Today, I want to take you through a scenario for planning and executing a successful morning hunt for a mature whitetail buck. As an experienced bow hunter, I know that hunting whitetails requires careful planning and execution to increase your chances of success.
In this scenario, I’ll be sharing my strategies, tips, and tactics for hunting a mature whitetail buck during the early season. From pre-hunt preparations to wind and thermal considerations, I’ll cover all the key elements that go into a successful morning hunt. So, if you’re ready to learn how to plan and execute a successful morning hunt for a whitetail buck, let’s get started!
Why the Early Season is Ideal for Morning Hunts for Mature Bucks
First, I have found that the early season is an excellent time to catch a mature buck still on his summer food to bed pattern in the morning. Some bow hunters stay away from hunting mornings in the early season, but I’ve found it can be one of the most rewarding times to hunt if you scout and pattern the deer you are hunting properly.
During the early season, bucks are still in their summer feeding patterns and haven’t been disrupted by hunting pressure, and pre-rut and rut are still a few weeks away. This means that they are more likely to stick to their established travel routes and feeding areas (and might even still be in their bachelor groups.
Additionally, the weather during the early season is typically mild, with cooler temperatures in the morning and evenings, which means that deer are more active during these times. All of these factors make the early season a prime time to catch a mature buck still on his summer pattern in the morning. By understanding these patterns and taking advantage of them, you can increase your chances of a successful hunt.
Scenario: Planning and Executing a Morning Hunt in Hill Country
A bow hunter is in hill country and has spent the summer and the weeks leading up to the season scouting the area extensively. He is hunting during the early season and is targeting a known travel route close to a white acorn-rich feeding area on a bench that is approximately 1.5 miles southeast of where he is parking his car. There are several north-south and east-west deer trails in the area, and the bow hunter plans to use a spot he identified for a tree stand along the travel route to increase his chances of success.
To aid in navigation, the bow hunter is using the ONX Hunt mobile app to help him plan and navigate to his stand. The stand is situated approximately 20 yards southeast of a well-trafficked east-west deer trail, which the hunter has been monitoring with a trail camera for the past three months. Based on his camera footage, a large 8-point, 4-year-old buck has been spotted passing the stand location 2-3 times per week between 7:00 am and 9:00 am in the morning and is most active in that location when there is a west or northwest wind.
The temperature at 6:00 am is 54 degrees, and it is expected to reach a high of around 70 degrees at 10:00 am. The wind direction is an east wind at 8-10 mph, which the hunter will need to take into consideration when positioning himself in the stand. The bench is located at approximately 1200 feet in elevation, while the car is parked off the valley road at approximately 600 feet in elevation.
The Strategic Hunting Method Series
- Strategic Hunting 101: Elevate Your Bow Hunting Skills
- How to Prepare & Develop a Season-Long Bow Hunting Strategy
- Still Hunting: The Art of Adaptability in Bow Hunting
- Rubs, Scrapes, & Tracks: How to Scout & Hunt Hot Deer Sign
- Doe Trails & Buck Signs: Finding Rut Hunting Success
- How to Use the Wind to Hunt Deer
The night before the hunt, the bow hunter checks the weather forecast and confirms the wind direction (west) and speed (8-10 mph) work for this specific location and time of day. He also notes the temperature at 6:00 am (54 degrees) and the high at 10:00 am (70 degrees). He uses the ONX Hunt mobile app to review his route to the stand and double-checks his gear.
Hunting Clothing Recommendations
The bow hunter should wear moisture-wicking base layers and carry a light to mid-weight insulating layer for the early part of the morning. He should also wear a hat and gloves to keep warm during the early morning hours. A disruption-style camouflage pattern suitable for the terrain should be chosen to help the hunter blend into his surroundings. These hunting clothes should provide a dual-action scent control capability to aid in minimizing the hunter’s signature. These are all important things to remember when hunting mornings in the early season.
Access and Approach
The bow hunter wakes up early, aiming to arrive at his parking location around 4:30 am. This gives him ample time to hike the 1.5 miles to his stand while accounting for the elevation change. He wants to be in his stand at least 30-60 minutes before sunrise (around 6:00 am), ensuring minimal disturbance to the deer. This should be calculated based on the deer movement times assessed for this specific hunt location.
