It is no secret that most whitetail deer hunters’ favorite time of the year to hunt is when the weather turns cold and the deer start to rut. But many are not realizing the amazing potential that hunting during the early season could give them. Hunting whitetail during the early season gives you a chance to hunt unpressured deer and deer that could potentially be much more easily patterned. Using these early season deer hunting strategies can pay dividends this fall.
Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!
But when is the best time hunt deer? Can you call deer during the early season? Can you realistically kill a big, mature buck this time of year? These are just a few of the concerns that some hunters might have about the early season. Luckily, we have answers to all of them! Let’s talk about a few tricks and tips to having much more success during the early season.
Game cameras and scouting are easily the two biggest contributors to success during the early season. Using game cameras throughout the summer in different areas will help hunters to take an inventory of bucks that survived the previous winter, how much bigger they are getting, and where they are spending the majority of their time.
Once the early season begins, try to pay closer attention to the date and time stamps on images of your target bucks. Learning and understanding what draws a deer to a particular area will greatly increase your odds of actually getting a shot at a buck, and help you to find the best spot to do it. Using your cameras during the early season will help you to understand what times the deer are moving, where they are going, and where you can set up to ambush them. Deer stick to a pattern much more during the early season than any other time of year, and you as a hunter can use this to your advantage.
If you haven’t yet, read Section #A – Trail Camera Strategies for information on how to strategically place your trail cameras during the summer months to pattern mature deer.
A simple grunt call is usually used to lure in a buck during the heat of the rut. But, the early season can also be a great time to use this call as well. The only difference between using a grunt call during this time of year as opposed to the rut is simply the intensity of the call itself. Deer use vocalizations all year long, and by matching these sounds, you can fool them into coming into your setup. Using a soft and subtle grunt call can work on a buck this time of year as long as you do it right.
For example, if you see a buck feeding on the other side of the field, you can give him a few soft, quiet grunts. This will no doubt get his attention and build up his curiosity as to what competition he may have. If he gets curious enough, he will come and investigate. But the key to early season calling is to not overdo it. Use the calls sparingly and be subtle about them.
The best time of the day to hunt deer during the early season can be a very personal and subjective topic, and you are sure to find plenty of different opinions on it. While some hunters will say that the morning hunt is the only worthwhile time to be in a tree stand during the early season, others will argue that they see the most activity during the afternoons. At the end of the day, both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the more time you spend out hunting, the more success you will find!
Morning hunts are a great way to beat the heat, for both you and the deer. Deer can get pretty hot this time of year and will be much more active during the early morning hours when the temperature is much colder. One of the biggest downsides to hunting the mornings, however, is that you will have to enter your stand much earlier and in the dark, in order to get to your spot. You want to be there plenty early in order to avoid spooking any deer and to be ready for when it gets light, so you might lose out on a little sleep!
Hunting in the afternoon can be very productive as well, as deer will start to get up and head towards their feeding grounds. If you have done your part in scouting, you can cut them off at ambush points and be a very effective hunter. The downside to afternoons is that they are usually much warmer, and depending on the area, can be almost miserable to hunt. But overall, both morning and afternoon hunts can be great during the early season, and you cannot go wrong with either one!
The answer to this one should be obvious, but in case it’s not, the answer is yes! You can absolutely kill big, mature deer during the early hunting season. In fact, the early season may just be the best time to kill a big buck, as he is still in his summer patterns and you can almost predict where he should be depending on the time of day. Once the rut comes, he may be lost for the rest of the season as he wonders and roams for does to breed. But if you do your homework and have plenty of scouting, you just might be able to kill him before that.
I enjoy hunting the early season when the temperatures are cool and the bucks are a little more predictable. I do not prefer the early season if the temperatures are high and the bugs are out of control.
The early season might not be as popular as hunting during the rut, but it can be extremely productive for dedicated hunters who are not afraid of putting in the time to scout and hunt. These hunters will be rewarded for their hard work and may even get a chance at a trophy buck before anyone else thanks to the awesome opportunities that the early season provides!