The scrabble to prepare for hunting season is upon us. Maybe you just haven't had the time to prep in the ways you really would have liked to. Between self-doubt and your everyday life responsibilities, you are most likely thinking that you are no doubt far from prepared for this hunting season. That just isn’t true. The rest of the offseason still offers plenty of time to correct your mistake. To help you along here are five things you should to do before early season bow hunting!
#1 Plant Food Plots
Food plots should be planted in the remaining few weeks leading up to the season. Planting oats creates harvest plots which help increase your chance of success. Plan for cool season forages, like turnips, and peas that will be able to grow quickly in the waning days of summer but provide peak nutrition in the heart of hunting season. Planting a fall food plot is best done in tight quarters. Plan for the shot you want and plant for it. Find smaller areas less than three acres in size to lay down seed. The purpose of a fall plot for the specific intention of harvesting your target buck is to provide him with a sense of security. Big bucks thrive on security and can be encouraged to revealing themselves in daylight if the right combination of food and cover are available. Maximize your edge cover, pinch points, and food plots inevitably make for a great bow hunting season!
#2 Developing a Harvest-List
Building history with your deer helps in the long run. Building your harvest-list is key to success as it allows you to hunt with a purpose. Instead of hunting any deer that walks by, learning to zero in on a specific buck in their areas is not only beneficial for the herd but increases your skills as a hunter. Learn to break down an area to the few hundred yards where a mature buck may bed down, is a journey that may take several years. Keeping a log of movement, encounters, and a hard drive full of plenty of trail camera shots can help you build your harvest-list each season.
Trail cameras are essential to developing an effective harvest-list. If your state allows mineral and protein supplemental feeding through the summer don't hesitate to use products that have these it will only increase your chances for a bigger buck. This is also an easy way to see what deer are on the property you are hunting. Place your supplements five to ten yards from the camera and ensure the angle of the camera is level to capture the action. This will ensure proper pictures of any activity in that area. Check your cameras as little as possible or invest in a cellular linked camera as the season approaches so as to not spook any mature bucks from the area. Always wear rubber boots, use rubber gloves and spray yourself down with scent killer before checking cameras to reduce the amount of scent left in the area! Study behavior and of course any weaknesses a buck may reveal this will allow you to take advantage of certain situations they may help you bag a big one!
#3 Target Practice
Practice makes perfect! We have all heard that at some point in our lives, and as an effective predator, you should always strive to prepare for that one shot one kill! Practice in your hunting clothes to gain a better understanding of how your clothing may or may not impact your shot. You see professional football players practicing in their pads constantly. So why would you not prepare in your gear? Early season clothing is easier to adjust to, unlike late season clothing that is thicker and heavier. Early season shots must also be practiced for. Fortunately, in the late summer you can replicate tough practice shots in the dense underbrush you will likely need to shoot through in the first weeks of the season. Work on shooting at your target through a small openings or around obstacles that way when in action you feel more confident about taking that difficult shot.
#4 Broadhead Selection is Key
Broadhead selection for early season bucks should be no different from what you whould choose for the entire year. Choose an expandable broadhead tip with a wide cut, your expandable will stay shut upon drawing and expanding upon impact. If you choose to hunt with fixed blade broadheads it is extremely important that you make sure the arrows and broadheads are properly tuned to each other and the bow. This may sound like common knowledge, but any imperfections such as limb deletions, bad cam timing, improper twists in the strings can be magnified and reveal themselves when you can’t find consistency with your fixed blade broadheads. Don't be afraid to scrutinize the work of your archery tech to ensure quality because what is worse, telling someone to redo the work or miss the biggest buck of your life three months later? I'll let you be the judge!
#5 Stand Location
By studying your maps, planning your food plots, hang your cameras, you should have a good idea of where to place your tree stands or hunting blinds. Remember, early in the season a big buck is going to move as close to darkness as they can to avoid detection. They may travel long distances to and from their bedding areas and their food sources. It only takes a bit of pressure early in the season to deter a big buck from his main area. Find the paths of travel to and from food and plan to set a stand further down the path in order to catch a big buck on the move to get dinner. These locations are often overlooked by many hunters all in the name of sitting over a nice food plot for an easy stationary kill, but deer take more precautions when walking up to a food source than strolling through the woods. You should base an early season stand location on three tactics:
Distance from the bedding area.
The cover on the path to food.
The direction the prevailing winds blow.
You want to hang stands in the midst of the day and as quietly as possible to avoid spooking your buck from his location.
Early season can be the best time to harvest a mature deer as they are still more relaxed and lease suspicious after a long summer of not being pressured. However, with each day, the difficulty of harvesting your buck decreases as the hunting pressures increase. Planning to harvest a big buck takes a bit of extra work in the early season, but the rewards for planning a precise plan based on the preparation you gather from scouting do make it worth while in the end!