Whitetailers: Report to the Woods Now!

posted on September 26, 2014
zent2015_fs.jpg (13)

While the next seven to 10 days don’t rank as the most important in the overall scheme of deer season, it can definitely be worth a hunter’s while to spend time in the woods. Next to busy rut-activity days still several weeks off, I have seen more big bucks during this window spanning late September through early October than any other time of year.

undefinedIn much of whitetail country, bucks are on the move. Summertime bachelor groups are splintering, but plenty are still showing up in ag fields to forage on soybeans or leftovers of just-harvested corn. And minus the sheltering cornstalks, many deer are forced to move to new bedding sites. Meanwhile, the season’s first big acorn drops from white, pin, burr, sawtooth and other oaks are hitting the ground in many locales and will quickly pull deer from long distances.

In sum, whitetails, and bucks in particular, are in transition, and the extra activity gives hunters a great opportunity. If you happen to be where there is an open season—South Carolina, Kansas for muzzleloader or bow seasons scattered across the Southeast—those willing to commit time on stand might luck into a roaming wall-hanger. However, that’s tough, unless you’ve learned from experience or have the benefit of fresh trail-cam intel on where to put your stand.

The real benefit, I’m convinced, is in scouting. This transition period gives you a chance to observe your local bucks before they are pressured from full-on hunting activity. Some hunters think of it as “taking inventory.” I’m not so sure how far to take that, because some of these big guys will move out of your hunting area and some new ones will show up later. But come November, most of the dominant breeders will be right back in the vicinity of where you spot them now. Understand, however, the special window doesn’t last long, because of the shift to acorns and because bucks are setting up shop for breeding. In my home turf along the Mason-Dixon line, the transition peters out around October 10.

I prefer not to hunt too aggressively in this period because prime stand locations aren’t as apparent as they are for the pre-rut and rut, and I don’t want to booger things before that happens. I get where I can monitor long spans of edge cover between cropfields and woodlots where acorns are dropping. I may take my bow, but mostly I’m working the binoculars. It’s a time to hatch plans and dream of the kind of encounter that makes deer hunting such an incredible thrill.

Last week I learned even more about this deer-season milestone from Gene Pearcy, owner of Kansas Whitetail Adventures. Gene’s had great success—big bucks!—putting hunters in the field for 20 years of his state’s unique early muzzleloader season, and as a result he’s got some very pointed ideas on how we can all take advantage. Young Wyatt Schearer (above) son of my friends Chad and Marsha Schearer from “Shoot Straight TV,” killed the best buck on our hunt, and I saw one that might have been even bigger (which, as the saying goes, is another story). In this video, Gene shares his early-season know-how.


Benelli SBE3 28 Gauge 3 Inch Lead
Benelli SBE3 28 Gauge 3 Inch Lead

New for 2022: Benelli SBE3 28-Gauge, 3-Inch

For 2022, Benelli raises the bar in the growing sub-gauge movement with the release of the 28-gauge Super Black Eagle 3, featuring a 3-inch chamber.

Winchester Debuts Bismuth Waterfowl Ammunition

Winchester's Bismuth brings to market a premium, uniform shot, which is tin-plated to produce smooth and round bismuth.

First Look: Rock River Arms Predator HP LAR-BT3

Chambered in the venerable .243 Winchester, the new Predator HP LAR-BT3 is field ready and capable of MOA accuracy.

First Look: TNT T-Rex Pro Treestand in Realtree Edge Camo

Weighing in at just 21 pounds, the True North Treestands (TNT) T-Rex self-climber in Realtree Edge camo is a stand-up/sit-down style all-aluminum stand that features True North's new patent-pending "T-Rex” toothed dual-cable design and the Rapid Claw attachment system.

First Look: Primos Trigger Stick Apex Carbon Fiber Tripod

With carbon-fiber-wrapped aluminum legs and a solid Apex-Clamp design, the Trigger Stick Apex Carbon Fiber Tripod allows firearms or crossbows to be secured to it.

Browning Introduces New A5 Sweet Sixteen Shotguns

Browning’s A5 Sweet Sixteen lineup grows with several new models for designed for upland and waterfowl hunting.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.