Let's face it – early October bowhunting pales in comparison to the rut-crazed antics one can expect of the deer woods during the first week in November. Instead of frosty mornings, cruising bucks and hot does, one often gets sluggishly warm weather, dense foliage and swarming gnats.
It may not be everyone's ideal image of a textbook bowhunting scenario; but who needs ideal to punch a tag? Believe it or not, the first week of October may be an archery hunter's best chance to kill a nice buck, excluding of course the most vulnerable windows of the November rut.
1. Deer are unpressured. As long as people aren't knuckleheads who over-scout an area, the deer have no reason to expect danger. They have traveled, lounged, eaten and slept undisturbed for the better part of eight or nine months and should feel completely comfortable continuing their casual daily routines.
2. Food sources are easy to locate. All one needs to do is glass a crop field from afar, hang a trailcam on an oak flat or spotlight an old roadside apple orchard to determine the hottest food sources in an area. Though food is abundant this time of year, deer definitely prefer certain foods at specific times. Find the best restaurant in town, and you'll find the deer, too.
3. Heat equals hydration. On days when temperatures are scorching, deer are likely to be bedded up in shady locations most of the day. But before heading out for an evening meal, they will often stop by the nearest water supply. Creek beds, remote farm ponds and other water sources are a great place to stake out just before dusk brings a relief to the heat.
4. Patterns are semi-predictable. Don't expect to kill too many late-morning, traveling monsters this time of year. However, do plan to settle into a stand that intercepts a buck's return to his bedding area just after sunrise. Likewise, look to hunt suspected travel corridors or natural funnels leading towards agricultural fields later in the evening. Again, this is what trail cameras were made for, and if hunters use them wisely, they may just peg down a repeat customer. Act fast before he changes his routine.
Even I prefer hunting the rut over the first few weeks of the season, but as I learned last year, when I arrowed a nice 8-point on opening day, there are plenty of other outdoor opportunities to help pass the autumn season. There's no wrong time to fill a tag.