Opening Day Hunting Strategy | How To Be Successful Your First Night In The Stand
Have you ever known the guy who seemed to be tagged out almost every year by mid October, if not opening day? How could he be so lucky? You put just as much work in during the off-season, so you should have the same success, right? Food plots, glassing fields, and even hanging your stands as early as spring to not alert the mature deer of your presence close to the hunting season; you bust your hump all summer long yet none of it seems to put a buck within bow range during the early archery season on a consistent basis. Maybe he knows something you don’t know, or maybe he really is just that lucky, but chances are, he’s learned from years of experience that early season archery has almost nothing to do with luck. Chances are, he’s discovered the secret to finding, patterning, and harvesting mature whitetails on opening day has everything to do with and patience.
You’ve heard everyone talk about strategy this and strategy that, but what is a hunting strategy to you? Maybe it involves the wind direction or a treestand that give you a great vantage point over an agricultural field. The truth is, your early season archery hunting should have very little to do what you do, and have everything to do with what your target buck is doing. It all starts when he sheds his velvet.
Usually within a few weeks of early to mid-September depending on where you live, the bachelor groups have divided and begin to shed their velvet and transition from their summer range to their fall range. The fall range differs from the summer range in that it usually contains dense cover and a multitude of native foods, especially acorns. By understanding that the range you will be hunting that deer is different from the fields you watched him in during the mid summer months, you can begin to search in approximately the right area.
To find a buck in his fall range, locate the food sources available in the area and use trail cameras in the area to try to gain an understanding of the general areas he uses to travel and feed. Avoid bedding areas this early in the season as you’re bound to do more harm than good. If you are fortunate to pick him up with the trail cams either at a food or water source or using a general travel route, concentrate you trail cameras in that area and use some form of food attractant like a small green food plot in front of your camera for the best result, if allowed by the state you hunt. Pull your cameras with caution, being careful not to leave scent in the area. Assess the images and choose a point of ambush that gives you a wind advantage and good entry and exit routes.
Depending on how early an early season archery pattern emerges, runnin’ and gunnin’ may be your only option for getting close. Use a treestand that is easy to carry and hang while also handling all of your other gear. Wait for the right wind and weather conditions and, when the time is right, slip in undetected and wait for the buck you’ve worked so hard for, to come to you. If you are patient and develop the right hunting strategy to fit the deer movement you’ve observed, you can be successful in finding, patterning, and harvesting mature whitetails during early season archery.