The bow hunter takes a route that avoids the deer trails and feeding areas, moving west to northwest from his parked car. He pays attention to the wind direction and makes sure to stay downwind of his target deer’s travel routes and stand location. The hunter ensures that when he is within 200 yards of his stand location he slows his movements and begins to take a deliberate, methodical, and extremely quiet approach to his target tree.
Tree Stand Set-up
The bow hunter arrives at his stand location at 5:30 am. He quietly climbs and gets set up in his tree stand, which is approximately 20 yards southeast of the well-trafficked east-west deer trail. He sets up his gear, making sure everything is secure and ready for the hunt. At first light, the hunter uses his rangefinder to assess possible shot distances in his target area. He then practices drawing his bow and aiming at these locations. Once this is completed, he settles in and stops all unnecessary movement.
Wind and Thermal Considerations
Throughout the morning, the hunter remains aware of the west wind and monitors it for any changes using milkweed to ensure the winds do not change or get pushed towards him due to rising morning thermals. As the temperature rises, he anticipates that thermals will start carrying his scent upward, which may help reduce the chance of deer detecting him.
The bow hunter patiently waits for the large 8-point buck, which he knows frequents the area between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. He remains as still and quiet as possible, minimizing his movement to avoid spooking the deer.
Once the hunt is over, whether successful or not, the bow hunter carefully lowers his gear and dismounts from the tree stand. He retrieves his gear and begins the hike back to his car, using the same route he took to access the stand. He aims to leave the area around 10:00 am, when the temperature reaches its high, and the deer are less active. If the winds change or if a target buck has possibly moved into his line of travel, he will then use his ONX Hunt App to assess and plan an alternate exfiltration route.
What Did the Bow Hunter Do Right?
There were several things that the hunter did right in this scenario that contributed to the success of the hunt:
- Extensive scouting: The hunter scouted the area extensively during the summer, which allowed him to identify a known travel route close to a white acorn-rich feeding area on a bench that was approximately 1.5 miles southeast of where he parked his car.
- Use of technology: The hunter used the ONX Hunt mobile app to help him plan and navigate to his spot. He also had a trail camera set up for 3 months to monitor deer activity in the area.
- Wind and thermal considerations: The hunter paid close attention to wind and thermal conditions, choosing a tree stand location that was downwind of the deer’s expected movement. He also anticipated that thermals would start carrying his scent upward as the temperature rose, which helped reduce the chance of deer detecting him.
- Timing: The hunter planned to arrive at the parking location around 4:30 am, giving him ample time to hike the 1.5 miles to his stand while accounting for the elevation change. He wanted to be in his stand at least 30 minutes before sunrise (around 6:00 am), ensuring minimal disturbance to the deer.
- Stand placement: The hunter chose a tree stand location that was approximately 20 yards southeast of the well-trafficked east-west deer trail, which was close to the nighttime feeding area.
All of these factors combined to make this a good hunt. By doing extensive scouting, using technology, and considering wind and thermal conditions, the hunter was able to identify a high-traffic area and position himself in a way that allowed him to minimize his disturbance to the deer while maximizing his chances of success. Additionally, his timing and stand placement were key factors that helped him catch the mature buck still on its summer pattern in the morning.
Overall, this scenario-driven blog post has highlighted the importance of careful planning, preparation, and execution in bow hunting. From the pre-hunt preparations to the actual hunt and exfiltration, every step must be carefully considered to maximize the chances of success while minimizing the impact on the deer population.
By taking a meticulous approach to scouting, using technology to aid in planning, and paying close attention to wind and thermal conditions, it’s possible to position oneself in a way that puts you in the best possible position to catch a mature whitetail buck on his morning pattern. Additionally, the use of proper clothing and equipment can help ensure a comfortable and successful hunt. With the right approach, and careful attention to detail, a bow hunter can be just as successful on a morning hunt in the early season as they can be sitting in a rut funnel in November.
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