photo of mourning doves

AN UNHARVESTED CORNFIELD is one of the best places to find early-season bucks. But tagging one there can be tough. Driving is a good late-season strategy, but right now it’s too soon to risk pushing bucks off your property. Instead, get sneaky.

There are two keys to success in the early-season stalks. First, find a relatively small field that has adjacent cover, such as woods or CRP land, and good structure, like a fenceline or ditch, amid the corn. Second, use the low-impact tactics illustrated below to catch a trophy by surprise.

Walk Them Up

STIFF WIND: Still-hunters should wait for a wind that’s strong enough to rattle the cornstalks. The rustling will cover the sound of your approach, allowing you to get closer to your quarry.

SNEAK-AND-PEEK: With a south wind, take the route shown here. As you proceed, crosscutting the breeze, poke only your head into the first row of corn and look left and right for bedded or feeding deer. If you don’t spot a buck, slide your bow or gun between the stalks, then follow with your body. And repeat.

SHOT SELECTION: Deer you spot may be bedded, or facing directly toward or away from you. If your shot angle is poor, simply wait for the buck to move. Otherwise, you can slip back two rows and sneak directly toward the deer to change your angle and ensure a clean killing shot.

Take a Stand

FUNNELS: As bucks begin to seek does, they’ll cruise any brushy fencelines that run through or adjacent to the corn, especially when they connect to a different habitat type where does may feed or bed, such as the CRP field shown here. This makes A1 and A2 great pre-rut spots.

DIPS: Bucks can enter a cornfield almost anywhere, but they usually choose a low spot, like this wet, grassy swale. B1 is a perfect evening setup. If there are no suitable trees, sneak into the cornstalks and set up a portable stool at B2.

CORNERS: C1 and C2 make excellent ambush sites because bucks gravitate to the corners of edge cover, especially where there’s a nearby travel corridor, such as the creek. The waterway also allows stealthy access.