Bow Season Opener Strategy and Tactics for Early Season Success
A year-long wait finally ends when the bow season opener arrives. Some hunters have prepared thoroughly and scouted wisely up to the first day of archery season. If you are not one of those well-prepared hunters, you need a little luck and good tactics to put a buck on the ground during the first few days of archery season.
Opening day archery hunting is a tradition for many, but most bowhunters don’t start really focusing on the season until late October. Why? Because you can avoid trying to figure out how to hunt bucks in the early season and jump right over the October lull. As an alternative to avoiding this time of year, understand where to hunt and build a strategy of success for early season bucks. Deer are less pressured and more predictable around the bow season opener and a mature buck can be had with the right tactics.
Where to Hunt the Bow Season Opener and the Week After
It may sound obvious but on the first day of archery season and the days after you want to be hunting where you see deer. Whitetails will still, for the most part, be in feeding mode as they come out of their summer patterns. This means agricultural fields and mast areas will be key for early season bow hunting stand placement. Also, deer will consistently visit water sources. A reliable water source can be a deadly first week of bow season location and even a good spot to hunt all the way up until the rut.
Two Bow Season Opening Day Stand Locations
- Acorn producing white oak flat – Deer will consistently feed on white oak acorns when available. Focus in on areas with a good crop of white oak acorn mast. Deer will often casually feed around when there are lots of acorns, which makes it hard to place a stand. Each evening they come out a different trail and leave a different way. Try to pick the most worn trail with the freshest sign for a stand location. Also, remember to take the wind into account and possibly even hang two stands over one white oak flat to be able to hunt different wind conditions.
- Water source – Because whitetails are still feeding a lot in the days leading up to and just after the bow season opener, water is critical. They will typically hit a water source after feeding in the morning and again in the afternoon as they move to an evening food source. Understanding deer movement around a water source allows you to place an archery stand in a reliable spot for late mornings and early afternoons.
Bow Season Opener and Early Season Deer Hunting Tactics
A successful archery hunter is always adapting based on current information and the time of the year. There is no exact playbook on how to hunt bucks in early season but these strategies are a place to start for early season success.
Continue to Use Trail Cameras
We all know trail cameras provide important pre-season information, but they are invaluable when it comes to early season bow hunting. They provide data around the timing of when bucks are entering and leaving food and water sources, if bucks are still in bachelor groups, and which food sources are hot and should be hunted. All this information is helpful in understanding deer movement and planning tree stand placement.
Be Willing to Be Mobile
The first week after bow season opens is very much a transition period. Whitetails, and especially bucks, are going to be changing their patterns in the next few weeks. Having trail camera data will tell you where deer are and when they are moving as well as when patterns begin to change. In order to hunt transitioning bucks, you need to be able to be mobile. , either with a lightweight portable hang on treestand or a climbing treestand so you can change locations based on daily changing patterns.
Early Season Deer Calling Can Work
Deer calls are probably the last item on your bow hunting pack essentials list, however, they can work in the early days of archery season. When you think about when to use deer calls the rut is the first thing that comes to mind. Using a grunt call early season can work if done correctly. Unlike the rut when you are grunting hot and heavy, in the early season you want to call sparing and at a lower volume. It is to build curiosity and gain attention. Never grunt early with a buck coming in or looking at you.
Another early season deer calling strategy is to use a doe bleat. Does and fawns will be communicating and a curious buck may work towards you if he hears a doe or fawn bleat. Instead of calling blindly, use a doe bleat if a buck is feeding away from you or comes out to a food source out of range. A soft bleat may be enough to trigger him to come in and check out what is going on.
Minimize Early Season Bow Hunting Mistakes
Any time during the bow season you want to minimize mistakes. This is critically important for the bow season opener and the days following. Deer have been unpressured for months, few people have been in the woods, and they are set in their patterns. All of which are bad for an archery hunter who makes mistakes. There are three mistakes hunters commonly make on the first day of archery season and throughout the early season that can be detrimental.
- Getting in stand too late – You want to get into your stand as early as you can. The earlier the better because it allows plenty of time to let the woods calm down and any scent carried in to disperse. Also, getting there late could mean bumping a buck heading to food or water that will change his pattern entirely.
- No exit strategy – A good exit strategy goes a long way. Deer will be feeding on a food source well after dark early in the year. The last thing you want is to spook a buck or a herd of deer from a field or acorn flat trying to leave your stand. Stay late and have an exit strategy that is away from the food source and any travel lanes deer use to access it.
- Casual scent control – Not having a total scent control plan for early season hunting is by far the biggest mistake archery hunters make. Any whiff of human odor in the woods by a mature buck around the bow season opener or days following is a sure way to never see him again. Deploy all the scent-eliminating tools from ozone devices, scent-eliminating sprays and scent killing clothing and soaps, to be as scent free as possible.
In summary, the bow season opener for most archery hunters marks the start of a long and exciting season chasing mature bucks. Don’t discount your bow season opening day and the days and few weeks after it as just prep work for later in the archery season. Instead, capitalize on this time of year by deploying deploy specific strategies and tactics to increase your chances of success at the beginning of bow season.