early-season hunting,
An early-season Ohio 10-point.. Mark Raycroft

Sometimes, peak conditions for deer movement and our allotted hunting time don’t coincide. The perfect example? Those days when the calendar says it’s fall, yet the thermometer seems to indicate midsummer. There’s no sugarcoating this: When whitetails are wearing winter coats and it’s summer hot, they’re simply not going to move as much.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t move at all. I’ve shot my four biggest bucks on warm September evenings. So here’s what to do when you’re flipping a coin between sitting a tree­stand and hitting a golf course.

1. Find the Cool Bed

In hot weather, bucks are going to gravitate to the coolest bedding spots in their home range. If you’re in hilly or mountainous terrain, that translates to north-facing slopes that remain largely shaded from the fall sun. In flatter areas, think swamps, bogs, and creek- or riverbottoms. Once you know where a buck is bedded, you can start strategizing for stand placement.

2. Get Wet

Hot-spell bucks are rarely far from water. Creek- and riverbottoms not only supply fresh drinking water, but they also have lush and succulent vegetation. But don’t make the mistake of thinking whitetails are snobby about their water source. I’ve found deer absolutely pounding muddy water in ditches, farm ponds, even puddles. My buddy once killed a great early-season buck that wouldn’t visit an alfalfa field during daylight, by following trails back into the timber. That’s where the buck was hanging up: at a hollow oak stump full of fetid water. Pat hung a stand by the stump and shot the buck the first evening.

hot hunting

hot hunting

Head out early to your stand and go slowly to prevent a sweaty sit.

3. Find Fast Food

When it’s balmy, whitetails are too lazy to move far for food during daylight hours. This makes it critical to find discreet food sources close to bedding cover. Soft-mast species like persimmons, apples, and wild pears are all favorites of early-season bucks, and they’re often close to the thick cover bucks prefer for bedding. If there’s an acorn crop, count on this hard mast to be a huge draw for deer. Not only are the nuts desirable, but deer can feed in the shaded cover as well.

4. Dress down

Figuring out deer is only part of the hot-hunt equation—we have our own temperature issues, too. It may be warm enough to consider hunting in T-shirt and shorts, but of course you have to contend with gnats, mosquitoes, and other unfriendly bugs that can turn a sit into a nightmare. Thankfully, there are some very good insectproof camo options that offer protection. I’ve had good luck with a next-to-skin layer from Rynoskin, but there are others, such as Shannon’s Bug Tamer and BugMaster.

If you’re not interested in new clothing, sprays like No Stinkin’ Bugs (also available in a No Stinkin’ Ticks version) repel winged attackers and are scent-free.

Finally, remember to tote some water in your daypack, as staying hydrated is important, even if you’re just sitting. I’ve also learned to head out earlier than normal because I want to stroll, not hoof it, to my stand. I’d prefer to restrict my heavy sweating for the lovely chore of dragging out my hot-weather buck.