Early Season Stand Placement

The recent cold front sweeping through parts of the upper Midwest has me itching to get into a deer stand! The first hint of chilly weather awakens my hunting senses gets me thinking about fall sights, sounds, and smells. Early season bow hunting is just around the corner for me here in Wisconsin and I have been in full-blown deer mode lately. Early season deer movements are quite different than the late October early November period—and your deer should most likely be hunted differently during these early fall stages. Stand placement during early season should be centered around trail camera evidence as well as food, and other limited resources in your area such as water. My early season stands are mainly placed around evening food source movement, but not always. Morning stands which are easy to access and pinched between bedding areas can be prime as well.

During the past few years, my early season stand placement hunting strategies have changed greatly. I used to dive right into some of my best rut spots opening night for no reason. No camera evidence, no major in-person scouting telling me I needed to be there, just dumb assumptions about early season hunting had led me to these spots! I blew deer out and did more harm than good during these ventures. I was young and inexperienced. Now, I center my early season sits around easy to access spots that are seeing consistent trail camera pictures. If there is no camera evidence, I basically will not hunt the spot. I have two clover food plots near major fields that have been my focal points for early season sits lately. I have decided to place stands directly over the food plots hoping to sneak in for an evening sit without disturbing bedded deer in the woods or CRP field nearby. If you have a high pressured parcel of land with a food plot, it might be worth placing a camera on a trail leading to the plot to see if daylight action is taking place inside the timber. In highly hunted areas, hunting right on a field might leave you ‘skunked’ and disappointed. If you do hunt on a trail leading to a food source, you must do your scouting to have confidence you will see deer on the trail your stand is set up on.

Timing these early season sits on food plots or ag fields should be focused around weather fronts or previous years’ camera evidence. Sometimes a buck is stuck in his ways no matter what weather or surrounding conditions are presenting, and will show up to an area very consistently. But, a safer bet is that more bucks will move on a cold front and/or high pressure system, and you better be there to not miss out. Being a father of two very young children, I must find ways to hunt efficiently and ensure I am not wasting my precious time afield. During early season, I strictly hunt weather and movement patterns based off camera evidence. Sure, you can bag a monster during a warm September evening, but your chances are less likely during these conditions. I know I am better off spending time with family. I have followed a lot of Mark Drury’s advice and try to hunt cold fronts with a temperature drop of at least a 6-10 degree difference from the previous day during the early portions of the season. Typically, cold fronts bring high pressure with clear skies, and encourage deer to move earlier and more often.

Mark Drury also claims the words “never” and “always” do not exist in deer hunting vocabulary, and I agree! Saying deer “always” move at night and “never” move in the morning during early season is just not true. I have a spot on my property in southwestern Wisconsin that sees aggressive early season morning movement. Opening morning of archery season September 16th, 2013 brought very cold morning temps (33 degrees) and high pressure. My stand was placed about 40 yards inside the woods from a bottom field with bedding to my left, the field in front of me, and another bedding area to my right. This ditch head is sandwiched between these two massive ridges where deer bed. The deer typically swing through this area from bedding area to bedding area early in morning during early season. Apple trees, flat terrain, and thick cover to my left and right make this a nice morning stop-off on their way to one ridge or the other. However, about the time I expected a deer to appear from either my left or right on this opening morning sit, sure enough, a monster buck appears out in the field in front of me. He proceeded to make a large scrape on an overhanging branch on the field edge and dart into the woods too fast and out of range, leaving me baffled and frustrated. I could NOT believe I had watched a monster make a scrape opening morning of bow season and skirt the heavy trails in front of me. About 20 minutes later I harvested a doe who followed the script perfectly and appeared out of the bedding area to my right, munching browse and working her way to the bedding area on my left. This story goes to show anything can happen when you hunt weather. If you have a bang up morning spot for early season, attack it and do not listen to general assumptions about the early season garnering no deer movement.

Early season hunting can be very successful but it requires placing stands that are low-pressure, easy to access and set up based off the best trail camera data you can gather. If legal, Ani-Logics deer feed and mineral can be a great way to harvest does and continue to gather info on deer movement on your property!

-Paul Annear, Ani-Logics Pro Staff

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