Saturday, June 1, 2024

    Day 1 Recap: Michigan Whitetail 2020

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    I cannot believe October is here already. The past year has flown by! I am always excited for the whitetail bow opener, but this year felt different. I have been preparing for 6 months by scouting, planning, and practicing with my bow. I’m feeling really confident in my shooting and also feeling like my mobile saddle setup is very dialed in and giving me lots of new options. I had decided to just hunt the afternoon/evenings for the first couple of weeks in October (especially on private land). Looking at the weather, a cold front had moved in and some rain was predicted. I was expecting to see some good deer movement during daylight hours.

    On the day of the opener, the forecast changed to thunder/lightning during the afternoon. Not wanting to be 30 feet up standing on a metal platform during a lightning storm, I got a late start and headed to the woods around 2:30. Due to the forecast, I decided to hunt public land for the first day. I am being very conservative with my private land spot this year and wanted to wait and hunt that spot on October 2nd when the weather would be clear. My main concern was getting set up there and having to leave due to lightning. I don’t want to waste any sits on that property unless I know I can stay through to the end of shooting light.

    I arrived at the public land spot after driving past several other trailheads with multiple cars at each. The area I was going to hunt had 2 cars at it, but I know the location I hunt there is a good way back and very secluded. Another hunter was near his truck and had been waiting out the storm. I spoke with him briefly and we both worked out the general direction we would be heading. Satisfied that we were not hunting the same location, I grabbed my gear and started my hike in.

    The weather was crisp, but the sun was starting to peek out. As I hiked back, I immediately noticed that the understory in the forest had grown a ton in the past year. In addition, the DNR had gone into the area and hinge cut hundreds of trees. This is a method of forest management where you cut 90% through a tree and let it fall, leaving the last 10% still attached. The felled trees are then left in place. It allows the sun to better penetrate the forest canopy which grows the understory much better. Also, by leaving the large felled trees it creates a ton of cover and potential bedding spots for deer. Hinge cutting is a great technique to create bedding area for deer. The woods were almost unrecognizable from last season which caused no small amount of disorientation as I slowly plodded through thick thorns, stickers, and tall grass to get to the area I wanted to hunt.

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    Finally reaching the familiar area I was looking for, I slowly unpacked my gear and set up my saddle. The tree I climbed provided great cover and also gave me a vantage point where I could see for hundreds of yards over several potential bedding zones and travel corridors. Since I had not scouted this spot yet, I wanted to put myself in a position where I had a decent chance of deer walking by, but also could glass the surrounding area to accomplish some scouting for a future hunt.

    At about 45 degrees, the weather felt much colder than I had anticipated and I found myself throwing on every layer and handwarmer I had by the end of the day. It highlighted the challenge of regulating your temperature in the early season when the sun is warm in the afternoon, but the temps drop significantly as the evening sets in. Beginning around 5 pm I observed several groups of does and yearlings exiting the bedding area and heading through the pinch points. At about 60 yards, they were out of range. I had only planned on shooting a buck at this point anyway, so I marked the coordinates of the does on OnX to come back and hunt at a later point.

    All in all, it was a great opener. Being back in the woods with my bow in hand was a great feeling and the fact that I was seeing deer movement was a good sign for the rest of the weekend. The deer are responding to the sudden drop in temperature. Today, for day 2, I am heading out to my private land spot. I will be bringing a few more layers for the cold weather and will be filming. The first few days of October are always great opportunities to kill a buck since they haven’t been hunted in almost a year.


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