Early Whitetail

Early season bowhunting requires tactics needed are different from those in the late fall and early winter. Daytime temperatures are much higher and the deer move less.

Warmer daytime temperatures lead to more sluggish deer activity. They might even become fully nocturnal to escape the heat. This makes for a challenge.

In Illinois, the archery season opens the first of October and hunters often migrate to southern Illinois taking advantage of the vast areas of public hunting. Many state public hunting areas, the Shawnee National Forest, and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge provide Bowhunters with less crowded hunting opportunities.

Bowhunters key their hunting to water sources. The theory is that the amount of water consumed by a deer is inversely proportional to the amount of water in their food. If the deer can not get enough moisture from vegetation and surface water it will go looking another source.

Early in the season deer do not change their patterns of activity for weeks if left undisturbed. During this period they are less nervous and easier to get close to than later.

The deer’s primary concern in the early season is building up reserves of fat for the winter. Bucks eat heavily building up for the rut period during which they eat virtually nothing at all. Early in the fall they visit good feeding areas each morning and evening unless disturbed. Later they will consume berries, flowers and leaves. They prefer hickory nuts and early acorns, and the so called soft mast. Where available they feed on browse and agricultural crops. They travel long distances to find them. Later they seek crops, such as soybeans, corn and alfalfa.

Although understanding the relationship of food to water for the deer is vital, it is also important to understand scent. The heavy doe-in-heat and rut scents should be avoided. They are unnatural this time of the year and tend to spook deer. The key for hunters is being absent any scent at all. Hunters should wash clothing in unscented soaps, bathe before dressing and use scent retarding products if possible.

On the subject of clothing, camouflage clothing used in the early season tends to be light weight. As the sun begins to head for the horizon it can get chilly on a deer stand. Take a lightweight jacket along in your day pack for use when the temperatures drop. Also take along some good insect repellant as the mosquitoes come out as the day begins to end.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to harvest a deer, recover it as quickly as possible. Get it out of the woods and into some refrigeration. If that is not possible, skin the deer and cut the carcass into quarters. A quartered deer and an ample amount of ice will fit in a 48-quart cooler until you can get to a meat processor.

Early season deer hunting in hot weather is different but can be just as productive as those rut hunts later in the fall.

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