With most deer seasons beginning in September and early October, it’s the perfect time to make the most of your hunting property and put yourself in the best position possible to punch your tag before hunting pressure increases, and the unpredictability of the rut rises. Choosing the right location to hunt after working your food plot throughout the year will ensure all your hard work pays off.
As Matt Dye of Land and Legacy shares in one LandBeat video, where he gives a comprehensive overview of finding the right early-season setup for you, there are specific needs and behaviors whitetails will exhibit throughout the fall and will vary depending on the phase of the season you are hunting. The four major considerations you need to be aware of are access to food and water, wind direction, bedding position, and picking the right tree for your stand or the right location for your blind.
Try out these early-season hotspots to kick your season off right!
Hotspot #1: The Edge is Your Best Friend
According to Whitetail Properties Land Specialist and avid hunter Michael Valliere, finding a good edge can make or break your hunt. Don’t make the mistake of pushing too far inward, as you’re more likely to pressure the deer–something you definitely want to avoid in the early season.
“My favorite early season setups typically include bulletproof access for getting in and out without alerting wildlife to my presence. I have often made the mistake of hunting too internally early in the season, and it has resulted in a season full of disappointment and suppers of tag soup!
Typically, any early success has been dependent upon scouting, scouting, and more scouting! Whether physical observation, trail cam monitoring, or just history and hunches.
Mature whitetails are so challenging, especially in areas with hunting pressure, and the key is to find a mature one that is showing himself in daylight. No matter how regular, if deer are not moving in daylight or a distinct change in conditions to help trigger daylight movement, you may be doing more harm than good by hunting too frequently too early.
I prefer to hunt edges but adjacent to security cover with a land feature providing a funnel and distinct wind advantage! Add in a hot food source or a well-laid-out staging food plot, and you might just have the opportunity to fill your tag early in the season!”
Hotspot #2: Funnel From Your Food Plot
Choose a location where deer are funneled into the food plot and position your blind or stand in a strategic line with where deer will be foraging. If you’ve followed National Deer Association Chief Conservation Officer Kip Adams’s advice, the deer can be spotted along distinct travel patterns in your food plots or can even be seen ducking out to grab a bite before stepping back into thick cover.
If using a ground blind, like those from Rig’Em Right Blinds, place your blind at the edge of a plot with enough cover to support the concealment of the blind. Be certain to choose a blind with a silent entry/exit route and large adjustable windows, essential in the early season for quiet concealment.
If you’ve planted a small food plot, AKA a hidey-hole or kill plot, within your timber on your hunting farm, Adam Keith of Land & Legacy says, you’ve set yourself up for success come fall. Adam suggests leaning on perennial clovers like those sold by Whitetail Institute is a win-win to help your food plot compete with the surrounding timber and tolerate heavy browse in smaller areas.
Hotspot #3: Find a Reliable Bedding Location
In the early season, with temperatures on the higher side, deer won’t be nearly as active during the day as they are later in the year. This means that the deer will be most active in the first few hours of daylight and the last hours before dark.
All that hard work you spent scouting in the pre-season, says Land Specialist Dustin Prievo, gives you exactly the insight you need into your target’s behaviors, especially in those early morning and evening hours. It’s just as important to find a spot where the wind won’t give you away and be certain to utilize cover and concealment, whether using a ground blind or tree stand.
On LandBeat, Matt Dye and Adam Keith of Land & Legacy discuss the importance of creating reliable bedding spaces. These are specific, small areas on your hunting property where you can pinpoint exactly when and where deer are bedding down for the day.
Hotspot #4: Choose The Right Tree
Rather than choosing the general area in which you wish to hunt, says Dustin Prievo, Land Specialist in Pennsylvania and Maryland, choose the specific tree that gives you the best position regarding access, terrain, and wind. Once you’ve chosen your stand location, you can make small adjustments relative to exact travel and activity. Better yet, if you own the property, you can strategically create food plots and bedding areas to make that spot even more attractive to deer.
Choosing the right stand is as important as choosing the right tree, especially in areas that will require a lot of patience and time in the stand. Dustin shares:
I used Vertical Treestands for the first time last year, and outside of their comfort, I just really liked how adjustable they are. Trees aren't always straight and perfect, which makes a platform, often set just below a 90-degree angle, hard to accommodate. Vertical Treestands’ Overland and Drifter stands are easy to adjust, making them comfortable and perfect for any time of the season, regardless of the situation.
Hotspot #5: Hunt the Convergences
For an in-depth look at the four types of deer habitat, this Landbeat video featuring Matt Dye and Adam Keith of Land & Legacy reveals the advantages and drawbacks of each. Beyond tree and canopy cover, it’s also important to look for underbrush and proximity to bedding areas, food, and water.
The best hunting spots don’t rely too heavily on one type of area over another. Instead, place your stand or blind on the edge of where these areas converge.
Land Specialist Dustin Prievo says: “Early season, I'll fringe the destination food sources or my kill plots that are strategically placed between the bedding and destination food source. Then mid-season, I'll find alternative food sources, which in the Northeast is mostly the oaks producing a quality acorn crop.”
Putting in the Work to Make the Most of Your Early Season Hunt
Dustin also shares that the harder you’ve worked in the off-season, the more likely you will encounter that big buck come opening day.
“For me, early season stands are spent harvesting does or ambushing a buck that I have patterned and studied well before opening day. Oftentimes, it's the highest-producing but least impactful location. What I mean by that is how many can I remove from the herd without risking human intrusion by tracking them into high-risk locations (I.e., bedding areas, feeding areas etc.).
If I have a buck I have found through late summer scouting and have him patterned, I'll highlight the low-lying areas of a field where the thermals naturally would go and tuck in where I believe I can get a shot off.
It's all about studying their behavior and striking with the least chance of letting them know you are there.”
Good Luck This Season!
With the right location, equipment, and preparation, your season will be off to a great start. And for some inspiration on what’s possible in the early season with solid strategies in place, come along with Whitetail Properties Co-Founder Pete Alfano on his 2022 early season Kansas bow hunt in for heart-pounding close encounters with multiple big bucks. Good luck, hunt hard, and hunt safe!