I love deer hunting during the early season. It’s probably my favorite time to hunt mature whitetails. There’s been less hunting pressure. Bucks are on patterns. Deer are more predictable. Estrus does aren’t a factor. It’s not 10 below zero. The list goes on.
But there’s a common thread that runs through September and early October — bachelor groups. Most bucks (not all) will run with other bucks from late winter to early fall. This can make them either easier or harder to kill, situation depending. Here are some of those times and reasons.
Reasons Why Bachelor Group Bucks Are Harder to Hunt
The primary reason why bachelor group bucks can be harder to kill than solitary bucks, is because whitetails typically bachelor group up with bucks close to their age. That makes early season hunting tough because until bucks disperse to their fall ranges, you either see most of the mature bucks in that area, or none at all.
The next reason might sound elementary, but it’s true — they have power in numbers. There are more eyes, ears and noses that can pick you off. That in and of itself can make it too difficult to get close enough to their bed to see these deer during daylight hours.
Another reason (the reason pictured above), is because bachelor group bucks generally bed down looking in different directions. This way they can use their eyes in all directions — not just one. In contrast, solitary bucks almost always bed down with the wind at their back. This way they can use the wind to cover behind them and their eyes to detect danger in front. While this is to the buck’s advantage, you still have one 30-degree window on each rear-corner side of that deer that you can approach from where you (in theory) can’t be seen or smelled.
Because of these things, you have to know exactly where bachelor-group bucks are bedding in order to have a shot at killing them. Furthermore, you have to use the terrain and large objects to conceal your approach to the stand location of choice. And remember, said stand location must be out of site of the bedded bachelor group — yet close enough to see them move in daylight — to be in the game. Find that happy medium — which varies based on terrain, food sources, hunting pressure, etc.
The first reason they’re easier to hunt is because bachelor groups are generally overconfident. During the early season, there hasn’t been as much hunting pressure, bucks are less wary and are more likely to move farther from their beds during daylight hours.
The second reason bachelor groups bucks can be easier to hunt is because they’re seemingly more confident in their numbers, which again, generally leads to more daylight activity. This is something you can take advantage of until hunting pressure starts to mount or until groups begin to break up.
Lastly, and the No. 1 reason bachelor group bucks are easier to hunt, isn’t very common. But if you find yourself in such a scenario, act on it. It’s somewhat rare, but extremely advantageous for the deer hunter. That scenario is when an older, more mature buck bachelors up with younger 1½- or 2½-year-old bucks. It’s been my experience that the older deer fall in line with the behavior of the younger deer and move significantly more during daylight. I’ve killed several of my early season bucks under this very circumstance.
See a Mature Buck Bachelor Up with a Yearling
An early season buck is a fun one to hunt — bachelor group or not. But keep these things in mind this season. Apply these concepts to your approach this fall and I think you’ll experience better results more times than not.
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.