7 early-season secrets for hunting big bucks

First dibs

Instead of waiting for the rut, hunt big bucks in the early archery season

7. IDENTIFY SECURE FOOD SOURCES

Pre-rut bucks spend a significant amount of time feeding to bulk up for the rigours of the quickly approaching rut, feasting on apples, soybeans, corn, alfalfa, clover and acorns. Find preferred feeding areas by thinking like a wary buck—if you wanted to avoid being spotted by a human, but also wanted to chow down at dawn and dusk, where would you sneak to? Find a likely spot, then carefully scout it for active buck sign, such as fresh rubs, scrapes, tracks and larger clumped droppings. Also set up a trail cam.

Once you’ve established a big buck is in the area, plan your attack. To get within bow range, determine the buck’s travel route between his favourite food source and bedding area. Then find a pinch point to set up an ambush as he returns from his nighttime meal.

Consider topography as well. If the back corner of a field drops off, hiding it from sight, the deer will have more confidence emerging from there during legal hours. Bucks will feed on acorns hidden back in the timber throughout the day, so if you can’t get out for the crack of dawn, hunt this core area from mid-morning until early evening—and make sure there’s plenty of room in your freezer.

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