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Hunting success starts long before the season

Hunting success starts long before the season

August 13, 2006|by BILL ANDERSON

Maryland has had one of the earlier archery season openings for decades. Most of the media attention and magazine articles focus on the rut season in November, but many feel that the most predictable part of the season is in September, when deer are concentrated on specific food sources.

The early season is all about food sources and patterning deer movements is mostly a matter of finding the preferred food sources. The deer have a lot of options in our area. Many of the biggest bucks are being taken on farm properties, where the preferred food sources are usually corn, soybean or alfalfa. The living is pretty easy if you are a deer. This means the bucks grow big bodies and big racks.

The deer living in mountain areas face a different world entirely. The main food sources are generally more seasonal and cyclical. Early season food favorites include acorns from white oaks and soft mast, such as berries. In years of poor mast production, the deer might have to travel long distances to the areas that have food sources. This can be good for the hunter if he is able to identify the areas that do have food for the deer. The oaks in our back yard seem to be loaded this year, so this could be a good mast year.

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The amount of preseason scouting that is needed depends on the area you are hunting. When hunting farm deer, the approach to scouting is very different than when in the mountains. It is best to use a low impact approach for farm deer whenever possible. This means scouting at long range using binoculars and spotting scopes. The deer are obviously used to people being near, but if you start running around in the bedding areas, they seem to quickly sense that something is up and often will move to other properties or change their patterns.

The best approach in farm country is to observe the deer movements from a distance, then set up stands on the trails the deer use to travel from bedding to feeding areas. Setting your stands up near the feeding areas usually is better than being too close to the bedding areas.

Scouting mountain deer is different because you have to do the footwork to find the areas that have food first. Once the spots are determined, you can map out the strategy, choosing the right places for tree stands based on where you think the deer will be bedding and the prevailing wind directions.

Nut or mast conditions vary a great deal from year to year and just because a spot was good last fall does not mean this season will be the same. You have to do the scouting each and every fall.

To me, the fact that food conditions vary so much from season to season is why mountain deer hunting is tougher than hunting for farm deer. The food sources are obvious and very consistent year to year on farm properties.

No matter the terrain you plan to hunt this early season, you will need to put in the time before the season opens.




Bill Anderson writes a weelkly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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