Here Comes the Fall… and the Whitetail Hunters!

Early Season Trail Cam PhotoThe month of September is an exciting time for whitetail hunters. September marks the start of many states’ deer hunting season and for others it is the final month countdown to go time.  With all of this anticipation there is usually a flurry of activity from anxious hunters; trail cameras, tree stand hanging, scouting, food plot planting, and spot checking some old faithful spots, are common activities happening as I write this article.  The savvy whitetail hunter should try and contain his excitement and approach these activities with some degree of strategy.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the upcoming season and let your guard down in an effort to satisfy your craving to enter the whitetails world once again.  You grab a stand, a pole saw, a hunting buddy and go slipping into your new hot spot for the year to complete the set up for the bruiser you know lives in the area.  The 90-degree heat doesn’t deter you as sweat pours off your face. You work as quietly as possible to alert the least number of deer. In less than an hour your ambush location is ready.  The stand is set, trees are cut, the brush has been dragged off, and your flagging tape/bright eyes are marking the trail.  Before you leave you set a trail camera to monitor the area and away you go.  A week later you can’t take it anymore so back in you go to check your camera.  Darn it! A leaf was in front of the camera, and it posed for 3,403 pictures in the last week.  You reset the camera and leave once again.  10 days later you return to check the camera in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Booner you are after.  Not only is that Booner not on your camera but he now knows that you have been to this location 3 times in the last 3 weeks.  In his mind hunting season has now started.

Are any of you seeing your recent activities in the scenario I just described?  Well, you are not alone I can assure you.  As hunters we are very predictable in our actions.  It is no wonder that over time the whitetail herd has learned to distinguish the onset of hunting season.  They don’t understand the calendar, but they most certainly understand the frequency of human intrusion. When we increase our presence in the woods for whatever reason the whitetails who live there will certainly take notice.  If it is a one-time occurrence they will likely return to their normal patterns as soon as the threat has left.  However, when multiple intrusions occur in the same area in a short time frame, they may likely abandon their current patterns altogether and seek quieter accommodations.

In my opinion, a hunter is much better suited to being very obvious this time of year.  Get yourself well organized, know where you are going, what you are doing when you get there, have all the equipment you need with you, make one trip in and one trip out.  Don’t worry about being quiet just get the work done and leave.  I think hunters who are out sneaking around in the woods trying to go unnoticed while hanging stands in the summer are actually putting deer more on edge than if they would just go do it. Use a 4-wheeler, a truck, and 3 guys, whatever you need to do, just get it over with.

early season bowhunting whitetail hunting in illinois Once you have your set up complete, please just leave it alone.  If you forgot a pull up rope or bow hanger, just take it with you on your first hunt.  Don’t go back!  No matter how tempting it may be; don’t leave a trail camera unless you only intend to check it while hunting the stand. The one exception I can live with is if the camera is on a field edge that you can drive a truck right up to and cause little disturbance to the deer.  If you haven’t figured it out yet I am against repetitive trips to known whitetail haunts for any reason.  After your stand is set you should only be returning when the conditions are right to engage your prey. Anything else is only reducing your odds of success.

If you have stand preparations remaining for the upcoming deer season now is time to finalize your plans and get the work completed.  All indications are that this is going to be a great season so don’t spoil your hunts before they even get started.  Most importantly be safe while hanging your stands.  Last I checked the deer hunting in the hospital is pretty poor.

Corey J. Wilkinson

Last Updated: September 25th, 2023

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