Without a doubt, the lion's share of mature bucks are harvested each bow
season during the frenzy of the November rut. It seems that scores of mature
bucks seemingly "materialize out of nowhere" during this time of peak
breeding. But we all know the truth -- all these bucks are out there in
October. But where are they then?
Though not all big bucks are in the same place in October as they are in
November, most are -- or very close to it. The fact is, they are simply moving
a whole lot less during daylight hours in October. Combine this with the fact
that older bucks are extremely survival orientated at this time of the year,
and herein, you see the supreme challenge involved in bowhunting early season,
mature bucks. But, can it be done? Is the effort really worth it? From my
experience, the answer to both questions is a firm, "yes." Please
allow me to elaborate.
Mature Bucks Move Little Early
During the early season, mature bucks have recently shed velvet, and their
testosterone levels have increased. They are at peak weight -- sharp of mind
and sense. Their primary focus is on safety, while they patiently wait for
the "big dance" to come in the next month. An old buck will be bedding
in an extremely strategic location, usually not far from his primary food
source. He will usually move very little during daylight hours, thus offering a
lifestyle that is very hard to scout, much less hunt. Here, it can be a tough
call as to whether or not in-depth scouting is more helpful, than harmful.
By doing what it takes to "decipher the code" of a mature buck's
lifestyle at this time of year, you can educate and/or relocate the buck to a
point that he is virtually "unkillable." This type of intense
"in-field" scouting has rarely proven profitable for me. If I'm going
to do much serious scouting at this time of year, I do it from a distance with
binoculars and/or trail cameras.
Over the years, I've developed an "off-the-wall" approach to
success on early-season, mature bucks that has provided me with some great
dividends. From this angle, I conduct what I refer to as "surprise"
hunts into locations where I believe a mature buck may be bedded. Right here,
let me be the first to tell you that there's a lot of guesswork and luck
involved in such hunts.
Yet -- when things come together just right -- such a
hunt can be a bombshell! Most of the time, however, frustration and failure are
a constant companion. Don't give up, however, and try many different locations!
Even if you don't harvest a buck, you'll be surprised at all the savvy you
glean from such hunts.
'Surprise' Hunts Can Work
When I go on one of my surprise hunts, I scout/hunt/sneak into the
location that I've chosen, with all my gear on my back. If I feel good about my
entry into the area -- and if I feel good about a spot that I come across -- I
hang my treestand (I can do so in about 15 minutes, quietly), and slip into it
for a one-time hunt.
Sometimes, such outings find me only still hunting for an entire morning or
evening. If such is the case, I will usually come back to the location at a
later date, and using the information gleaned from the earlier outing, slip
into a pre-determined spot for one of my "one-time" hunts. Occasionally,
I will have previously hung a stand on my initial trip into the area, so that
on my return trip, I can easily, quickly and quietly slip into the location for
By employing these types of hunts in the early
season, I keep the element of surprise in my favor. And when it comes to
bow-killing mature bucks in the early season, "keepin' 'em guessin'" is
one of the greatest helpmates you can have.
Of all the big bucks I harvested, I'll be the first to admit that most of
them were taken during the November rut. Nevertheless, some of my trophies fell
during early-season hunts also. If I hadn't been out there "giving it a
go" in the early-season, there would be a few less racks adorning my wall
.... and that's not a reality that I care to consider!
Shop our great selection of value-priced Archery gear.
Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past 20 years, Eddie has harvested 50-plus Pope & Young animals. Most of these animals were taken on public ground, though some came from private ground that was accessed through hard work & a handshake. He has not been on guided hunts, nor has he hunted on "managed" properties. Elk, Mule Deer, Antelope & Whitetails are his favorite species.