Its that time of year again. No, not my birthday (but Ill still take gifts). Its deer season. Archery deer season to be specific and since the decision a few years ago to allow hunters to use crossbows during archery season there are more hunters in the woods during this time of year than ever before. With that many new archery hunters out there that means there are a lot of hunters who dont know how to hunt this early in the season, and believe me it is a different experience. So lets cover a few quick tips for early season hunting.
These arent tips about where to hunt, how to position a stand, or what patterns the deer are in. These tips are about the little things that you need to do to stay comfortable in the deer stand in October since, if youre comfortable on the stand, youll spend more time in it which ups the odds of taking a deer.
I dont care if the calendar says its Fall (and all the stores are decorated in pumpkins and in some cases Christmas trees) this is Texas and its still hot. All of the hardships revolve around the fact that daytime highs are still in the 80s or 90s and nighttime lows might get into the 50s if were lucky.
The biggest heat related issue, or the one that annoys me the most, is the fact that there are still a lot of blood sucking bugs out. You see them during general gun season too but nothing like what is out in October. It usually takes couple nights of freezing weather to kill most of them and thats not going to happen until at least the middle of November. To avoid getting eaten alive by mosquitoes get a ThermaCELL. I bought one a few years back and it was the best $20 Ive ever spent, really. The chemical used to keep the mosquitoes away doesnt affect the deer at all. Ive had deer within 10 yards of me while the ThermaCELL was going full blast. Get one and you can thank me later.
illustration by Paul Bradshaw
As far as other annoying bugs, such as ticks and chiggers, the best defense is pants that tie at the bottom. Synch them up tight to avoid getting too many of them on you while walking to your stand. It doesnt hurt to do a check for ticks after the hunt also.
Most hunters dont think about it, but youre going to get very thirsty while sitting in your deer stand in October, especially on afternoon hunts. If you get thirsty you stop thinking about deer and start thinking about going home, so carry some water with you on these early season hunts. Bottled water is good but can get noisy when empty, plus you have to find something to do with the bottles when youre done with them. The better choice is to get a backpack with a water bladder (like hikers use) and fill it up. Using one of these means that youll always have at least a liter of water with you and can drink silently since you wont have to mess with unscrewing bottle caps or squeezing squirt bottles.
I lied a little bit earlier when I said this wouldnt be about stand placement because were going to discuss it just a little, with a twist. Im not going to get into where you should place a stand, but where you should not. Ive learned the hard way that early season stands need to be placed in the shade.
If you hunt out of ground blinds youll end up sitting in a puddle of sweat if you put the pop-up blind out in the sun. The sun turns the blind into an oversized camouflage toaster oven. On that same note, tree stands also need to be placed in the shade to keep you cool and to keep you hidden. If you have the sun beating down on you all day youll be sunburned, sweaty, and fidgety. Youll also be brighter than the surrounding area meaning youre very visible. It wouldnt hurt to sit in your stand for a full day before the season to see if there are any times when the sun will sneak through the trees and hit you like a spotlight. It would also be a good idea to set up multiple stands in one location to adjust for the sun.
Early season hunting is one of my favorite times to be out since the deer arent pressured yet. It just takes a few minor adjustments to make sure you can take the heat so you dont have the get out of the deer stand.