Four Keys to Opening Weekend of Whitetail Gun Season

Opening Weekend of gun season has a special engrained meaning in the hearts of all hunters.  Food, fellowship, anticipation for the first light of opening morning.  When the initial shot crashes the airwaves, you expect deer pinball- deer running in every which direction to escape.  But the dynamic of opening weekend of gun season in most areas brings a totally new set of circumstances to the table.  A stark difference from bow season.  Here are a few tips to cash in on opening weekend.A mature buck taken at Heartland Lodge Outfitters

The Thick Stuff: We hunt thick areas during bow season to catch deer heading to bed or during the rut, a place bucks will tend does.  During opening weekend of gun season, the thickest places you can find are where the deer are more than likely headed for to hide.  With the amount of human pressure encompassing the landscape, deer will hide in the thick brush to hide as this gives them the opportunity to let predators (us) walk right by.  Most hunters want a place they can see a country mile on opening day. Sure, you might see plenty of deer, but how many are going to be close enough for a shot.  By hunting thick cover with shots between 50 – 100 yards, you are setting up in their safe zone and deer should be moving not nearly as fast, giving you the perfect opportunity to squeeze the trigger.

Escape Corridors: Similar to hunting in thick areas, escape corridors are your second-best bet.  Learning escape corridors takes a combination of years spent on a particular property or by considering land features and areas of human pressure.   Ask yourself,

1)     Where will there be people walking around?

2)     What land features will deer use to escape?

Escape routes in land features take the form of funnels, drainage ditches and in the mountains, saddles and benches.  Learning escape routes takes keen observation over time.  This weekend, begin taking note of what land features and escape routes deer use in response to excess amounts of pressure.Successful gun hunter

Hunt Through Lunch: The easy repose is, “But I want to go back to camp, get warm, have a nice cup of soup and swamp jokes with my buddies.”  Think about the extra midday movement in the woods from everyone else doing the same thing.  You can catch up with your buddies later.  Pack a snack and sit through lunchtime in the tree.

Shooting:  This is for safety, just remember what is beyond your target.  With excess people in the woods, the last thing you want to do is have a stray bullet hitting someone.  This is also why it is important to have radio or phone communication.  Even have a map with pins on where everyone is hunting.  Set boundaries even in order to keep everyone safe.  If you ever wonder why landowners get mad at people for cutting in on their hunt, it isn’t necessarily because that person is a total jerk, but the last thing I want is for someone I don’t know if there to come traipsing around and I take a shot towards a deer and they be anywhere close.  Many times I have had to tell people to leave because of this.

Growing up, opening day of gun season was this magical weekend every year.  Even though I couldn’t tag along until I was 12, from home, I could still feel the magic of opening day.  I just knew Dad would come home with something from deer camp.  But it was in the friendship I truly longed for.   All I ever wanted as a young boy was to be one of the guys.  The one weekend of the season where the extra magic of passed loved ones seems to even aid in tagging a deer.  Where the sight of generations sharing the same fire or huddled around the camp stove are only second to seeing the youngest member of camp hoist his of her first deer up the game pole.  Sure, opening weekend might be busy with other hunters in the field, but it is what makes the unspoken magic of opening day.

Jason Reid

Last Updated: November 14th, 2022

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