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22 Mistakes to Avoid in the Early Season

Be careful not to make these early bow season blunders.

22 Mistakes to Avoid in the Early Season

The early season is a great time to capitalize on cold fronts. (Honeycutt Creative photos)

The early season is here, and deer season is off to a good start. But if you want to keep it that way, don’t make mistakes, especially the obvious ones. Here is a detailed list of things deer hunters should avoid doing during the early season.

1. Not Practicing with Your Bow

Not spending enough time practicing with your choice of weapon is a serious mistake. When you get that golden shot opportunity, you don’t want to mess it up, even if it does come sooner than expect.

2. Checking Trail Cameras Too Much

Visiting trail cameras too often can ruin your season. Checking SD trail cameras used to be a required method. But with the advent of cellular cameras, it isn’t as necessary. So, place cell cameras in more sensitive areas and SD cameras in spots that are lower impact. Or leave SD cameras unchecked until after deer season, only to collect historical data for the next season.

3. Relying Too Heavily on Trail Cameras

Don’t put too much stock in trail cameras. A target buck might be in the area but missing the cameras. It’s happened to me numerous times. I wasn’t getting a deer on camera, only for it to show up later, or kill it after it missed several camera locations. I’ve even watched deer walk around cameras, or just out of range of them.

4. Scouting the Wrong Places

Deer are focused on bed-to-feed patterns. Sometimes, these are in confined areas. Other times, they cover more ground. Regardless, make sure you target early season bedding areas and food sources.

5. Using the Wrong Access Routes

Follow quality entry and exit routes. Using poor access routes can spook deer while heading in or walking back out. Obviously, this will ruin current and future hunts.

Honeycutt-Early-Season-Alert-1200x800.jpg
Make the wrong move, and you’ll send that deer packing — perhaps for good.

6. Hanging Treestands at the Wrong Times

Hanging permanent stand locations at peak movement times is ill-advised. You’re better off waiting until the day of the hunt. Carry in a lightweight treestand and carefully conduct a hang-and-hunt mission.

7. Trimming Too Much Cover

Taking too much cover might work for the early season. But once the leaves fall, it’ll be too much, and you’ll be exposed. Trim just enough for shooting lanes, but not too much.

8. Misunderstanding Early-Season Winds

Winds can be seasonal. Oftentimes, the early season comes with a lot of easterly and southerly winds, location and terrain depending. Furthermore, winds tend to swirl more, too. So, be aware of the typical winds for the time of year.

9. Always Hunting the “Perfect” Wind

Don’t just hunt perfect winds. Crosswinds are usually better for killing mature bucks. Oftentimes, big deer don’t move during daylight without at least a bit of a wind advantage. So, hunting with just-off winds can be very effective.

10. Not Managing Scent

Early season tends to bring the heat, and not in a good way. Not managing scent well enough can lead to a poor outcome. Tamp down the stink.

11. Forgetting the Right Water Sources

Deer need water year-round. But bucks tend to hit small, stagnant, secluded water sources. That’s especially true during daylight hours.

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Honeycutt-Early-Season-hero-1200x800.jpg
The author poses with a great early-season Kentucky buck from the 2023 season.

12. Missing Temperature Drops

Cold fronts and temperature drops are key days during the early season. Missing these opportunities can lead to missing the only windows of opportunity until the rut.

13. Forgetting Seasonal Food Sources

Food sources are always seasonal. Not staying current puts you behind in the whitetail calendar. Stay focused on seasonal food sources, and increase the odds of intercepting target deer.

14. Misunderstanding Seasonal Bedding Areas

Likewise, early season bedding cover is crucial. Generally, when it’s hot, bucks focus on low-lying areas, near water, or on northern-facing slopes. But when it’s cooler, they might push into areas with higher stem counts, or near oaks that are dropping acorns.

15. Hunting Big Crop Fields

Hunting right on the edge of large soybean and cut cornfields can work. But once acorns start falling, that’s where deer tend to spend daylight hours. At that point, hunting right on big crop fields is usually a mistake.

16. Hunting the Same Spots

Treestand burnout is real. Repetitively hunting the same spots over and over can lead to that. Instead, hunt responsibly, and if needed, change up your hunting locations.

Honeycutt-Early-Season-Scrape-1200x800.jpg
Making mistakes during the early season can decrease the quality of rutting activity on your property.

17. Hunting Right Over (some) Scrapes

Most scraping activity takes place at night. That’s even truer for scrapes on field edges. Focusing on scrapes well away from bedding is generally futile. But scrapes on the edges of bedding cover can produce encounters.

18. Hunting Mornings Improperly

I prefer to save morning hunts for the pre-rut and rut. Unless an early-season situation is conducive to getting into position without spooking deer, hunting mornings can lead to ruin. So, don’t hunt mornings unless entry and exit is bulletproof.

19. Ignoring Fresh Buck Sign

Fresh sign is everything, especially as bucks settle into their fall range. Don’t ignore new rubs and scrapes on the landscape. These can clue you in to what the bucks are doing on the property, and how they are maneuvering it.

20. Getting Crazy with Calls

I tend to save most calling efforts for the pre-rut and rut. I might throw a soft social grunt or light tickling of the antlers at them, but that’s about it. I don’t go crazy on the calls until late-October.

21. Hunting Target Bucks Too Soon

Approximately 50 percent of bucks have different summer and fall ranges. Some target bucks will remain on the property all season long though. If your historical data suggests a buck will stick around, and there isn’t a fear of someone else tagging it first, perhaps wait until conditions are closer to perfect before hunting it. Hunting certain target bucks too soon can decrease the odds of killing them.

22. Waiting Too Late to Target Bucks

In contrast, waiting too long to target a given deer can be a mistake, too. Some deer that spend the summer and early fall timeframe on your property might relocate elsewhere for the rut. Therefore, if you expect that to happen, the early season is the best time to kill such bucks.

All things considered, there are many early season deer hunting mistakes to avoid. Keep those mentioned here in mind as we move deeper into deer season.




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