The season is here. You have spent every available evening for the past few weeks sitting on a distant hill watching the bean field through your spotting scope. Your target buck, along with three or four of his buddies, appear each evening like clockwork, entering the field on the trail just 20 yards from the stand you hung a few weeks ago.
If your season starts in September and you want to kill that buck, you should probably sleep in. We have all heard the term, “you can’t kill them from the couch.” And we know the more time spent afield, the better your chances for seeing a big buck. But sometimes, time in the stand does more harm than good.
Since the bucks are likely bedding nearby, going in before light risks bumping them from their beds or from the food plot. Since these early season mature bucks are on the verge of pattern changes already, even the slightest disturbance can cause them to shift core areas. Once they leave their early season food pattern, getting them patterned again before rut is difficult at best.
Most outfitters and guides avoid morning hunts during the early season. George Cummins, owner of Salt River Outfitters in Central Kentucky said, “We absolutely do not hunt morning stands until the middle of October. It's counterproductive. We have watched our bucks all summer in large bachelor groups hammering the food sources, you can almost set your watch by them. If you go in in the dark, and spook any of your bucks, your morning hunt is ruined as well as your afternoon hunt. If you alter their routine, it will take a day or two to get back to normal. Even if you think you have them figured out on a morning routine, don't chance spooking them. Kill them that afternoon when you know you can set up without spooking them. We were 80 percent successful last September without ever stepping foot in the fields of a morning.”
In addition to not hunting mornings during the early season, Cummins also suggests hunting field edges for evening hunts in early September. “We stick to field edges for the first two weeks of our season,” Cummins said. Doing so helps to further ensure that you aren’t disturbing the early season routine of a mature buck.
Luke Carswell, owner of 7 Bar Outfitters in Northern KY, also recommends avoiding morning hunts during the early archery season. “We usually don't hunt mornings the first few weeks of season. It takes the perfect farm layout to be able to slip in undetected while they are coming back to bed from the feeding areas. We've had great success at this strategy the past several years,” Carswell said. Multiple free-range Boone and Crockett bucks back up his claim.
So, when early season rolls around, take a tip from successful guides and outfitters. Sleep in, have a good breakfast, and hit the stand for a successful evening hunt.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.