Knowing when to play the right cards can make you a winner in poker and it’s no different in the whitetail woods. The early season challenges often shy away the novice and limit him to only hunting the rut, but here is a better plan…hunt the early bucks.
Early season brings challenges like hot weather, chiggers and ticks plus dense foliage during the opening weeks, but there are also some huge benefits. There are two early secrets that will contribute to your success. They are ag-patterns, apple trees combined with early scrapes. Let’s look at each in detail.
The second best time to take a quality buck, like this one photographed by Brent Mitchell in Saskatchewan, is over an early ag-pattern scrape during the opening few weeks of the season.
It’s easy to get pumped about early bow season because we see groups of sauntering velvet bucks out in the soybean and alfalfa fields at last light. These bucks are often in bachelor groups at this time of the year and it is even more impressive to see 5-6 bucks together. The fact that this happens at the same time every year tells us that this is a repeatable pattern. I call them ag-patterns and I love the predictable nature of these visual feeding patterns.
The key to hunting these ag-patterns is that the bucks have not been bothered by humans for almost 9 months. The same access points are used day after day. A far corner of a bean field or a low point or old fence line leading into an alfalfa field is used over and over. It is a dream set up for an ambush. While field edges are not always my first choice for a treestand this is one time when an edge set-up works.
Go into the access zone only once 3-5 days before you are going to hunt. Look at prevailing wind and walk into the access point in the morning after all deer have left the field. Don’t cross their access trail. You can either select a suitable edge tree to hang your stand or just set up climbing sticks and do a little pruning. I prefer to set-up only climbing sticks and then go in with a Tree-Saddle and hunt like a predator.
The key here is you want to be down wind of the access trail. If the access trail is in a low point consider moving into the woods as the dropping thermals will schnooker you in the evening….and that’s when you will be hunting.
This would be a perfect time to make a mock scrape in sight of your stand with 24/Seven scent. It works for up to 7 days. I’d use the time release Early Buck granules because they are formulated to attract bucks that socialize in bachelor groups at this time of the year. The time release edge means you don’t have to walk over to the scrape to renew it on the day of your hunt. Scent the scrape now and return to hunt in a few days. The scent will still be working and your scent will be long gone.
The time release granules in the Early Buck Formula work for up to 7-days. Set up your scrape now and update it 4-5 days before opening day. The biggest benifit is that there will be no human scent in or near the scrape when you hunt it. Liquid scents are old technology…Time release granules are the 2007 solution.
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APPLE TREE GOLD MINES
My second favorite early buck set-up is adjacent to a lone apple tree that is dropping fruit. These lone trees are often remnants of an old homestead. You can easily scout these gold mines out in the spring because of their striking white blossoms which are apparent in turkey season. I know of at least six apple trees that are great producers in our deer woods. Two of my friends’ routinely take a buck on the evening of opening day under their favorite apple tree. You can too. Here are a few apple tree set-up tips.
For starters you’ll do better if you have these trees located and manicured prior to the season. Invest some time this year and you will be set for next season. Here is what I like to do. Apple trees like sunlight so give them light. I have girdled trees to the south of my favorite apple trees to allow the canopy to open up. You may take in a chain saw, and with permission, open up the southern exposure if you plan on hunting here year after year.
If time is short and you will be hunting this tree in a few weeks first check it during mid-day for apples on the ground. If the apples are on the tree and not the ground you have a winner. Deer are scooping them up daily. I have watched deer run to the sound of a falling apple. Also check for droppings under the tree. Deer loading up on apples are lot like us over eating at a Chinese buffet. Apples in one end…and you know the rest of the story…look for droppings to verify current use.
I like to set up 18-20 yards from an apple tree so I can see under it. The nature of wild apple trees is that they are dense close to the ground. This makes them hard to see under. Get back a bit and you’ll have a better view. I have set over apple trees that had deer under them and I couldn’t see the deer.
Another trick I use is to make an 24/Seven Early Buck www.mdroutdoorgroup.com mock scrape under one of the over hanging branches. Apple trees are made of hundreds of overhanging branches. They are a natural for a scrape and often have natural scrapes under them. I prefer to make my own and get it scented 3-5 days before I hunt it. This will draw a visiting buck to the scrape and cause him to face away from me giving me a shot. Apple trees are hot spots in the early season, don’t overlook them. Play your cards right this early season and that buck might be in the freezer before the leaves turn.
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