By Alex Comstock
If you have followed along here with WhitetailDNA at all, you probably know by now how strong I feel about early season hunting. During the month of September especially, a buck is most patternable as he will be all season long. But, with that said it doesn't take much to educate a mature buck, and totally ruin your chances at him. Creating a perfect early season ambush can be difficult to do, but here is what you should be thinking about while getting those sets up...
Pressure: By this, I mean having great access to minimize pressure on deer. Figuring out how you get into a stand and out of it is usually done last. You get your stand up all ready to hunt, and then start figuring out how to get in and out. Try thinking of this process in reverse. Find areas that you can easily get in to and also escape without busting any deer. Once you're able to do this, then start looking for areas to hang a stand or set a blind. When it comes down to it, you could be in the best spot in North America, but it's pointless to hunt that spot if you can't get in without spooking deer and you can't get out without spooking them either.
Bed to Food Pattern: Deer are thinking mostly about three things during this time of the year. Where they are going to eat, where they are going to bed, and how they are going to get from one to the other. Most days consist of them getting out of that bed in the evening and heading to where they want to feed. If you've done your homework, hopefully you know what food a buck prefers, and the area he is bedding. Get in between those two, and you should have a good chance to encounter a buck if he gets out of that bed in daylight.
Hunt The Right Conditions: So you've found a great early season spot, and your setup is money. Time to jump right in right? Not exactly - an early season spot is only as good as the conditions allow. This rule applies perfectly to me right in this moment. Season opened Sep. 2nd and I have yet to sit my best spot 3 days into the season. Why? The conditions haven't been the greatest and I didn't want to run the risk of screwing anything up. But today, the conditions have switched. The temperatures have dropped from the 80's to 60's and the wind has switched from South to North. It's time to infiltrate my best spots. Don't ruin your best spots by hunting them when the conditions are wrong. Wait until they're perfect, and your early season setup will be much more effective.
Tweaking Your Original Setup: Some of my best early season spots take a little time to develop. If you hang an early season stand in hopes of catching up with a mature buck, you might be in the right area, but not the right spot. If I see a buck that's out of bow range and I have reason to believe he might move in the same spot again, instead of hoping he moves closer to me the next time out, I will move my stand. There could be another situation where you literally need to move a stand ten yards to the next tree in order to have a good shot. It may seem like a lot of work to only move a stand a few yards, but that little difference could be the difference between watching a big buck walk out of your dreams or putting him in the bed of your truck.
Creating a perfect early season ambush isn't a walk in the park. There is a difference between a good setup and that perfect setup. It requires you to do a little homework, knowing when to hunt, and not being afraid to make subtle changes. You do all of this, and you might just create a perfect early season setup of your own!