Hunting Update and Tips to Understand Early Season Bedding

I just returned from Kansas where I spent 4 days hunting their early muzzleloader season. The day before the season opened, I drove around the land I could hunt and looked at the condition of the Ag fields. This time of year the beans are turning yellow and drying out in most areas. If you find a lush green bean field, it’s usually a hot spot for deer activity. I found the perfect dark green field that had several nice creek drainages surrounding it. I thought most deer would be bedded in the shaded creek bottom, so I decided to sit on the ridge of the bean field where I could shoot down into the bottom. I made it to the edge of the field around 4:30 PM and was hoping to be set up by 5.

I found this fresh rub not too long into the walk, so that was exciting. The wind was perfect for where I wanted to sit. I made my way across the back side of the ridge and was just about to crest the hill when I heard the beans rustle about 30 yards away. I looked over to see this massive buck jump out of his bed and start bounding toward the trees below. It was like I was on the “Hunger Games” and some gamekeeper just decided to place a mature buck next to me at 4:45 on opening day just to see my reaction. I could see at least 5 points in his right side and if his other side matched he would be close to 160 inches. I was so surprised by seeing that buck that I didn’t have time to make an ethical shot. I tried to bleat at him thinking maybe he didn’t get a good look at me and might look back one last time, but that wasn’t the case.

That mature buck was bedded down in the middle of a 400 acre bean field in the early afternoon when the temperature was 87. After he left, I went over to inspect his bed. The beans were tall enough that he was completely in the shade. It made me wonder how many other bucks were doing the same thing around there. The thing about finding early season bedding locations is that they could be anywhere! Think about the corn right now. It’s pretty much a sea of 8 foot tall trees. Bucks literally can bed wherever and whenever.

It’s hard to tell because it’s blurry, but I took the picture below of a small buck standing in a bean field. The only thing you can see is his head and part of his neck.

Two days after I jumped that big buck in the beans I was walking down a wooded fence-line on my way to another dark green bean field. Before I could make it to the beans, I heard a deer dive into the standing corn on the other side of the fence. He ran in the corn for about a minute then emerged into the field below me at about 400 yards. It was a solid 140 inch 8 point. That fence-line didn’t look like much, but it was enough to hide a bedded buck. In the early season in Ag country the bucks have cover all around them, so they feel safe bedding in random places. If you find a good food source such as a lush bean field, look at all the possible bedding locations around it. Where you sit depends on what time the deer reach the food source. In the first few days of the season they might make it to those plots with plenty of daylight. In those cases you are better off sitting with the wind in your favor over the food source than by trying to chase down beds that may or may not ever be used a second time.

Don’t be discouraged if temps are warm early season. Warm temps are normal and therefore not a deterrent to deer movement that time of year. The last evening of the hunt I sat along the edge of a lush bean field. The temp was 89 when I left the truck. When the sun went down I had a mid-150s ten pointer enter the field across from me, and I knew he wasn’t going to make it to me before the end of shooting hours, so I decided to try and close the distance. The field was flat so if I was going to get closer I had to use the beans to hide my movement. If you have ever walked in armpit high beans you understand the difficulty of trying to belly crawl across so much vegetation. I started the stalk with 30 minutes of light remaining and in that time I only covered about 70 yards. I popped up right at last shooting time and ranged him at 324 yards; a bit outside my comfortable muzzleloader range. I wasn’t able to connect on this trip, but I did learn a lot about the property I was hunting. I am headed back there in November to try and even the score on those bucks I had a chance at. It’s shaping up to be a fun fall!

-Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist

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