Time proven tactics to tag a buck the first week of archery season!
Some states around the country have started archery season, and the rest will very soon. But if you don’t have a well thought out plan for the first time you hit the woods, you’re most likely planning to fail. Fact is, you need a plan, and not just any plan will do. You need a tested strategy that works time and again to fill tags on bruiser bucks the first week of season. If you haven’t hit the chalk board and figured out the X’s and O’s yet, don't’ worry, we’ve got you covered!
We’re going to break it down into public land, and private land hunters. Why? Hunting pressure in your area will greatly determine the strategy you want to employ for early season, as well as the rest of the year. In this article, think of private land as low hunting pressure, and public as high hunting pressure, although you may need to adjust your strategy according to the relative pressure in your area.
Public Land - Develop a quick hitter!
When I was playing high school basketball, we had several plays we could pull out of our back pocket to score a quick bucket. These were strategic, well designed, well executed plays for specific situations. Because of this, many times these were game-changers. If you are a public land hunter, you need the same thing: a quick hitting, strategic hunt to take the enemy by surprise before they know what hit them.
Because an army of hunters will descend on the woods those first few days of season, you need to get to that big buck before he feels that pressure, changes his patterns, and turns into a ghost. You just have a day or two to do this. You should know some good spots and bucks due to your summer glassing and other scouting you’ve done. In this scenario, taking risks to get to where these bucks are moving is necessary. You may just get one “shot”, though, so plan it well! This might be hunting a field edge, but more than likely will include pushing close to bedding areas, and going for short transition zones just off bedding areas. After one or two days you’ll need to adjust. Now you need to start scouting other hunters. Look for areas other hunters have overlooked that are still fresh and deer are still responding in same patterns. If you find that overlooked spot, make sure you keep it fresh and unpressured as long as possible. Properly managing
your scent, visual, and sound impact are essential in this (CLICK HERE for proven sound concealment tips). Bottom line, you have a chance or two before the deer wise up. You need to hit quickly before the inevitable game of deer-hunter pinball begins. (Note: picture above of author with Michigan Public Land buck taken 2016 the 8th day of season; side picture - author's father with Michigan Public Land buck taken on unpressured area mid- October).
Private Land - Run the Marathon!
If public (high pressure) hunting is about hitting quick and taking big risks, then private is just the opposite. If you want your area to remain low pressure, and good hunting all season, you should treat it like running a marathon. Start SLOWLY and PACE YOURSELF! You would never sprint the first mile of a marathon and expect to make it to the end, and you shouldn’t when hunting your private land either. That is, if you want deer moving the same, non-pressured ways during late October, the rut, and late season if possible. Going low impact and conservative is the key. Hunting fringes, and observation stands where you have little intrusion will help with this. Hunt easy- access food sources with a rock-solid escape route only. Make sure you have an easy entry and exit that will not spook deer. If you don’t have the right wind, stay out. Make sure entry and exit, and all gear are absolutely silent, and you have minimal to no way for deer to smell, hear, or see you. Don’t overhunt a spot, and really plan ahead to late October and November if you want to have some great hunts during these best times of year. This may take some self-control, and just not going out some days. As season progresses, you can start pushing in more, but realize every time you do is increasing pressure deer feel, and therefore changing their behavior. Again, you are thinking completing a marathon, not a sprint, so plan your hunts accordingly and make your spot last! This doesn’t mean that you cannot get a quick hit on a buck, especially based on your intel from summer and early fall scouting. In fact you should try. But, it does mean you shouldn’t take big risks or put your whole season in jeopardy to do it.
Of course, these strategies should be adapted to your particular hunting areas and situations, but are good general rules to follow for early season success.