October is the hardest month to shoot a mature buck with a bow. The two keys to a successful early season bowhunt are doing your game camera homework over the summer and good scent control.
Game Cameras: Do Your Summer Homework
Some hunters like to run their game cameras all year long, while others start in the heat of summer. Personally, I like to get my hunting cameras down once the season has ended, clean them up, and store them until July. This lets me to stay out of the woods during February and March, allowing those deer to get back into low pressured situations.
Once July rolls around, I start hanging my hunting cameras on trails and tree lines, just to take inventory of what deer have made a jump and what new deer are using the area. I don’t typically get my bow plots in until late July due to the heat here in Arkansas, so I try and hang the cameras on natural trails and browsing areas created by the deer.
Once I have established a consistent bachelor group of mature bucks, I will begin to branch out from the area and really try and zone in on the time of day the big deer are moving, and where they are transitioning between food and bedding.
Most bucks get nocturnal and will disappear in the daylight, or they will completely break their summer pattern and leave the property. Using your game cameras to really lock in on one good deer the first two weeks of bow season will significantly up your chances of harvesting a mature buck early on in archery season.
Scent Control: The Best Way to Hang Your Sets During Early Archery Season
The best way to maximize success in the early season is scent control over everything. With the heat creating sweat and body odors naturally, it’s crucial to ensure that those thermals are moving away from that corridor the bucks will be traveling from.
There are all sorts of scent blockers that can help with scent control, but the wind is the only thing that can guarantee concealment 100 percent of the time. The predominant south winds of summer needs to be the priority whenever a stand is getting hung for an early season kill. If possible, find yourself a quiet entry that will keep your scent from blowing across a potential bedding area before you even get to the tree. Roads, rivers, or creeks are typically the best access points when hunting big whitetail.
Different terrain requires different styles of hunting. Ground blinds are a great way to mask scent, and are extremely light weight when packing in long distances. Some terrain is wooly and can easily conceal a blind, while other types of terrain might require a strategic placement against a tree line or a man-made structure, such as a grain bin or oil rig.
If possible, hunt permanent sets. Yes, winds change and public land makes this difficult, but a permanent set will prevent you from having to pack in extra gear, saving you from creating sweat and odor that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
Sometimes creativity is required, but at the end of the day, scent is the key to all successful bow hunts.