September 24, 2014
By Lynn Burkhead, OutdoorChannel.com
As summer comes to an end each year, deer hunters all across the nation begin to anxiously anticipate the year's best time of all.
And that's the time when the law comes off of another year of hunting and we can all rush into the woods with our stick and strings in hand to chase another big whitetail.
After all, many of us dream of having big-antler success every year, the kind of success enjoyed by so many of Outdoor Channel's top hunters.
Whether it is chasing Montana whitetails with Bill Jordan, Tyler Jordan and David Blanton of Realtree Outdoors; an Illinois bruiser with Tom Miranda of Adventure Bowhunter; a Missouri monarch with Michael Hunsucker and Shawn Luchtel of Heartland Bowhunter; a Canadian giant with Pat and Nicole Reeve of Driven; an Iowa monster with Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of Crush; or a South Texas Muy Grande with Jordan Shipley and the crew at The Bucks of Tecomate; we all dream big antlered dreams.
And while everybody gets excited about the rut later on in the fall – and rightfully so – the fact is, as the hunters above so often prove, there is some great early-season bowhunting action to be had for those who will carefully head to the woods.
If the hunters above don't prove this point every fall, then odds are other folks will, show hosts like Don and Kandi Kisky of Whitetail Freaks, Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo of Archer's Choice, the Drury family of THIRTEEN and the Holder clan of Raised Hunting.
In nearly every show referenced above, there are annually some big bruiser bucks that hit the ground when the heat is still on and bowhunting seasons are only days old.
Interested in finding similar success on your own hunting ground? Then keep the following four tips in mind as you head afield and try to make your early-season bowhunting a success.
First, when the early-archery season opens up, be ready to go on preferred food sources since late-summer and early-fall whitetails are still hitting the buffet line with regularity.
The reason for this is deer are still basically in their late-summer feeding patterns across most areas. If they have been undisturbed in recent days, that should give hunters a week or two of dependable feeding behavior each evening.
How do you take advantage of this? By observing feeding deer from a distance for two or three evenings in a row, pinpointing EXACTLY where deer are emerging in the last hour of shooting light to feed and positioning a stand accordingly.
You also can figure this out with trail-cameras, setting up your cameras over natural food sources, early-season food plots or even bait sites (where legal) to see when and where deer are emerging from the dark woods for a late afternoon or early evening snack.
When you have all of that figured out, then hang a treestand pronto for a quick-strike, early-season ambush.
Second, don't be too aggressive, too early.
While early-season food patterns can be good, the best hunting conditions in some areas – for big bucks at least – will often take place later on in October as the pre-rut kicks into gear, the month of November as deer get frisky and the frigid days of December as the rut wanes and the need for food and nutrition puts deer on the move as they seek to build up their fat reserves for the coming winter.
What does all of that mean? Well, in my book, crowding in too close to the early-morning bedding areas of almost completely nocturnal early-season whitetails can be a ticket for disaster and a good way to spook bucks off of your hunting property.
Trust me, after more than two decades of bowhunting across Texas and in other states, I've learned that early-season lesson the hard way.
Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to prove it, although I'd much rather have the taxidermy bill to prove the point.
A third early-season bowhunting tip for whitetails is to avoid the temptation to become a deer photography geek, at least where whitetails are bedding down.
While trail-cameras are all the rage in deer hunting circles, barging into a deer's bedroom to pull digital media SD cards DURING the deer season can actually have a detrimental effect on a piece of prime deer hunting property.
Why? Because mature bucks aren't stupid, that's why! Traipse into a big buck's bedroom in late summer or early fall and you run the risk of letting a mature buck know he is being hunted. And once he knows that, you're chances of harvested the mature buck become almost zero, zilch, nil, none and nada.
Finally, as whitetail bowhunting seasons open up, be sure to avoid one of the biggest mistakes a bowhunter can make each year.
And that's to let your shooting form slide into the ditch. In other words, keep practicing your archery shooting throughout the season.
Why? Because shooting form – and in some cases, archery equipment – can fall out of whack or even fail during the course of a lengthy deer season.
Editor’s Note: Another reason to practice all season is due to camo clothing changes. Big insulated jackets, face masks gloves and other accessories can and will change your shooting form. Very important to practice – at least some – in the same hunting clothes you are going to wear as the season ages.
Trust me, you don't want to realize somewhere in-season you can't hold as long or as easily as you did during summer 3-D shoots and practice rounds, especially when a mature buck walks into a shooting lane and stops just short of exposing his boiler-room vitals.
Ditto for discovering the bow’s sight pins aren't dead-on any longer, an arrow drawn across the arrowrest now makes noise, or maybe the peep sight is developing an alignment problem; there are hundreds of reasons to schedule regular bow practice.
When it comes to bowhunting big whitetails, a shot opportunity at a real live bruiser buck doesn’t come around very often. So be sure your shooting ability and your equipment remain in top notch form from start to finish during the fall deer hunting campaign.
Put these tips into practice and who knows what might happen? Maybe, just maybe, you'll be like the Outdoor Channel hunting experts mentioned above, learning as they do that sometimes, even with deer hunters, it really is the early bird that gets the worm.
Or in this case, a giant-rack buck heading straight for the local taxidermist's shop, early season or not.