August 01, 2017There is nothing like getting a crack at an early season buck. Pinpointing a whitetail's movement then capitalizing is like playing a perfect chess game. Making this all happen isn't luck. In reality, killing mature bucks comes down to a 365-day-a-year endeavor. Even in the hot summer days there are important steps that put you closer to harvesting a mature buck.
Right now is the time to get prepped, scout, and discover what changed. Taking steps in the summer to pinpoint and pattern mature bucks is what creates deer hunting legends. You can't barge into the woods! It's time to use stealthy tactics long before the hunting seasons actually open. Let's discuss four techniques to get a crack at a bruiser opening day whitetail. Low impact techniques that produce big results.
Long Range Glassing
Glassing whitetails during the summer months has always been a great way to pinpoint bucks. With the onset of trail cameras, many hunters have gotten away from spending time on glass. I feel that is a detriment to a hunter's overall whitetail knowledge. There is so much more I can learn by glassing. I start to pick up on specific behaviors, such as vocal responsiveness, interactions with other deer, exact movement, attitude and demeanor. All of these things can be used later to help me exploit weaknesses.
The author's early season success was from preparation and planning.
Even in August, we can cause havoc for hunting the early season. During this time I like a lower impact. Glassing fields from a distance is a safe way to scout on a hot summer evening. The more you glass the more you realize how deer use the land. You'll also start to notice that the biggest bucks are hard to pinpoint.
Some days are just better for glassing. Weather fronts really push deer into the open. Watch a soybean field in the evening after a good rain and you'll begin to see lots of activity. While glassing I often focus on the hidden fields that cannot be seen from the road. Don't be afraid to hide in some nearby corn or setup in an observation stand to get a better.
High Tech Surveillance
There is no quicker way to get me excited about a hunting location then finding a big buck on my trail camera. Cameras have become a hot topic and for good reason. There is nothing like getting a 24/7 snapshot of an area. Deploy a dozen cameras across several properties and you'll begin to start an inventory of the local bucks.
I've had enough success to know that some bucks stay in a summer pattern in the early season. It's important to remember that not all bucks stay in this pattern.
When using trail cameras, it's all about low impact use. Set cameras in locations that can be checked without interfering with travel routes. Some rules that I live by are to avoid crossing multiple trails, put them in easy access locations, only check then occasionally, and stay as scent free as possible. In all areas I'm moving to a black LED light to ensure my intrusion is not detected.
My hunting ground gets pressure, so using moderation is important. Many times I let my cameras collect data for a month before pulling a card. Since I'm not using the data tomorrow, allowing them to sit for a longer duration gives me a low impact. It's often takes a longer time frame to get good amounts of data anyway. In areas that I'm scouting, less time might be important.
Premium Early Season Food
During the early season, the lush green forest and standing fields mean that food is everywhere. It doesn't take much for a whitetail to find something to eat. However, there are always some premium food sources around that draw crowds of whitetails.
During the summer months is the time to assess all crops, both on and around your hunting grounds. Some hunting locations are only hot every third year when the crops are in the perfect rotation.
In agricultural areas, freshly planted clover is amazing. Categorize the crops and how they will impact your hunting. Clover fields along with soy beans can be a hot commodity during the early season. Corn provides some early season security and a buffer to human traffic.
Also get an assessment on the acorn and wild apple crops for the year. Taking some binoculars will help you locate bumper crops of acorns. White acorns are preferred but don't produce every year. When food is limited, isolated food will provide a concentration of activity.
When September is upon us, whitetail intrusions need to be extremely cautious. I pull back from doing any hard-core scouting or trail camera usage. Mature bucks don't need to know they are being hunted before the season begins. Often times hunters have good intentions while scouting, but unfortunately it has a negative impact. Therefore, any last minute tree stand prep needs to happen during the summer months. A quick check will ensure new growth hasn't closed a shooting lane.
Beyond checking stands, ensure that entry and exit routes are clear of debris. I am using ditches and terrain to enter into a stand. During the summer it's easy to carry in a chainsaw to clear debris. This makes it easy to quickly clean up anything that will cause havoc on the entry.
All The Right Moves
Getting prepped now during the summer doesn't mean that plans won't change. While continuing to glass right before the season, there might be an adjustment needed. A new buck appeared, a stand goes cold, or neighboring hunters cause deer to disappear.
Don't sit back, make the change. That might mean moving a stand and hunting a new section of the woods. Use the information that you gathered throughout the summer to decide what is the right move. There are no guarantees that the deer you watch in August will be there in October. However, I've had enough successes over the years to keep targeting early season bucks. They tend to have enough of a pattern to make them vulnerable. These four summer strategies will get you one step closer to an opening day buck.