Early Season Whitetail Scenarios: What Would You Do?
Situation #1: The Curveball – A group of bucks changes their trail routine just as the season opens.
Early season scouting has shown a group of three bucks that bed on a hillside above a clover food plot. Every evening, like clockwork they filter down through a 75 yard wide timber draw before emerging in the clover to feed. They don’t enter the field all at once, instead they enter in what appears to be 15 minute intervals. The largest of the three bucks, the biggest deer you have seen always hits the field last. Before the season opens you hang a stand in the draw on the field edge 30 yards from where the deer are entering the field in hopes of an opening day shot. As opening day comes around and after several evening hunts it becomes obvious the bucks are not doing exactly what they had been. They are still showing up every evening and entering the field one at a time every 10-15 minutes, and the big boy is always the last to enter. However they have now started to use a thin CRP drainage ditch to enter the field that is out of range of a shot.
What Should You Do?
• Throw caution to the wind! The next evening, if history repeats itself, get out of your stand once the first buck has entered the field and sneak to a wood pile that will provide you cover and is within range of the CRP ditch the bucks are using to enter the field.
• Stay put the rest of the evening and let the deer disperse. In the mid-morning, if there are no deer present come back and hang a stand near the point where the deer are entering the CRP ditch. Then hunt it that evening.
• Stay in stand and use a grunt tube or bleat call to peak the curiosity of the bucks to come your way.
• Leave your stand in place and use a decoy the next evening.
• Do nothing, keep your stand where it is and hope the bucks start using the old trail to enter the field. After all they changed their pattern on you once so they may change back.
Answer: I am going with option [B] stay put the rest of the hunt and then move your stand to a tree closer to the new entry point the next day. During the early season I don’t want to be too aggressive as I don’t want to risk spooking these deer. While moving the stand is a risk it is not as aggressive as some of the other options and will give you the best chance to shoot the big boy in his current pattern. The following mid-morning after the deer have gone to bed sneak in and place a stand within shooting range of the trail. Do so quickly and quietly, get in – get out.
Option [E} would be runner up and is still a good choice. However this is wishful thinking and soon the bucks will be breaking apart from each other and on to their fall patterns.
Steer away from Options [C] and [D]. Decoys and calls are more successful during late October and November. While you may perk the interest of the bucks you’re more than likely going to make them feel uneasy by using a call or decoy.
Whatever you choose to do don’t choose Option [A]. Getting out of your stand is pointless! If you do so you risk spooking the bucks completely out of their routine and possibly out of the area.
Situation #2: Follow the Food – A Group Of Bucks You Have Patterned Over a Bean Field Have Just Up and Vanished.
All summer long you have been watching several nice bucks frequent a soybean field on a new piece of property you will be hunting in the fall. This property has it all; a nice hardwood timber, dense thick cover for buck bedding areas, adjacent cornfields for additional food source, and even a nice stand of oak trees that will be producing acorns this year. Having seen deer on a regular basis in the bean field you decide to hang a stand on the field edge and continue to witness great deer activity. The nice bucks that you have been seeing even pass right by your stand on a regular basis. However as the weeks go by and the soybeans begin to turn yellow recent scouting trips and trail cameras photos just before the season have shown no sign of deer activity in and around the field. You decide to press on and hunt the stand anyways the first couple of hunts…to no avail. Not even a single doe showed her face in the field.
What should you do?
• Stay put, it could be that the deer are just taking a break from the soybean field and will soon return.
• Scout the closest bedding area and look to put a stand nearby.
• Look for a tree to hang a stand on the edge of the adjacent cornfield.
• Scout the oak tree stand to see if acorns are falling yet.
Answer: I would go with Option [D]. Deer are suckers for acorns and if they are on the ground it is likely deer will abandon other food sources while the acorns are falling. Take a day to scout the area. During the middle of the day slip in to investigate the area, if there are acorns on the ground set a stand near a trail. It might be wise to move a trail camera in the area to give you some visual evidence as well. If the area is visible to you from a far take an evening to glass the oak trees.
Option [A] is okay, but it is likely that the deer won’t frequent the soybean field much until they begin to harden. Deer are notorious for not liking soybeans that are in a transition stage and have yellowing leaves. While there will probably still be deer in the field from time to time eating what green plants are still available more often than not they will move onto another food source until the beans have dried. Deer are vulnerable to their stomachs and will follow the food…locate another source and set up there.
Option [B] is a big no-no! Setting up near a buck bedding area is a way too aggressive move during the early season. This is a buck’s sanctuary and should only be hunted as a last resort. If you hunt this area early in the season you will risk bumping deer out of the area for the remainder of the season.
Option [C] is a possibility if you can find where the deer are entering and exiting the field and know where they are going and have a place to hang a stand. If you can find a place to hunt near the cornfield where the deer are entering and exiting you can do so regardless I am still going with Option [D] as the deer coming out of the corn are likely hitting up the acorns anyways.
Situation #3: Cornfield Monster: A huge buck is living his whole life in the corn.
You have trail camera photos of a huge buck entering and exiting your property’s cornfield via an opening in a barb wired fence, only during the nighttime, only to go to a neighboring cornfield. There is timber all around the property and some really nice food plots you planted in the spring. You suspect this buck his holding up during the entire day and night in the corn as you have no visual evidence of the buck during daylight hours in and around the area. You really want to go after this buck but you don’t want to spook him either, plus the conditions to hunt the area are less than desirable. After further review of the area you notice that there is what appears to be a hidden oasis in the middle of the field – a decent sized tree surrounded by tall grasses and shrubs. You also take note that the field edge where the opening in the fence is really isn’t very wide as the stalks go from fence line to fence line only to leading to the other corn field. However there are trees along the fence line near the opening that would give you a narrow shot if need be.
What should you do?
• Hunt elsewhere until the corn in the area has been picked.
• Check out the hidden oasis, if you find enough cover and the tree can hold you safely hunt there.
• Hang a stand on the field edge where the buck is crossing back and forth.
• [B] and [C].
Answer: Personally I would choose Option [A], but Option [D] would be an acceptable answer as well. It appears you have a serial cornfield slob who spends his entire life roaming the rows, at least until harvest. Sometimes it is best to just leave the deer be and hunt elsewhere until you can actually devise a solid plan to go after him. Once the corn is harvested the buck will more than likely hit the surrounding timber for cover and then continue to feed in the picked field, which will give you a lot better options. Hit up the food plots you planted earlier in the year. Who knows the buck may unexpectedly show up or you may have a shot at other nice bucks frequenting your food plots.
If you still want to pursue the buck while the corn is standing I would first lean towards Option [C] and hang a stand on the fence row near the opening leading to the adjacent cornfield. You might get lucky and have the buck on his feet crossing back and forth during the morning and evening hours. Be ready though, your shooting area is limited to the narrow field edge and your shot opportunity may be a quick one.
I would then look into the hidden oasis in the middle of the field, Option [B]. If you can get into this area and hang a stand in the tree you might get lucky and have the buck pass by this area. However it is risky because this could be where the buck spends the majority of his day bedded. Not to mention you may spook the deer trouncing threw the field. If you can get in and out of the area without being detected it may be worth a shot.
All in all I am not very aggressive in the early season. More times than not I will back out of a situation like this and hunt elsewhere until the field/s have been harvested. You will have many more options once the protection of the corn is not a possibility for the buck.