Summer is at its last huff of air, and the resurgence of fall is upon us. The nights become cooler, days become shorter and leaves change colors as fast as a chameleon in predator mode only steers the hunting public to one single thing: the infinitely awaited 2004 Archery Season. You can now toss the bottle of Prozac over your shoulder and realize that depression has surceased. The off-season has taken its toll on each of us in a different way. Some hold up better than others. I’m well aware of hardcore archery hunters that can be described as sickly-looking coyotes that have been abandoned food for days: glazed eyes, staggering walk and ribs protruding the skin. A psychological mess, day-by-day a gruesome battle of a place so close but yet so far away. Exaggerations aside, we’re just hunters who want to hunt! Wait no longer my friend, the hunting starts here.
Don’t get too excited now, there’s always a catch to everything. Your twenty feet above ground, sitting in stature as if someone is sculpting your pose. The elements of opening day hunting lashes you as the once tranquil state of being turns into an uncomfortable situation. Determined mosquitos hover over your head, begging you to show unclothed skin. Tiny ticks creep up your arms centimeter-by-centimeter, racing to get to the top of your head to nestle and find home. The torturous humidity of late summer takes its last swings at you, testing your conscious by whispering indoor air-conditioning and the Outdoor Channel, rather than piddling time outside. And most of all the so called, “lack of buck activity.” We are unfortunately back to reality; early season bow hunting sounds quite enticing doesn’t it? These amongst other excuses are why an abundance of hunters roll their eyes when the term“early season hunting” is brought into mind. Take it from me, I hunt hard from the first morning to the last evening. I can tell you what days are going to be productive and where the stands should be hanging come season. Sit back, ease your mind and eat up. . .
I have many friends and relatives that would rather hunt the rut, when temperatures are as pleasant as the hunting. I too, embellish the vitality of seeking brutes on brisk November mornings, but I usually have my opponent in the freezer by then.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it over and over, the focus on main food sources that arouse the whitetail’s craving. Soybeans, corn, alfalfa, and acorns are a popular choice in the mid-west for deer to munch on. Once the velvet vanishes from the antlers so do the handsome racked bucks from the bare fields. It’s an ongoing cycle that happens every year about this time. People are dumbfounded by the process and truly believe high classed whitetail have a calendar memory chip deep inside their brain focusing on deer season. “They just disappear,” is a common quote I am burdened as often as told. Deer patterns change, food sources age and human disturbances rise, which lead the male deer to stupor. Unless you have a dieting whitetail, the poor guy is gonna have to eat sometime. So they tend to ease and relax a bit longer before seeking food. The common hunter doesn’t see Mr. Ten-Pointer bingeing on soybeans before sunset and figures he’s gone. If you have fallen under this spell your not alone.
Mature bucks would rather yawn in their beds and take a load off until the fresh dusk aerates the forest, waylaying the sun to languish, depending on the magical minutes hunters wait for before their ten yard pin fades. To resolve this predicament: quit hunting field edges and get back into the forage. Once deep enough, look for acorn ridges, clover patches, or any scrumptious treat for deer to eat for an appetizer. Bucks and does alike will bypass time in these staging areas where they feel preserved. Until the sun sleeps and the tree frogs socialize, deer will sneak to their dinner in stealth mode.
Opening day of last year I participated in a management archery hunt. I tracked the field edge, found a trail that was trampled and followed it back until I found acorn heaven. I placed a stand the same day and blew threw a hefty doe with my thirty-one inch Whisper Creek Archery bow and 5575 Gold Tip Arrows accompanied by 85 Grain G5 Broad head. The doe was simply eating appetizers before the main course of voluptuous alfalfa. Sometimes the forgotten spots are just under our feet.
This summer/fall, I met a buck that would make Fred Bear grimace. Mass on antlers like beef on skew. Accompanying his piggish size was a cocky stage of presence. This was a dreamer buck. For that I’ve imagined an abundance of different hunting scenarios hunting him. The only difference was daydreaming was one thing, sporting a Pope and Young Class buck on your wall is another.
An occasional spotting here n’ there gave me an impression of what trails he used. From that I predetermined a tree stand location. After back tracking his trail sixty yards or so in the woods, I found his staging area. The trail he ordained was as ordinary as my morning routine! A stretch from a thicket to acorns, and lastly the field was his temporary passageway during the early season. No, there weren’t any changes of orientation in directions. Just a parallel line from bedding to feeding. I stand true believing hunters think deer are more tricky and sly than that. We think harder than we should. Why make hunting harder than what it already is?
Sure enough on an evening as pleasant as any other, I heard a step-by-step progress filtering my way. A lone deer hoofing my way, it could only be one thing . . . a fawn, yes, a fawn with spots. Momentarily, his mother followed with distress. Fawns can do that to a single parent. Day after day I had as much luck as confidence in that spot. I thought it was just another fluke and the buck vanished like they always do. I told this to my cousin and he stated that it always goes like that. “You see em’ when your not hunting, but when hunting season rolls around he rolls out.”
I gave the premises a little lone time. By week three I was back to the original tree. There is something about that gut feeling guiding you back to the same loft you started from.
A half-hour before sunset a wrist-twisting noise pointed my ears towards the thickets. This was no daydream; it was the real deal. No more than thirty yards away was a ferocious animal wrestling saplings. The deer closed in, as did the trail. I wouldn’t say nibbling, gobbling is more appropriate to express the way he frenzied the fallen acorns. After thumping an arrow through the buck, I waited my time and found him arrow-shocked and passed. My biggest buck to date was taken care of once again before the rut.
In five words I can transpose ten paragraphs, hunt deeper in the woods. You don’t want to hunt field edges for the lack of light existence. You especially do not want to hunt the thickets, and spook him out. You want to be smack-dab in the middle of things. Assume your position in the woods in between the two hottest places in a buck’s mind during early bow season. Exerting the time and efforts put into one tag, one deer, and one rack leaves you one tickled hunter.