For many deer hunters, the beginning of archery season in October is all about evenings. As we first hit the woods we often have incomplete information about the deer in our area and choose to play it safe. Going into the woods in the afternoon during the early season ensures that the deer will be in their beds and not out roaming around waiting for us to bump them as we stumble through the dark of morning. However, as we get close to the rut and the temperatures fall, mornings become viable times to hunt. Bucks become much more daylight active and may be heading back to their beds later. Sneaking in during the early hours can give us a good shot at them as they move back towards their beds. Morning hunts are not without risk, though, and it’s important to take steps to mitigate this as much as possible.
Stealth Is Critical
While you never want to go bumbling back through the woods, this rings even more true on a morning hunt. Due to the fact that your target deer may be moving through the same area you need to hike through, you need to be stealthy. For starters, make sure none of your gear is going to make excess noise on your way in. Keys jingling in your pocket or climbing sticks clanging together must all be avoided. Walking to your tree or blind, you must go slow enough to not snap every branch on the way back. Avoid excessive crunching of leaves. As it gets colder, sound travels further so silence everything you can.
If you know an area particularly well and if there’s a full moon, you may try to hike in without using a light. While this can be effective, it can also backfire if you stumble and step on noisy branches or brush near your treestand. There is also the risk of injury as walking through the woods without seeing where you’re going is not the best idea. Instead, try using a flashlight with a red or green light instead of white. These colors are less likely to bother deer. Avoid headlamps as it is difficult to control where the beam is pointed. Using a handheld light, keep the beam as dim as possible and point it down rather than out into the surrounding area.
As we get nearer the rut, mornings and afternoons can be some of the best times to be in the woods. Bucks will begin spending more time awake and moving about during daylight. However, while hunting them pre-rut it is important to do so carefully so as to not educate all the deer to your presence.