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Quick Tactics for Lack of Preparation

by Brian Stephens 


October is here and we are all fired up to get into the woods and for some hunters, you have been hunting since September 1. We all wait for this time of year with great expectations as a function of all the hard work preparing for deer season. In the event you have not had time to do a lot of preparation, what are some quick tactics to consider for a chance to harvest a good deer during this early season?

Over the years, the early season has been a productive phase of the hunting season for me to harvest some quality bucks. The number one reason is lack of hunting pressure.  Mature deer are very sensitive to hunting pressure and have a short lease on what they will tolerate. The first few weeks of the season you have a good chance of seeing that big deer before he goes “dark” on you.  

So where do you set up or which stand do you hunt if you have not been scouting or preparing due to your crazy life schedule? This time of year, consider a location that is near water and bedding.  Especially in the South, conditions are still warm so deer may be cruising to water before or after they feed. A trail or travel zone that is between water and food or water and bedding can be really productive. If you have the ability to have a set for the morning and the evening, that can help you see more deer. Typically, deer will be coming from food or water to go bed in the morning. In the evening, deer will typically be coming from bedding area to water or food.


Early season food plots can be highly productive. Some hunters like to hunt right on the food plot and others like to hunt a transition area leading up to the food plot. If the moon phase is such that deer are walking and getting to the food plot with plenty of daylight left, then a food plot stand is great. Many times a bigger, more mature deer will hang up in the woods prior to coming out to the food plot until right at dark. In this scenario a stand that is inside the woods on a trail leading to the food plot can be really productive.  

When we were in Alberta in early September, we saw this unfold on our hunts. The first part of the week deer were holding up in the woods prior to hitting the food plot but as the week progressed and the moon shifted, movement picked up. We started to see deer coming into the food plots early. On the last afternoon, I harvested a 6.5-year-old, 170 inch deer at 5:30 p.m.  I think this holds true in most parts of the U.S. as well. 

As the days click away in October, I want you to go “nuts” and find those white oaks. Those bucks are going to still hit food plots if you have them but will want some natural food sources high in fat preparing for the rut activity. There are trees that produce more acorns than others, so do your best to find those high-producing trees and that is an area to hunt.

Finally, a few final thoughts to consider before you grab your stand and go. Wind is going to be your enemy or friend.  Monitor it and use it to help you. Scoutlook has a scent cone tool and an app on your smart phone that can help you determine the wind direction for you stand location.  

Additionally, if you are dead set on a location no matter what the wind is, then consider products like the Ozonics in the Mossy Oak Treestand pattern or Lethal Scent Spray to do your best to manage your scent. Oh, one last thing, wear your safety harness and use a life line to ensure you are safe climbing and descending from the tree as well as while in the tree. Good luck this October!

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