- Chris Campanelli
Low-Impact Hunting in the Early-Season
This is a time of year when it's easy to let excitement take the wheel, so I figured that it was a great time to talk about level-headed decision making.
When it comes to deer hunting, of course.
There's nothing like the excitement of the early-season. Whether you're a bowhunter like myself and getting ready to kick off the early-season or a gun hunter counting the days until the late-season, we can all relate to that brimming excitement. It's a great thing, but it can also hurt us when it comes to successful hunting.
I don't know about you, but I have come to a point in my hunting career where I would rather treat it like a marathon versus a sprint. Especially as a bowhunter with the ability to hunt from September through the first week of February. You never know when an early-season stud may step out, but I'm confident in saying that the best days are still to come.
With that in mind, I always try to play it safe in the early-season. In my book, low-impact hunting is best. I want to tread lightly until the time is right. Now, the time may be right if you have a big buck working into your trail camera every day in September at 4:00 in the afternoon. You better have your butt in a nearby treestand and forget about what I just said about low-impact hunting.
But for the vast majority of us, it's best to feel things out before we jump in head-first.
My number-one rule is edge hunting all the way through the 'October Lull'. Simply sticking to the outskirts of a given property and letting things come to me. Avoiding that heavy pressure that I will need to apply in and around the rut. That doesn't mean that I'm just bird-watching on the fence row and not seriously hunting. It just means that I'm sticking to the edges and letting everything come to me.
Maybe that is the buck of my dreams, or more realistically it's a nice doe to take out of the herd and put into my freezer.
My second go-to would have to be afternoon hunting. If you are debating between mornings and afternoons in the early-season, check out this piece I did hashing out both sides. It has been my experience that more harm than good can be done by jumping in early in the morning during the first two or three weeks of our bow season here in Ohio. Not always, but more times than not. It's just hard beating deer before they get back to bedding areas.
Frequency is also going to be key. If you try to hunt daily, more power to you. You're living the life that we all dream of. But in reality, you have to really watch your return trips to certain areas at this time of the year. It's just not smart to pound one of your prime buck hunting stands every day in September or early-October.
A day or two per week is probably sufficient at this point in the season. Again, unless you have significant MRI (most recent information) that tells you it's go-time on a target buck that you're after.
I know that it's a tough call, and I can guarantee you that I will push my own envelope and my own rules quite a bit this season. Especially with the pressure on trying to get great footage. Just continue to remind yourself that the best days are ahead. There's no sense in burning out a spot before things get right.
This is also a great time of year to get outside of your box and hit some new spots. Maybe throw in a couple of hunts on public ground. Go and make a couple stands on that new private piece that you're unsure about.
Spread the pressure and hunt smart.