Monday, August 04, 2008

Early Season Deer

© By Othmar Vohringer

Sweat dripping of off my eyebrows and earlobes I sat in my treestand on a humid warm early October morning. It will be another hot day. The only reason that kept me on stand was the assurance that my patience will be rewarded. At exactly 8am two does and a small buck walked under my treestand. A half hour later I loaded a fat doe into the back of my truck.

A few days later I watched six deer, among them two young bucks, passing not twenty feet past my stand, situated in a pine tree overlooking a narrow passage on a slope leading 100 yards belong me into a cornfield. Just before dark a lone older doe came along the same trail. She went less than 40 yards from where the Thuderhead tipped arrow passed through her. In both cases I sat less than two hours in my stand before the deer passed by.

I am not telling you all these to brag but to make a point. Scouting! Not just scouting but smart scouting was the reason for a freezer full of venison in both cases. My pre season scouting is based on post season scouting information. In the post-season scouting I find the four factors of deer movement, food, cover, terrain and structure. In addition I know what the deer in my hunting area all eat. And I don’t mean just the agricultural crop available to deer. I know what else the deer eat besides agricultural crop. I also know what food is available to deer at any given time during the hunting season.

Knowing what the deer eat and when that food is available to them, and how they use the terrain, cover and structure to travel lets me with certainty choose stand locations that will produce deer sightings. It’s that simple really.

The two stands mentioned at the beginning of this article have been placed long before the bowhunting season opened. Although at the time when I set the stands up there where no deer in that area. In fact my hunting partner even asked me if I am sure about the stands because he hasn't seen any deer at that location. I told him, “Trust me, come October opening day the deer will move in this area and use the trails where I placed the stands.”

Hunting the early season may be the toughest time of year to kill a big buck. The key to early season hunting is food. But food is everywhere at this time of year so how can we predict what the deer eat? The trick to unravel this mystery is to locate the preferred food sources. Regardless where you hunt there are certain foods deer prefer besides corn, beans and alfalfa. For lack of a better word, I call these preferred woodland food sources. It is your job to learn what these food sources are where you hunt and then figure out at what time during the season these foods are available to the deer.

When I lived in Illinois the deer loved to brows on honeysuckle and later when white oaks became available deer would prefer oaks to honeysuckle, changing travel patterns accordingly. Here in British Columbia we have no honeysuckle or white oak. Here the deer browse on blackberries that grow everywhere plus on various shrubs. Most of these plants I do not know by name but I do know what they look like and when they are available to the deer.

Figuring out the preferred food sources is just one part of the puzzle. There are other factors that you need to consider in your early season scouting. One of them is the availability of agricultural crops. Don’t assume that the cornfield from last year will be planted with corn again. Farmers rotate fields, last years cornfield may be a bean field this year. Make sure you know what the farmers plant. Food alone does not let you predict what route deer travel from the field to the preferred woodland food source.

Your next step is to figure out the path the deer take. If you did your post season scouting properly you know how food, terrain, cover and structure relate to each other permitting you to make a choice stand selection based on that knowledge and information. With that knowledge select as many different stand location as possible for the early season.

A fresh stand every day.

One of the mistakes some hunters make is to select one or two stand sites and then hunt them every day. I never hunt a stand more than once every seven days. it is a fact that the more you hunt a stand the less the chances are you will shoot a buck from that stand. I always try to have at least six or seven stand sites available. Some of these sites will have a hanging treestand while others are prepared for one of my climbing treestands. All my stands are set up at least ten weeks before deer hunting season opens, unless I hunt on public land where I can’t hang stands in advance. Once the stands are in place or the site is prepared for my climbing stand I NEVER will go near that location again until the day I hunt that stand.

On what day I hunt a particular stand has been pre-determined from the information and knowledge I gathered from my post and pre season scouting. All the stands will be in place long before the deer know that they are going to be there. I have done nothing to alert deer to my presence and I am going to keep it that way by hunting each day a different stand throughout the season. Even If I see a lot of deer from one stand without getting a shot at any of them I will not return the next day, I will rest the stand for seven days before I return do it.

Let other hunters do the work for you.

My very first early season public land buck has been pushed to me by other hunters. Once I figured out how to make hunting pressure work for me I am no longer afraid of the season opening day. On public land I do not worry about food sources instead I look more closely at the structure of the terrain and at cover. I also closely examine what the hunters did the previous year. I do this right after the hunting season closes. Given human nature the hunters will do more or less the same this year. Armed with this knowledge I start to look for routes the deer use to evade the hordes of other hunters.

Setting up on a narrow funnel, such as a saddle or fence crossing in a escape trail I just sit and wait. On escape route stand locations I arrive long before all the other hunters enter the woods and then just sit tight and wait for the action to start. Once the hunters move in the deer start to retreat. In the past I had up to forty deer passing by my escape route stands never realizing that I was there. Setting up on escape routes you will see big bucks that you never knew lived on public land.

I scout far more than I hunt because I believe that proper scouting is the actual hunt. If I do it right then all I have to do is show up on time and shoot a deer. Pre-season scouting is a simple matter of understanding the food source and then matching that foods source to the terrain, cover and structure to determine deer travel patterns. Done properly pre-season scouting is the key to smart stand selection and this in turn is the key to fill the freezer and hang antlers on the wall.

Related Articles:
Knowing the four factors of deer will improve your hunting success
Deer Hunting Tips
Cornfield Bucks
Deer Scent and Calling Tactics Through the Seasons

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