Brian Van Horn
Years Hunting Whitetails: 30
Biggest Buck: 200-class nontypical
Favorite Early Stand: White-oak pinch point. My favorite spot for the opening week of the Illinois bow season is where two narrow ridges of mature white oaks meet a larger ridge, forming a Y. The spot where all three funnels of timber meet—at the Y’s fork—is only about 100 yards wide. Any buck passing through is almost bound to walk within bow range. The mature white oaks are a big draw since many of them begin dropping acorns in mid September, but the pinch point is key. There’s also bedding cover nearby, with water sources to the east and west, and all the timber is surrounded by agricultural fields. Bucks pick their way along these ridges, nibbling on acorns sometimes an hour before dark prior to entering the cropfields. Tip: Any spot that combines mature white oaks and a pinch point can be great now—especially if it’s easy to access and leave undetected, which keeps you from disturbing the predictable patterns of early-season deer.
Years Hunting Whitetails: 22
Biggest Buck: 190-class nontypical
Favorite Early Stand: Field-edge fenceline. I glass fields until I see a shooter and then keep tabs on him until Kentucky’s bow season opens. My favorite spot is just off whatever field that buck is using. I speed-scout at midday to figure out what trails he’s taking to enter the field, and then I hang a stand between the best ones. I like a tree near a fence because bucks will stop there naturally, giving me a perfect shot. Tip: Pay attention to where small bucks enter the field. The mature buck will likely take the same route.
Years Hunting Whitetails: 20
Biggest Buck: 165-class typical
Favorite Early Stand: Creek-bed field corner. My favorite spot to bowhunt in September is the corner of a good feeding area closest to the best bedding habitat. Older bucks bed in thick, shady cover, often near creek draws, where it’s cool, and they love to enter fields in a corner, where there is a good view of the entire field. Tip: Even if the field-corner setup doesn’t pay off, it makes a great observation stand. Sit tight, note exactly where a shooter buck enters the field, and set up there the next day.