Next in Line — How to score during the early bow-hunting season

Bow season isn’t the first opportunity to shoot some game, but it’s the first shot at putting deer meat in the freezer. Here’s how to set up your hunting stands take full advantage of the opportunity.

The earlier the opening date the easier it is to kill the game.

Doves start it off, and assuming you can shoot a shotgun, they aren’t all that hard to kill.

Teal come next, and most teal hunts I’ve been on are akin to blackbird shoots — assuming birds are in the area.

Bow season is third in line, opening even before squirrel and rabbit season.

So if my theory rings true, deer are easier to kill than small game.

“Well, not exactly,” said Curtis Simpson, an avid bow hunter from West Monroe. “Just because we get to climb a tree four days before we can shoot a squirrel doesn’t mean early season bow hunting is a walk in the park.”

In other words, there is more to killing a deer during the first few days of bow season than shimmying up a tree on the edge of a food plot or beside a pile of corn.

Which tree you decide to climb will go a long way to determining how many deer you see and, ultimately, kill.

For Simpson, the tree selection process begins with breaking October into two halves.

“Two different phases in October,” he said. “The first phase is freakin’ hot, and not much is going on. No buck movement really at all. That’s when I’m trying to kill my does.”

Admittedly, he’s looking for an easy way to put some deer meet in his freezer early on, so he doesn’t mistakenly shoot a hot doe with a buck on her trail later in the year.

And to make sure killing his early does doesn’t take too much out of him or his deer population, Simpson opens deer season by hunting the outer most edges of his property.

What he’s looking for is a tree where he can hang his stand that doesn’t require much of a walk to get to.

“The last thing I want to do is sweat to death trying to get to a stand in the first (days) of October,” Simpson said. “One of my favorite stands for the first half of October isn’t even in the woods. I’m looking in the woods, but it’s an easy-in-and-easy-out, so I hunt it early on.”

And to make it even easier, Simpson hunts the hilltops during early October.

“That doesn’t really help me see any more deer,” he said, “but it sure does help with the mosquitoes that torment you down in the bottoms. You get more of a chance of a breeze up there to keep them away and cool you down a little bit.”

But hunting in relative comfort out of a stand that’s easy to get to won’t do you much good if no deer walk within bow range.

That’s why Simpson puts in a lot of early work trying to find exactly where some mature does might come out.

“You’ve got to put in some time to find where deer are coming in,” he insisted. “Say you’re hunting a plot. If you set up in the wrong corner, you may get to watch does all day long rather than shoot them.”

Simpson relies heavily on some of the new digital cameras that capture images every five seconds or so.

Assuming it’s not watching over a field where a hunter could glass for 300 yards, they are invaluable tools because they don’t have to wait for deer to get close enough to trigger it.

“They can show you the exact spot where deer are entering your plot,” Simpson said. “And once you figure that out, you can play with it from there to make sure you’re close enough on opening morning.”

Playing with it from there during October means finding a tree that’s on the north side of a deer trail, since the prevailing wind this time of year is still from the south.

Although he’s shooting does early on, Simpson said he is particularly looking for those old, mature does that become such a pain in the butt later in the season.

“I usually spot them coming out with maybe a 2 ½-year-old doe with a couple 50- or 60-pound fawns,” he said. “Sometimes one will come out all by itself.

“Either way, I get a big doe in the freezer and a reprieve from them getting a bead on my location and spoiling the rest of my season.”

The second phase of October begins when Simpson starts spotting signs of buck movement. Although most of the movement will still be at night, Simpson starts shifting to a different gear to see if he can luck onto an early buck.

“Up here in North Louisiana, we might get a cold front that drops us down into the 40s,” he said. “The does won’t want anything to do with them yet, but I might be able to catch a buck cruising and looking for one anyway.”

When he realizes this extra activity has begun, Simpson pushes a little bit farther into his property to some dropping white oaks or pin oaks.

But he doesn’t go in without some insight gathered from some more of his digital cameras.

“If I start seeing some daylight pictures of bucks, yeah, I might go in there if I think I can get to him without spooking him,” Simpson said. “But if I’m getting all my pictures at night, there’s no sense going in there trying to hunt him because the more I go in and out the better chance he’s going to peg me.”

Simpson would much rather keep that buck there by not spooking it and perhaps even attract more deer from neighboring properties by giving them a place where they can feel secure during daylight.

For bucks in particular, stand location becomes much more critical. That’s why Simpson looks for trees close to bedding areas.

Deer are more visible in October than they are in November, and Simpson believes the transition zones around bedding areas give him a much greater chance of seeing more deer.

“I look at it this way: If I’m hunting a food source, I’ve got one chance to see a deer, but if I move closer to a bedding area, I double my chances because I can catch him coming or going,” he said.

Simpson also said deer don’t wander very far from their bedding areas, and that they will bed very close to where they’re feeding.

“Last year, I shot one 20 minutes after shooting time,” he said. “I had my pick of seven deer, because they were all coming out from their bedding areas at the same time.”

To find the bedding areas on your property, Simpson suggested looking for the thicker spots, although they probably won’t be in the absolute thickest areas during October.

You might have to bounce around a little bit and not lock into hunting the same spot over and over again, but you’ll know when you’re getting close because of the increased deer movement you see.

Clear cuts are a good starting point, but if your entire property has been clear-cut at the same time, it can create more problems than it solves.

“In that case, look for some kind of edge,” Simpson said. “Maybe where a 2-year-old cut butts up against a 4-year-old cut. Maybe you’ve got a creek where the timber was left standing.

“Any kind of terrain change like that can put the odds in your favor.”

And if you’re hunting an area with sign but no daylight deer, Simpson suggested moving in the direction you believe the deer to be coming from because they’re not getting to where you’re hunting until after dark.

“Keep moving and you’ll get closer and closer until you finally start seeing deer with enough shooting light left,” Simpson said.  “And if you want to see a buck, keep moving even after you start seeing does: That old buck will be the last to come out, and the closer you can get to his bed without spooking him the better your chances of seeing him right there at last shooting light.”

Being third in line doesn’t necessarily mean deer are easier to kill than small game, but if you get your stand in the right spot you might be able to at least limit out on does before you can shoot your first squirrel.

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at