Early Season Tactics

Posted by: Matt Spencer on Sep 5, 2013
Page 1 of 2

As my alarm clock rang I was nearly half way through the morning hunt. Sleep was not an option the night before opening day. I had spent the night ironically daydreaming about the events that were about to take place. My gear was prepared and my plan, well it was failsafe. I had been watching a giant mainframe ten point with three kickers off the base of his majestic, yet intimidating rack all summer and into early fall. The West Virginia leaves were still clinging to the trees and the air had yet to transform to the smell of deer season.


Early season success can be achieved…..it just takes a different approach.

Climbing into my stand my heart pounded with anticipation of finally getting an opportunity at my dream buck. It turns out his pattern was right on cue as I stood with my bow at the ready position. The monarch whitetail closed the distance to 25 yards as he made his predictable journey back to his bedroom. Unfortunately, my lack of bowhunting knowledge at the ripe old age of 14 cost me that Mountain State giant. To this day I still remember that cold stare into his eyes before his hasty departure. It took me a few years to realize how important that hunt was. The early season can be the best time to pattern and harvest the buck of a lifetime. In this article we are going to look at a few simple ways you can tag a mature buck before the fresh smell of fall makes its arrival.

Slipping an arrow into a mature whitetail buck in the early season can be determined much like the real-estate market, location, location, location. This is where you may be required to spend some time in recon mode. Scouting is crucial to establishing a game plan for ambushing a buck that may be on a predictable pattern. Scouting in today’s world is much easier with the use of trail cameras but laying your eyes on a mature buck provides a sense of accomplishment and can give you the added confidence needed to create a calculated plan of attack.


You have to hunt where mature bucks live or it doesn’t matter what tactics you use…you won’t slip an arrow into one.

The Big Three
Personally, I look for three basic circumstances for locating and hunting early season bucks. The first and foremost ingredients are food and water. Mature bucks at this point in the year are concentrating on nutrition and establishing a solid balance of various food sources needed to tackle the impending winter. Today food plots and mineral stations are commonly used throughout the Nation to provide deer herd health and stability. However, if you do not have the luxury of food plots you will need to focus on the natural habitat surrounding your hunting area. Look for fruit bearing trees such as apple, persimmon, and even pear trees can be a target for early season bucks. If fruit trees do not exist white oak trees can be a major draw to deer.


Food and water are major factors in where deer will travel in the early season (before the rut). Therefore, it should certainly be on the early season bowhunters radar.

Stay Hydrated
One of the most overlooked areas for taking an early season wall hanger is near a water source. Deer need abundant water to survive the early season heat and will often visit water sources multiple times a day as well as before venturing to their feeding area. Watering holes can be great places to utilize trail cameras as well. Study your area and know the various H2O locations. It may be your best chance at early season success!

The Path Most Traveled
The second critical element within the location category is finding game trails leading to and from the food source you have located. This is where your game cameras are priceless. Normally in the early season major trails leading to food sources are not hard to find. Personally, I look for secondary trails that may be in heavier cover which can provide a mature buck an easy escape route but still offer a bowhunter an opportunity to punch an early season tag.


Look for areas where trails converge on one another. This will most likely be the highest odds location for getting a shot off at a deer.

 Process Of Elimination
There are two good ways to hunt a food source. One is to place your stand or blind directly next to the feeding area. The second way is to place your setup in the transition area leading from the bedding area to the food source. This is my preferred method due to the fact that it often cuts the distance I have to cover in order to get a quality shot on a mature buck. Feeding locations can be vast but normally the travel routes are small and precise; offering the archer a more predictable and high percentage shot opportunity.

Another reason I hunt the transition area and not the feeding area is you do not want to spook deer that are feeding by climbing out of your setup. This can deter a mature buck from using that area for the rest of the season. You want the deer to feel comfortable in their feeding area and comfortable in their bedding area.

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Matt Spencer
Filed under: whitetailsearly season

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4 Comments on "Early Season Tactics"

Re: Early Season Tactics #
Nice article but deer get most of their water from the moisture in the plants. They do come to water and if you have a deer dong so regularly or if there is good sign at water it is a good place to hunt.
Posted by Smokey on 9/8/2013 5:49:40 PM
Re: Early Season Tactics #
Eat at joes !
Posted by Vic on 9/25/2013 8:16:59 PM
Re: Early Season Tactics #
I'm trying to pattern this buck we named crippled because of his back left leg is crippled, And I havent seen any pictures lattly and all we have is a salt lick i our little plot of woods what should we do to get the deer to use our woods more often. Email me at 19tryan@pequotpatriots.org
Posted by Tim Ryan on 9/28/2013 8:44:54 PM
Re: Early Season Tactics #
Awesome story. I liv in Pa our openin day is oct 5. I am going to hang 3 mock scrapes tomorrow. On saturday I am going to use my buck decoy and try lil grunting. I just started my website, I like yours a lot and was hoping when u get time check mine out and let me know what u think @ give me some pointers if you dont mind. My goal is to get the younger generation into bow hunting and being outdoors. I also list products i use and have a lot of nice trail cam picts. its white-tails-in-the-keystone-pa.webnode.com Thanks a lot.
Posted by Travis on 10/2/2013 10:17:43 PM

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