How to Kill an Opening Day Buck | Bow Hunting Deer
If you are anything like us, and we know you are, you might be chomping at the bit for deer season to arrive. You just recently checked trail cameras, and velvet is filling your screen! July is the month that tests our patience as hunters. It’s a tease and a very real struggle to make it to deer season without losing your cool! This is the month that antlers explode in growth and by the end of July a buck’s antlers begin to harden, taking shape to what our dreams are made of! If bow hunting deer is your passion than you know an opening day harvest is a very real possibility. So how do you achieve opening day success and a successful harvest when bow hunting deer? You have heard it before, plenty of dedicated planning and preparation!
Velvet bucks are on every hunter’s mind currently. We cannot wait to check our food plots, check our trail cameras, and start hanging stands. Even more, we really can’t wait to break out the Hoyt bow, and G5 Broadheads and sling an arrow through a velvet giant. However, when you are going after an opening day buck there is a fine line between smart preparation and management, and over pressuring you bucks and your deer hunting property. If you want to find success bow hunting deer on opening day, you have to align your priorities and keep your activities in check. Only concentrate and spend time with the bare essentials.
What Should You Focus On?
This is a pretty common sense question…what should you focus on to harvest an opening day buck? Food! Anyone in the whitetails range could attest to the power of food when it comes to early season whitetail hunting and bow hunting deer. In the first week of some state’s deer seasons, the states that have September opening dates, bucks are still on their summer patterns. Bedding, food, bedding, and repeating it daily to an exact pattern that is very easy to key in on.
This is quite possibly the best time to be successful when bow hunting deer, the only time that competes with being as opportune is a late season food source pattern. Planning and preparation for bow hunting deer over a food source on opening day is an effective deer hunting tactic. So the question now turns from what you should focus on, to being more specific, asking…what food source you should concentrate on?
Again when any deer hunter thinks of velvet bucks and bow hunting deer in the early season there is a common scene in their mind. A velvet buck standing in a lush soybean field! We enjoy cool summer afternoons watching velvet bucks chomp green soybean leaves, but the real fun begins if and when a season opens early enough to catch those bucks on summer patterns. The power of soybeans and their ability to pull deer in and under you stand when bow hunting deer is undeniable.
The only trouble is usually the size, pressure, and the dwindling time you have to be successful. Large agriculture fields offer destination feeding sources, but once pressured deer, specifically bucks will choose to wait for the cover of darkness to come out. You also run into the beans actually turning, bucks switching to fall home ranges, and other food sources becoming available like acorns. In summary, agriculture fields, specifically soybeans are one food source to focus on that can have you kill a buck on opening day, but there are other options if it’s not available. These options also hold many advantages over a soybean field.
Small Kill Plot
Like Travis “T-Bone” showed us in Kentucky, a small kill plot acting as the perfect bow hunting food plot can do wonders on opening day! Why? Small kill plots offer several different advantages over large agricultural or soybean fields, especially for bow hunting deer. First off, small kill plots are usually planted in attractive species for the early season and for the fall. These include oats, brassicas, and in T-Bone’s hunt…clover. While beans hold power, they are turning or yellowing on dates that are right around most state’s deer hunting opening dates. Clover, oats, and brassicas are just getting started for attraction around that same time.
Attraction is only one aspect of small kill plots, the size is another characteristic that helps kill plots be effective for bow hunting deer. Small food plots not only create opportunities within bow range, but are more prone for daylight activity as they are less stressful for mature bucks. These food plots can be great staging areas, placed strategically to attract mature bucks and intercept them before they head out in large Ag fields from the bedding areas. Hunting these small kill plots might create opportunities but it is a little tricky hunting them correctly and with little pressure.
