As I asked for a coffee refill to top off my all-you-can-eat breakfast, I thought, ah, I could get used to this. It was my first trip to South Dakota to hunt pheasants, and you couldn’t start hunting until mid-morning. That meant I could sleep in, and eat a leisurely breakfast.
The same schedule can help you tag a nice buck. Seriously! It’s true that many big bucks are tagged between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and there are reasons for that.
“How long do you want to hunt this morning?” is probably a common question asked amongst hunting buddies. And the answer is usually “until 9 or 10 a.m.” The typical schedule is to get on stand before daybreak, and hunt until mid-morning.
Just as we are creatures of routine, so are deer. Our early morning arrivals may send them to cover, where they await our daily exodus. I’ll always remember my “noon doe,” which was on a trail camera nearly every day, and always at the same time. She was an old “boss nanny” who knew exactly what time I usually entered and exited the woods.
One morning in Pennsylvania, I hunted until 9. I had heard deer or some creature bounding away as I approached my chosen stand, and I hadn’t seen any deer during the morning hours. Disappointed, I thought I’d head home, let the dogs out, eat lunch, maybe even nap, and head back out in the afternoon.
But, I thought, I wonder what it was that ran away? I was pretty sure I’d heard it stop, too. So I left, let the dogs out, and immediately went back to a stand that was within 100 yards of my morning stand. I was barely settled when I saw the nicest buck I’ve ever seen in Pennsylvania come sauntering down the trail!
He’d been bedded where I thought he was, and I think he thought the coast was clear to hit the bean field, but it was not. I was set up on a main trail that led to water and the field, and was able to arrow him.
Many eastern-state hunters book a Midwestern hunt to coincide with the peak rut. I’d much rather hunt the pre-rut. Pre-rut is the perfect time to hunt during the midday hours, since the does are only beginning to go into heat. The bucks must travel more to find them. To check for hot does with the greatest efficiency, the bucks will often travel ridgelines so they can check intersecting trails.
Hunting during a big moon can be so frustrating, but not if you change your routine. During the full moon, you may only see deer right at daybreak. They’ve been moving all night and are headed to bed. They bed for a few hours but will be up on their feet to feed at midday. Set up between bedding areas and food, and you’ll have a good chance of intercepting a hungry critter.
This year, take a chance a mix it up a little. Sleep in, and tag out!
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