The Whitetail bow season in most of Ontario opens on October 1st but will you be ready? Most of our pro staff team is busy getting their last minute details squared away but it’s easy to overlook the small details that lead to early season success. The good news for bow hunters in Ontario is, the season is a marathon, not a sprint!
To that end the best approach is to formulate an “all season plan” with some flexibility built in to handle those “what if” situations. What are “what if” situations? One example centers around pre-season scouting and the selection of new tree stand locations. My advice here is “do not pick them too early”! As August draws to an end, increased scouting becomes very important but just as important is to realize why the deer you are seeing are being drawn to a particular area. There are a number of obvious reasons; availability of water, type of food sources, good cover (remember it’s still very warm in the day so shade is important)… but all these things can change by the time opening day rolls around.
For instance that well hidden spot in the low lying area of the forest that your trail camera has been set up in, may have had all kinds of activity filtering by it in July and August, but what will the physical terrain look like when the rains of September, October and the freeze up of November hit? I have seen it happen time and again where a hunter finds a promising new stand location in July. Excited, he or she immediately fires a stand up, puts up trail cameras and sometimes even feeds the area to keep it hot, only to have it turn into a swamp come opening day and stay that way for most of the season. The point I am trying to make is you have to think ahead to October and November and try to envisage what that stand site will look like then.
Wind direction also plays a big part in the decision making process. The prevailing winds of late summer and September will certainly change come October and especially November. Keep this in mind when picking your stand location especially those located along the edge of a bush that is surrounded by a food source. These can be top producers but there are a number of factors to be considered including type of crops present when the stand is hung and when will they be harvested. The next thought needs to be around deer travel direction. Are they coming out of the bush to feed in the field or are they travelling and feeding across the field and then bedding in the bush behind you.
Don’t get me wrong, early scouting is important and will help you determine the deer population in your area. But before you start placing stands, you need to envisage what the environmental conditions will look like and consider what the prevailing fall wind directions will be on opening day and for the remainder of the season.
I have found the best approach to be as follows. First, hang your stands as close to the season opener as possible. I like to do this 2 weeks before the season opens. This gives the deer a chance to get use to a change in their surroundings. Secondly, if the area is a real hotbed then hang several stands in different locations as this gives you options when the wind direction changes. Without this flexibility your left at the mercy of the wind and no cover scent is going to hide your presence if your scent is being carried across an open field. The third consideration is foliage cover around your stand. Start by only clearing a couple of shooting lanes because if you go wild with the trimming you will quickly find yourself exposed when the leaves drop. A practice I have adopted is to use plastic tie down straps to tie early season branches and leaves back rather than cut them. I even tie them directly to the stand for added cover. As the season progresses you can release these tied back branches to provide more cover as required. An added bonus here is that if you’re a guest on someone else’s property which most of us are, you will find they are very appreciative of the fact that you didn’t hack away at their trees.
The last advice I have is to keep a couple of stands in reserve. Things will change and if you have a couple of stands at the ready you can slip in during the mid-day and hang a stand at that special spot you have been watching deer elude you at.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have a few stands that produce year after year after year. I have two such stands. This doesn’t happen by accident. There is good reason for it. The key here is to study them to determine why they are productive. Once you have established this you can select new sites that have the same characteristics.
My last comment on new stands is that I have always found the best time to hunt a stand is the day you hang it.
Hopefully these tips will help you and your hunting partners achieve some early season success or better yet, help avoid you from having to eat tag soup at the end of the season.