Tips for Early-Season Bucks on Public Land

Get on shooter bucks by hunting hard when others aren't.

Photo by Lance Krueger

There are no secret spots on public-land deer ground. So if you want quality hunting, you'd better be there when others aren't. Here are the top times and tactics for seeing mature bucks—and avoiding other hunters.

Hunt the Heat
Yes, hot weather slows deer movement, but all of those panting bucks need water at least once a day, and they still need to eat. Forecasted temperatures of 10 or 15 degrees above seasonal averages will keep most hunters out of the woods. Dress light, play the wind, and hunt a water source or a secondary food source close to the buck's suspected bedding area.

Hunt the Lull
Between opening week and the rut are the first two weeks of October, commonly referred to as the lull. Most hunters will spend their free time banking brownie points at home and awaiting the pre-rut. So get out there and speed-scout for fresh sign and hot food sources, while plotting key ambush sites. It may take a few sits to pin down deer movement, but all the empty parking spots at your favorite haunts should provide more than enough motivation.

Hunt Hump Day
Got personal days? Take them midweek. Hunting pressure ebbs to its lowest point on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is especially true for mornings, as most nine-to-five hunters are planning to escape their cubicles a few minutes early for an evening sit. Leave the weekends to the crowd and take advantage of the off days for better deer activity.