5 Tips to Improve Your Odds Taking Early Season Whitetail Deer
Utilizing aerial photos to predict pinch points, travel corridors, food sources, and water sources to find early season whitetail deer. Use a tool like OnXmaps to make sure you are on public land or have the proper access from the correct landowner. In states where you can bait by setting up bait stations and minerals in the proper locations, feeders and corn should be set up close to some sort of edge habitat where the deer feel protected and can access it very easily. Minerals should be used early on when the deer are trying to get as many nutrients into their body as possible for optimum horn growth; I like to put these on a trail that is really close to a water source.
Using trail cameras is a huge advantage because it allows you to see which deer are utilizing a certain food source, water source, or particular trail and the exact times they are using these things. It allows you to pattern these deer which is a critical factor in early season success. If I have trail cameras on water or food, I typically have the trigger set at 2 minute intervals. That seems to work really well, and if it is a location that is getting hit really hard you will be glad you used that delay or else you will have thousands of photos of the same animals. If my camera is on a trail, I like to set it on video mode with a short trigger delay or in burst mode on a short delay. In the early season, these bucks are in bachelor groups, and they will likely be on a trail one after another, so you want to make sure you are taking as many photos or as much video as possible to get all of the deer that are in that particular group. If your delay is too long, you will miss deer.
Being as low impact as possible is paramount when preparing to hunt a big whitetail or while hunting a mature whitetail. If you are in a place where you can glass from a long way off, definitely utilize that and make that an advantage for yourself. If you are running a trail camera, whether on a bait sight, trail, or water source, go in there and pull those cards as sparingly as possible. I would recommend going in no more than once every two weeks, because mature whitetail will pattern you with ease and go nocturnal if something doesn’t feel right to them. The same thing goes for your bait and/or feeders. Leave enough feed to get you through a couple of weeks at a time to minimize your impact.
This will vary depending on weapon, but for the sake of this article we will look at archery and muzzleloaders. For both I recommend areas that are easy for you to get to without disturbing any ground that is anywhere close to where the deer are potentially bedding. Make sure that you have multiple routes into the stand to help you get in there undetected even if the wind changes on you slightly. For Muzzleloader, set ups I like are ladder stands or tripods about 100 yds from the food source, water source, or trail that you are hunting. Always make sure the wind is in your favor and don’t even risk going in there and hunting if conditions are not right. The same rules apply for archery, just at an amplified level. I want to avoid disturbing bedding area at all cost, and I want to be within thirty yards of my desired location and hunting out of a Lock-on or ladder stand. For my early season archery set ups, I like a set up with my back to the west if at all possible; this does two things: it gives optimal lighting in the afternoons and really late in the day with archery gear, and if a deer were to bust you, it is very difficult for them to silhouette you with the sun in their eyes.
Scent control is extremely important whenever you are hunting, especially with early season whitetails. I make sure:
#1 that the wind is always in my favor. I will flat out not hunt if the wind conditions are not favorable.
#2 Your clothes have to stay scent free. I wash them in scent-free clothes wash and dry them by themselves, and after that I immediately put them in a scent free tote or bag and do not take them out until I am in the field getting dressed. I encourage you to shower and wash with scent free wash, too. This will help immensely. Finally spray down with your favorite scent-killing formula spray.
All of these things will help you become a better hunter and put more early season whitetail deer in the dirt.