By Alex Comstock
To hunt mornings or to not hunt mornings early in the hunting season? It's something that is debated among deer hunters, with most people having an opinion on if it's effective or not. Though there are times that morning hunting can work in the early portion of the season, there are also times where it could hurt you. Knowing when to hunt mornings, and how to hunt them early in the year is critical.
The Right Conditions
First of all, you need the right weather conditions to put yourself in a situation where you're more likely to have an encounter with a mature buck. More often than not, mature bucks are back in their bed far before daylight. If the conditions aren't right, you will risk bumping deer on the way in, or won't see anything at all. A lot of this changes later in October, and during the rut, but early in the year, the right conditions can ultimately be the difference maker. Here are a few of the conditions I'm looking for when deciding whether or not to hunt a morning early in the year.
Temperature: What I'm paying particular attention to is the overnight low going into the morning I'd want to hunt. Unlike looking at the daytime high when hunting an afternoon, be paying close attention to the overnight lows. It's the same basic principles in the fact that I'm looking for a low that is much cooler than average. If you can get a big temperature drop, the odds of a buck staying out in his nighttime feeding area just a little longer can go way up. The whole goal of a morning hunt early in the year in most cases is to catch a buck headed back to bed, and in order for that to be successful, he needs to still be feeding when the sun comes up, or headed back to his bed.
Barometric Pressure: A rising pressure in the morning is a condition that I've noticed can help keep a buck feeding longer into the morning, creating a better chance of a good morning hunt. I like high pressure days for deer movement in general, but when the pressure is rising in the morning is when I get especially excited to give a morning hunt a try.
Putting it Together: These are the two major conditions I'm keeping my eye on when deciding on whether or not to give a morning hunt a try before the rut starts creeping in. In all honesty there are other conditions you could be keeping your eye on such as the moon, but I like to keep it simple. If I've got a morning on the calendar where it's going to be much colder than average, and the pressure is rising, it's worth a shot to head to the treestand to see if you can make it happen.
How To Hunt Mornings Early in the Year
Knowing the right conditions to hunt an early season morning is one thing. Knowing how and where to sit is another thing. I think a lot of people tend to mess this up as well. I see it first hand on public land a lot. For instance, you don't want to be driving through or walking through a field where deer are more than likely going to be feeding in the morning. In most cases, morning spots are much different than evening spots.
Bedding: If I'm going to hunt a morning early in the season, odds are you'll find me close to bedding cover. What I often try to do is get into a spot where I think I can cut off a mature buck as he heads back to his bed. Spring and summer scouting can play an important part when it comes to my morning hunting early in the year. In the spring, I scout bedding areas, and then in the summer I glass feeding areas. If I can have a good idea on where I think a mature buck is bedding, and where he might be feeding during the night, I then can make a plan on where to sit.
Access: One of the most important parts of hunting a morning early in the year is access. I like to simplify it as much as possible. For an evening hunt, you wouldn't want to walk right through a bedding area. You don't want to do this, because you know you'll most likely ruin your hunt before it even starts. The same goes for a morning hunt. If conditions are right, and deer are still in their feeding area when you're walking in to your treestand, you don't want to walk through those areas. Access should be different than it would be if you were heading into an evening setup. I like to think of it as going through the back door. If you can figure out where you think deer will be feeding early in the morning, you can then backtrack and understand better how to access your treestand.
How Early Should You Setup?: When it comes to how early you should be in your treestand in the morning, there are a lot of varying opinions. What I've found is that deer are less likely to get spooked by you in complete darkness. Because of this, I like to be setup at least a half hour before legal shooting light. I know some people that like to get setup an hour or more before legal shooting light, I just personally don't see the need for that in most circumstances. But what I don't recommend is getting setup right at legal light. I think in most cases, your odds of bumping deer, and messing up the morning hunt will be much higher. *Note - this can drastically change during the rut depending on your setup. Then, there are instances to get setup later in the morning. More on that in another blog post.
Morning hunting can be risky early in the year, no doubt about it. But if you time it right, and hunt in the right way, those few perfect mornings can produce some great hunting. Don't be afraid to give it a try!