It’s no secret that positioning yourself between
deer bedding and feeding areas is the ticket to success in the
early bow season. Once the rut kicks in and gun season applies
pressure on the herd, many hunters find success by then relocating
to narrow travel or escape routes that connect large blocks of
cover. But what’s the best place to hunt during the late-October
and early November transition period in between?
During this time of year, when deer could be focused on
feeding or breeding depending on the conditions, I’ve found that
closing the gap on bedding areas offers a versatile setup that
takes advantage of either scenario. This doesn’t mean abandoning
the feeding routes that deer have been using, it means getting
aggressive and relocating from the “feeding end” of the route to
the “bedding end.”
A case in point about the versatility of such a setup
is a particular stand location that has become my favorite spot to
hunt. The stand sits just 35 yards south of a well-used bedding
thicket, and it also happens to be where I harvested my largest
buck to date (no, that’s not the only reason it’s my favorite).
That buck was taken on Halloween weekend a few years back, and the
deer in question was contently nibbling acorns while making a
leisurely trek to neighbor’s alfalfa field. There were no pre-rut
theatrics, he was just interested in dinner, and I was fortunate
enough catch him on his regular feeding route.
Likewise, that same position has offered early-November
opportunities at bucks that were clearly obsessed with breeding.
Lonely bucks in the pre-rut days will often wander in daylight
hours from place to place looking for does, and popular bedding
spots are always on their list of destinations to search. Many
times I’ve watched from that stand as bucks swung around the
downwind edge of the thicket for a quick scent check and then
barged into the brush to scatter does.
Hunting tight against bedding areas during this time of
year is a good game plan, but it can also be tricky. It’s easy to
scare or pressure the deer you’re after as you access the stand, so
stealth is critical for it to work properly.
It’s important to watch the wind regardless of where
you’re hunting, but this is particularly true when you’re close to
their daytime sanctuary. As much as I love to hunt that favorite
spot I mentioned, I’ll avoid it until I can hunt there with the
wind in my face. If the breeze will carry from your direction
toward the bedding area at any time during your hunt – which
includes your travel to the stand – the odds of success will drop
dramatically. Remember, the bucks are either in there already or
will scent check the spot from the downwind side, so straight
downwind is where you need to be.
Noise is also a big concern in these positions, and I
like to use hang-on or ladder stands for these applications rather
than using a climbing stand. Anything that clinks, clanks, or
squeaks unnaturally is a problem when the deer you’re after could
be laying just a few dozen yards away, so do everything possible to
sound like nothing more than a squirrel when you walk and then
climb to your perch in silence.
Pre-rut days will transition to the peak of the rut,
gun season pressure will change the game, and mid-season may bring
a shift in preferred food sources. But until then, holding tight to
current feeding routes while closing in on bedding areas will offer
legitimate chances at both does and bucks.
Read more in the Nov 4 issue of Illinois Outdoor News