This September, I shot my biggest buck to date during the first couple weeks of the Missouri bow season. Hunting early season whitetails has its advantages. Their pattern is more predictable and they haven’t been pressured yet by other hunters in the woods: two key factors to harvesting a mature buck in the first few weeks of season opener. But, there are still challenges that come with hunting in early fall. Below are 5 tips that helped me capitalize on a mature, early season whitetail.
Spend the months leading up to deer season by scouting your hunting property. There are some places on our property that year after year the deer pretty much stick to the same pattern. But every year there are different places that seem to be the hot spot that particular year, based on the amount of water and food that is available that season. I looked for deer sign and put up some Browning Trail Cameras to see what showed up prior to hanging my new treestands, which brings me to my next tip: Trail Cameras.
2) Trail Cameras
My Browning Recon Force Advantage trail camera provided a lot of valuable information about my target buck and his pattern that without, I may not have been able to shoot him. For example, I noticed that he stayed out in the field around my stand feeding from around sunset until 8:00 or 9:00am, making it difficult to get to my stand in the morning without getting busted. With that in mind, I only hunted that specific stand in the evenings, and after hunting for just a few days, it paid off.
Another thing worth mentioning is, my trail cameras helped me hone in on the specific places the deer were traveling so I knew what branches to clear around my treestand so I had some good shooting lanes, without getting rid of too much cover.
3) Practice = Confidence
Being confident in your setup is everything, and that comes by practicing with the gear you will be hunting with prior to season opener and making yourself familiar with it. Nobody likes wounding deer, and we owe it to the animals we hunt to make a quick, clean, and ethical kill. I practiced shooting my bow a few months before season began and I was completely confident with my bow setup and my shooting abilities prior to heading to the woods. Without confidence in myself and my equipment, I wouldn’t have been able to hold myself together and make a good shot on my buck.
4) Scent Control
Unfortunately, the down-side to hunting early season is that usually the temperatures are still pretty warm, making it hard to control your scent. For me, this season was no different, as the temperature was in the 80's the evening that I shot my buck. There are still a few things you can do that will help, like showering with odor killing soaps and shampoos, washing your hunting clothes in scent control laundry detergent, and spraying your clothes and gear with scent control spray. My personal favorite line of scent control products is Nose Jammer, and that was what I was using the evening that I shot my buck.
5) The Right Apparel
Speaking of scent control, the right apparel can help keep your scent down as well and when the temperatures are that warm, dressing light is a must. But, as the evening progresses it can cool down quite a bit. In early season, I will often wear just a t-shirt and lightweight pants while walking to my stand, but bring along a jacket or vest to put on later while in the stand if needed.
My Hell’s Canyon apparel from Browning was perfect. The pants are lightweight, but still warm enough to keep my legs warm in the evening when it cools down. And the top is made of lightweight polyester mesh fabric which is breathable and helps wick moisture and control scent.
Hunting mature whitetails in early bow season presents a unique set of challenges, but by keeping the above bowhunting tips in mind, they can be overcome and get your deer season off to a great start!
By Andrea Haas
Andrea Haas is a Pro-Staffer from Missouri who enjoys hunting deer, turkeys, and upland birds. She is also the founder of the Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.