by Scott Bestul
The heat, the bugs, the fishing…it can be tough to transition to deer hunting when all the signs of summer remain. But make no mistake, with deer at their most predictable and least wary, this is a fantastic time to tag the buck of a lifetime. So dress light, grab some repellent, and trade that fishing rod for a gun or bow. Then take the advice of these three top pros to start the new deer season right.
Pro: Justin Moore
wildlife biologist with Whitetail Institute, Pintlala, Ala.
“Soybean and alfalfa fields are well-known draws for early-season bucks, but I like a more discreet food source like a tree or small group of trees dropping fruit. Persimmons are best, but pear and apples are great, too, as are muscadine grapes. Bucks feel comfortable hitting these hidden spots during legal shooting light, and it’s usually easy to hang a treestand nearby. I keep my eye on several persimmon trees this time of year, and when the fruit turns ripe, it’s time to slip in there and hunt.”
“The bugs would carry me off without a ThermaCell [thermacell.com]. It’s a must-have item for me.”
“I take a no-scent shower and let the soap lather dry on my skin. It keeps me cool and helps with bugs. I also wear shorts and a T-shirt for the walk in, then put my camo on at the tree.”
Pro: Lucas Cayko
White Knuckle Productions pro staffer, Williston, N.D.
“I hunt only public forests; the deer bed there and move out to big private farm fields to feed in the evening. At first, I sit in my truck or get in a tree where I can see for a half mile and glass to identify the buck that I’m after. Then I gradually move in on the deer’s entry point to the field. My first hunt might be primarily an observation stand. If I don’t kill him on that hunt but I can see him again, I’ll creep in closer. It’s impossible to back off if I bump him, so it’s always best to start conservatively.”
**Secret Weapon **
“A Lone Wolf hang-on stand and sticks [lonewolfhuntingproducts.com] are ideal for this.”
“For evening hunts, most guys want a wind blowing into the fields. I wait for a crosswind so deer moving to feed early don’t get downwind and bust me before my buck shows.”
Pro: Ted Marum
owner of Tri-State Outfitters, who hunts in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa
“Early-season bucks are eager to lay down sign and jump in the pecking order. I get them to walk where I want for a bow shot by creating a mock scrape. Field edges are perfect. Bucks love to rub on basswood or elm, so I find one and put the scrape beside it. If I need a licking branch, I tie down a too-high limb with parachute cord or fasten a limb to the trunk, 5 or 6 feet high. If I can’t find a good tree, I’ll make one with a posthole digger and a cedar fence post. Every buck in the area will come right there to lay down sign.”
**Secret Weapon **
“A Moultrie M-80 scouting camera [moultriefeeders.com] is small, inexpensive, and takes great pictures.”
“Sometimes the wind prevents me from setting up in the perfect spot, so I use a buck decoy to lure a real buck close. If he sees the fake but doesn’t approach, I snort-wheeze at him.”
From the August 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.
Photo by Charles Alsheimer