When Should You Hunt Early Season Bucks?

When Should You Hunt Early Season Bucks?

If you're committed to hunting smart, pulling off a successful early-season whitetail sit is certainly possible!

Question

I’ve heard and read a lot about not hunting early-season whitetails in the morning. I’m planning an early-season road trip to hunt some public land. Should I only hunt evenings? R. Christy, via e-mail

Answer

Evening hunts for early season whitetails (September 1-October 20) are the norm in the whitetail world. Those who own or have access to vast acres of whitetail nirvana preach it as passionately as a preacher delivering a fire-and-brimstone sermon. I don’t disagree. Evening stand and blind vigils reduce the human footprint, and because early season deer are often hunted over food sources, morning hunts over groceries usually do more harm than good. That said, not all bowhunters have access to acres of prime whitetail real estate. Most of my hunts take place on public land, and small tracts of private ground I share with other bowhunters.

Hanging-Treestand-Jace-Bauserman.jpg
Semi-open timber that allows in enough sunlight to produce plant growth and boasts enough cover to hide deer is a great early-season morning find.

When I have limited days to hunt during an early-season trip, I hunt mornings. Period. The key is being smart about your approach. During your scouting, take note of water sources in the woods. It’s very common for a buck to stop and slake his thirst on his way to bed.

Should you stumble upon a water source, take note of the coming and going trails. Next, pull up its location on onX Maps or Google Earth. Use the topography, as well as the trails leading in and out, to tell you how the deer are accessing the refreshment stand. It’s also a good idea to pinpoint likely bedding areas. This will all impact where you set your stand or blind. If water is scarce, early season bucks won’t be bedded far from water sources, and more than once I’ve had a buck come in to quench his thirst at 10 a.m.


When planning your morning approach, be sure to avoid any agricultural fields. This may mean a long walk in and a very early morning, but you’ll want to be situated in your stand long before daybreak.


Besides a good waterhole, I’ve also had good morning success hunting natural food sources. White oaks are an early season food deer crave. Deer will typically devour white oaks first, as they are lower in tannic acid than red oaks. Locate areas in the timber where white oaks are dropping, and you’ll find copious amounts of deer sign. Again, take a look at your possible stand or blind location on an aerial map. Take note of likely bedding areas, and plan your morning-to-midday sit accordingly.


I’ve stumbled upon more than one fruit-bearing tree during my whitetail-hunting tenure, and when I do, I take special note of it. Deer love fruit. If you happen upon some trees with low-hanging apples, or some that are putting fruit on the ground, you’ve uncovered a whitetail gem. As with a pond, deer will often stop and snag a bit of fruit on their way back to bed.

If your area has no water, oaks, or fruit, look at an aerial image of the property and note any woodlots that appear to be semi-open. You’re looking for a location that offers just enough cover to make the deer feel safe, but allows in enough sunlight to produce shrubs, forbs, and low-growing plants. It’s not uncommon for a semi-open woodlot to produce nearly 1,000 pounds of deer-friendly browse per acre.

I often go against the grain, and have found hunting early season bucks during the morning to be very rewarding. Most bowhunters roll their eyes at the thought of a morning sit which means I have the woods to myself.


If you hunt smart, and don’t bump the deer off food sources or set up in a location that sends human stink into their bedding areas, pulling off an early-season morning dupe is very possible.

Recommended for You

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison Steak-frites Recipe. Recipes

Elk Venison Steak-frites Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison...

This Venison and Cabbage Stew Recipe is meaty, easy to make in a slow cooker, and exactly what you'll want to come home to on a chilly weeknight Recipes

Slow Cooker Venison and Cabbage Stew Recipe

Jessyca Sortillon

This Venison and Cabbage Stew Recipe is meaty, easy to make in a slow cooker, and exactly what...

From fixed to hybrid to mechanical, we've rounded up the best new broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. ATA Show

Best New Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

From fixed to hybrid to mechanical, we've rounded up the best new broadheads from the 2019 ATA...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 12: Deer Slam!

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 12: Deer Slam!

Bowhunter Magazine Editor Curt Wells lives his life-long dream of taking all five species of North American deer.

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist witnesses a hen trying to destroy one of his decoys while hunting turkeys in Kansas.

 2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 7: Canyon Ranch Roundup, Part 1

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 7: Canyon Ranch Roundup, Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely. Scouting Tools

Advancements in Rangefinder Technology Through the Years

Chuck Adams

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely.

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe. Recipes

Vietnamese Black Bear Pâté Chaud (Meat Pie) Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Black bear meat is dark and rich, and delicious ground up in this Pâté chaud recipe.

Archer Chris Cammack has arrowed the new world record for brown bears with his Alaskan giant. Other Game

Massive Alaskan Brown Bear is the New World Record

Lynn Burkhead - October 18, 2018

Archer Chris Cammack has arrowed the new world record for brown bears with his Alaskan giant.

See More Stories

More Whitetail

If you hunt smart, early-season success is possible! Whitetail

When Should You Hunt Early Season Bucks?

Jace Bauserman

If you hunt smart, early-season success is possible!

Maybe I'm just getting old, but there are a lot of things in the deer-hunting culture that get on Whitetail

Fool's Gold -' Why Whitetail Patterns Will Surely Change

Tony J. Peterson - August 31, 2017

Maybe I'm just getting old, but there are a lot of things in the deer-hunting culture that get...

This is the video that got it all started! Join the Wentz brothers as they film their first hunt Whitetail

Eagles' Quarterback Carson Wentz: First Bow Buck

Bowhunter Online Staff - June 11, 2018

This is the video that got it all started! Join the Wentz brothers as they film their first...

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×