Setup Your Trail Cameras
You know whitetails will be concentrating on the food sources and while you might have seen that bachelor group on the same end of the bean field that isn’t enough scouting to justify building you entire opening day strategy on. If you plan on killing a buck on opening day when bow hunting deer this season, you need to set out trail cameras for more recognizance. Instead of just generally knowing where the bachelor group might be, find out exactly what deer run they take, where they enter the food plot or field, and how often they stay on that exact pattern. If you pair up the observations and information from your Bushnell Trail Cameras, with some velvet scouting, you will be dialed in for opening day success.
Curious on exactly where, when, and how to put up trail cameras to pattern bucks and figure out where to hunt? Check out the blog below for some detailed trail camera tips!
Hang Your Tree Stands Accordingly
Yes you read that correctly…stands, plural meaning two! If you plan on killing a buck on opening day you need to hang multiple stands according to your plans and velvet scouting. Why multiple stands? Everything will be dialed in when you are bow hunting deer on opening day. The buck will show up, it will be deer season, and you will be in the right spot. The only thing you will not be able to control is wind direction!
The early season, with the hot weather and humidity, is the absolute best time to be busted by deer. You worst enemy is the nose of a deer when it’s hot and humid. Paying attention to the wind direction while bow hunting deer in the early season is a must. Figure out the two most dominate wind directions are that are opposites, and hang a stand for each. If you know the buck will come out a particular side of the food plot, or down a particular trail into the soybean field, then hang stands on either side for the wind. When opening day comes you will be in the right spot, and will not be compromised by a poor prediction by the weatherman.
Do Not Pressure Deer
As deer season gets closer pressure increases on bucks, bachelor groups, food sources, and properties in general. More and more hunters are on, in, and around properties doing exactly what you are doing. While it might be the only thing that can keep your inner hunter satisfied during the off season, not checking trail cameras, hanging stands, and scouting too much can be beneficial. While other hunters might make the easy mistake of over pressuring their hunting spots or properties, your property will remain pressure free, and be a haven for an irritated and spooky mature whitetails. When it comes to keeping the pressure off your deer herd and your property you can do one of two things:
Be Consistently Loud or Dead Quiet:
Be loud? That doesn’t even make sense? It really doesn’t, but it is solid advice. Being dead quiet is also an absolute sound piece of advice but both have advantages. Being loud means going in with your gas utility Textron buggies or ATV and leaving it run. Just like on the side of roadways, deer can and will get used to the sight, smell, and sound of a vehicle, and will not associate it with danger (unless your shooting out of it!). This still does pressure the property a small amount, but if the proper cover and whitetail sanctuaries are in place, it will be minimal at most. The advantages come into play when you have to do some actual work, meaning hanging stands, filling Big and J feeding stations, or any other loud activity that is in the norm for taking a side-by-side.
Now this does not mean go tromping through bedding areas and thick cover with them, that’s not normal areas or activity. Leaving the buggie, side-by-side or ATV running creates a normal sound that deer do not associate danger with. The cover of a loud and smelly vehicle can be helpful in creating a constant and non-threatening presence on the property to cover your planning and preparation up. If you don’t want to deal with the fumes and noise of gas engines, more specifically using the buggie to go hunting, you can always look into quieter Textron models like the Recoil.
If you are afraid or do not want to go consistently loud, the other option is stay dead quiet, scent free, and very careful. It will be harder than going loud but possibly more effective. Wearing, using, and spraying sent covering each and every time you go out, and only stepping foot on your property during optimal times will keep the pressure nonexistent on your property, besides possibly running into the occasional deer, it can be effective but can also be a pain in the off season. Each way has its disadvantages and advantages so you are left to decide which one suits you best.
The one thing you do not want to do is be in-between these two options, which unfortunately is where most hunters and managers fall. A human walking through the woods or the food plot, trying to be stealthy but being loud and not utilizing scent control, does stress and pressure deer! This could be detrimental for any hope of being successful bow hunting deer on opening day.
To sum it up, if you want to kill a buck on opening day when bow hunting deer this season, you need to create a checklist and go to work. However, you do need to be cautious and remember these key points when planning and preparing for opening day! If you want to find success bow hunting deer this year, now is the time to focus!