Early season deer hunting success is a lesson in tolerance of an almost intolerable situation.
Where I hunt, the heat index and relative humidity compete to see which will be higher. Temperatures in the afternoon often reach well into the 90s. This creates challenges for hunters regarding scent control, where to hunt and ingress and egress considerations.
The temptation of taking a big, early season buck compels many to hunt regardless of conditions. Early season and bowhunting are typically the same thing, and bowhunting in the heat can be tough. You need to even the tough odds with specific tactics.
First, control the things you can control.
Unless wind conditions are ideal for a specific stand, don’t hunt there until the wind works in your favor, even if the stand is where trail cams or personal scouting indicates the best deer movement is occurring.
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You can’t control the wind, but you can accept that it can control your success. One advantage of hunting early season is an opportunity to hunt unpressured deer, and now is the only chance we’ll get. Put undue human scent pressure on a previously unpressured buck and see how that works out for ya.
Employ as many of the myriad measures of scent control you can. Bathing with no-scent soap, using scent control clothing and scent-killing spray are good starters. Carry your hunt clothes in scent-proof containers/bags and change into them just as you head for the stand.
Despite the heat, go to the stand early, whether hunting evening or morning. Many prefer evening hunts in early season, and hunters who give themselves ample time to get in the stand can move at a slow, steady pace. The more hurried you are, the more scent you leave and the more likely you are to bump deer before arriving at your stand. Employ stealth measures such as using rubber boots and avoid contact with limbs and bushes with hands and clothing.
On morning hunts, you are working in the dark, and stealth is crucial because deer are likely up and moving, not bedded as in the early afternoon.
Hydrate before beginning the trek to the stand. I’ll pack a light “possibles” bag during early season to minimize effort, but I’ll carry a bottle of water for sure. A parched hunter is less alert.
Because I hunt in country where mosquitoes thrive, I use a Thermacell, turning it on when I start for my stand. Mosquito control is essential as late evening approaches and the insect hordes start hunting us.
Where to hunt is a crucial consideration. Access to water can be a prime factor for deer depending on prevailing weather conditions. During parched conditions water sources can be the prime place to hunt. If abundant rain has fallen it’s less critical, but still a valid option.
When water is near a favored food source, you’re on your way to finding an ideal spot for a stand.
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Look for fresh deer sign such as lots of tracks in one area, buck rubs and deer droppings when choosing the exact spot for your stand.
Being elevated in a stand is good, although ground blinds are fine when a consistent wind direction occurs. But hot, humid conditions coupled with the dreaded “light and variable” wind are risky for any stand.
The egress from the stand and the woods should be as stealthy as your ingress. If successful, you’ll be able to effectively hunt the stand again on the next good wind.
For bowhunting, it may be best to not hunt that prime spot if conditions aren’t right.
Some hunters will have the opportunity to gun hunt during early season and for them another excellent tactic is in play.
Many areas have large agriculture crop fields with soybeans, corn, peanuts and cotton. These and other crops will attract deer and late-evening hunting can be excellent. Hot-weather hunting is easier when you can kill at a distance, but stealth, scent control and preparation are as important for the gun hunter as they are for archers.
Employ planning, patience and perseverance during the early season to hunt the right places under the right conditions and you’ll likely see your success soar.