Pre-Season Scouting for Early Season Success

Scouting velvet whitetails has begun. There is no better time to locate and find big bucks you’re interesting in then during the summer months. Now that the bean fields have truly started to express sufficient growth and bucks have really started to put on their head gear scouting is in full effect.

Locating Bucks 

Summer food sources will allow you to easily locate bucks this time of year. Minerals can provide that type of opportunity as well, but in most instances food sources will be more effective to hunt over at the start of the season. Bean fields, alfalfa fields, and any other green food plots or food sources in mid-September and early October are what you’re most interested in. The first step is to locate bucks on these food sources during the months of July-August and possibly even as late as September. Once you’ve located a buck the process begins.

Keep in mind that if you don’t have any of these types of food sources and you have the land and the equipment you can always create food sources that will allow for early season scouting and early season hunting success.

Patterning the Buck 

Certain bucks will have more consistent patterns then others. Seeing that most bucks are in bachelor groups this time of year you’ll likely be patterning a group of bucks. Out of that group there’s often a buck or two that you are interested in harvesting. Finding what the bucks typical pattern is may be best determined by a trail camera, but cameras risk putting your scent in the area or even spooking the bucks with the camera. If the situation is right put a camera on a field edge in field scan mode and determine what the weekly pattern of the bucks on this food source is. When putting a camera out be sure to use scent elimination spray and scent free clothes; placing the camera and checking it on rainy days is best to wash the scent away. Also place the camera high so the bucks are less likely to notice it. If placed in the correct spot the camera should be able to provide some sort of deer pattern. In the case that no pattern is present then you’ll simply have to take risks as to when to hunt the buck at the start of the season.

Cameras aren’t the only way to pattern a buck and perhaps not even the best way at all. The other way simply takes more time and commitment. Nightly scouting trips on the road will allow you to get a very good idea what the deer are doing in particular fields. It also allows one to scout multiple fields in a single evening. (For fields that are not located by a road the task becomes more challenging and stealth in scouting is of much importance. You’ll need to sneak to a proper scouting location and spend time there without spooking deer on the food source. Do everything possible to remain scent free and keep the wind in mind.) Field scouting with binoculars and spotting scopes not only informs a hunter of which deer are in the field but it also reveals important information about which locations bucks are entering and exiting fields. Keep these details in mind as you begin to think about stand placement.

150 Class Buck in Bean Field
150 Class Buck in Bean Field

Preparing for the Kill 

Putting a stand up is one of the most important steps of the entire process. Some hunters doing long range scouting or those that have used cameras to pattern a deer deeper into the woods may actually set-up to hunt a deer on the route to the food source. However many food source hunters will place a stand directly on the food source. Using the best available information from cameras or from your scouting determine which tree is closest to the most common entry point of the bachelor group of bucks. Keep in mind that wind direction is critical in this decision. Not only are you trying to kill a buck in the wide open, but you may very well be dealing with a group of bucks. If wind direction and thermals are not properly taken into account all of this work can be thrown away by getting busted. Once the proper tree is determined with the wind in your favor hang the stand during or just before a rain storm to once again wash away scent after the stand is hung.

After you’ve hung your stand and you’re able to confirm that the buck is still using a similar pattern you’ll simply have to wait until season arrives to move in.

When to Hunt the Buck 

If your camera or scouting reveal that a buck is moving regularly during daylight simply wait for the right wind and move in once season starts. If however the bucks shows only minimal daylight activity you may want to wait for a good cold front and the proper wind direction. Cold fronts typically get bucks on their feet during the early part of the season to feed. In the case that your season starts sometime in September you’ll have a longer window to work with this type of tactic. Seasons that open in October only allow for a short window for this tactic to work. Keeping that in mind don’t wait to long to try this type of early season tactic, but try not to move in too fast either. Use logic and do your best to put the odds in your favor. When all else fails just go with your gut, sometimes that can pay off too.

The art of the early season harvest isn’t exactly easy, but if done correctly it can offer some amazing mature buck hunting.

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