By Alex Comstock
Deer season officially starts for me this Friday afternoon as I'll finally be in a stand once again in North Dakota. I've got high hopes for opening weekend, just as I always do during the first week or two of season. I've come to the conclusion that if you hunt a state that opens early (specifically the front half of September) it could be your best time all year to tag a mature buck. Here's two reasons why!
1. Summer Patterns Continued
From everything I've seen and through talking to a lot of other deer hunters, more often than not a buck will continue his summer pattern of traveling from bed to food at least until he sheds his velvet, and usually a few days after, before he becomes a completely different animal. This usually gives you until the first couple days of September to make your move. It's not a lot of time, but if you've put in the work during the months prior, you could be in a great position to get it done. Through long distance scouting and trail cameras, if you can find a buck on a food source consistently showing himself in daylight, this can be your safest bet. Understand that different conditions may yield different movement, but this is all stuff you're hopefully figuring out in the month or weeks leading up to season.
2. Current Trail Camera Information Can Be Used
Notice how above, I'm using the information I gather through trail cameras to help me plan my hunts this upcoming week. Often, I talk about how it can be beneficial to you to use your trail camera information to aid in your hunting strategy for the following year. Because in most cases, during the season, people are chasing their trail trying to hunt just from what their trail cameras tell them, and by the time they are actually hunting based off that information, it's too late. But, early season hunting is one time where if you play your cards right, trail cameras can be extremely beneficial in planning where you hunt right now.
My summer trail camera strategy in North Dakota is simple and works for me, and I think that's the best way to have it. I get them set up in early July over a mineral site or natural food source, then check them once, somewhere around the second week of August. When I arrive in North Dakota this week, I'll do some glassing from a distance, and see if I can't watch a buck in an area I've gotten pictures of him this summer. If need be, I'll slip in during the day to check a camera as well. When checking trail cameras this time of year, you need to treat it as if you are hunting. That means having the right wind, and not walking any extra steps where you don't have to. Get in, pull the card, and get out. In many cases bucks are not traveling far, which means odds are my trail camera is fairly close to where he beds. The last thing you want to do is bump a buck while checking a camera. I'll combine the information from my previous trail camera check a few weeks ago with my long distance scouting this week, and if need be another trail camera check to make my decision on where to hunt, and hopefully put a mature buck down by the end of the weekend.
If you live in a state or travel to one that has an early opener, you may be looking at arguably the best time of the season to tag a mature buck. There's always factors outside of your control such as a heat wave that could slow down movement, but other than that, it can be a lot of fun and you can experience some great hunting those first few days of deer season.