortunate enough to have a partner who can pick you up in some sort of farm utility vehicle, this is a great way to exit your stand. Deer are more accustomed to farm equipment and the vehicle is less likely to run a deer out of that area for good.


Bill Winke of Midwest Whitetail suggests, “If you don’t get the buck the first time you hunt him, you need a good plan for getting back to your vehicle without spooking non-target deer that are already feeding. Try to place your stand where the deer will be out of sight shortly after they pass, giving you an opportunity to climb down and sneak away without being seen. Use the terrain and cover to your advantage. Your exit route will likely take you well out of your way, looping back through the timber or following a creek or erosion ditch in the opposite direction.”


No matter where or how you hunt, early season is a great time to put together a strategy that will work for you. There’s little doubt that early season bow hunting can yield great results and taking these simple steps might increase your chances of success.