Season Opener: Practice Makes Perfect. Less is More. Water.

By: Joey Randall

Denver Tackle Co., and Bizz Baits


Deer season starts usually around the second week of September in North Carolina. And its bow season right off the bat, as gun season really won’t kick in until November for the metro area, maybe late October for surrounding Piedmont areas. Get out and practice with your bow and get in as many shots as possible, from as many different angles.  Practice your bow on flat ground.  Practice your bow sitting down. Practice your bow standing in a tree stand. Have multiple targets in different areas so that you don’t end up stuck in a position that you’ve never been in before for the first shot.

It might sound a little bit “off’, but I would try to stay out of your deer woods as much as possible when the season starts. The window for conducting a census has now passed so I want to talk about where you might try to locate deer in the beginning of the season.  These deer are starting to rub their velvet off, if it’s not off already, and they’re done growing for the year. When formulating a strategy, particularly right now at the start of the season, it’s of upmost importance to enter and exit CLEANLY. When I say cleanly, I mean without getting busted or without leaving a whole lot of scent around. In this early part of the season, you don’t want to give these deer any idea you’re there, as much as possible. The more you encroach on deer and their habitats, the less you will see deer. Circling back – a lot of the best hunters will tell you to hunt less to see more deer.  And as counterproductive as that may sound, it’s by God the honest truth.

Every time you walk into deer woods, a deer will walk over your trail and know how long it’s been since you were there.  I don’t mean that he’s checking his digital watch and saying “aw man, he was here thirty-five minutes and seventeen seconds ago”.  I do mean, however, that he’ll know that you were there that morning. They’re not seeking your scent out. They’re stumbling across you as they’re working their way through the woods. So the more times that they pick up on you, the less times they’re going to frequent that area.  That’s why the majority of us die hard hunters don’t hunt mornings, especially early in the season. You can hunt mornings if you have enough acreage and enough places to go – a lot of this is also based off of territory and how much land you have to work with. If you’ve got one hundred acres and you bounce around, not hitting the same place too many times, you’re going to be OK. If you’ve got fifteen acres, like I do, and you go to the same three spots every single time?  They’re going to avoid all three of those spots.

Keep the pressure low and you want to focus on water.  When the season starts, you’re still getting eaten up by mosquito’s, yellow jackets, and all of the other annoying usual suspects that come along with it still being straight up hot outside. Just like September being a transitioning period for bass, it’s a transitioning time for deer as well. Difference being, you can see deer and you can see their movements. They have to go drink water when it’s hot. So if you’ve got a water source, the first thing I would do is locate where that source is and find the tracks around it. Once you’ve got tracks on the water source, start tracing those tracks back to an area. Hunt that water source. Trace the tracks back to a very hard wood, brushy type area. Clear cuts; Pine thickets that have just been cut down; Any type of briar. Just the nastiest stuff you can think of, that’s predominantly what we’d call a bedding area and where you’d see the biggest bucks in this type of weather and this time of year.  Remembering to try to keep your impact to a minimum, you can dive into a place one time and come back a month later and you’ll probably be OK. If you dive into a hardcore area two or three times a week, they will desert that area.

Food is abundant. Food is everywhere. It’s difficult to hunt food at the beginning of the season since it’s so widely available. Unless you can find a certain thing that they’re really keen on, for example – if you live near a lake and arrowheads are growing at the end of the cove.  I don’t know what it is about arrowheads, but they’ll tromp through anything to go eat arrowheads at the edge of water. As the month transitions, it’ll go from berries and new growth of any kind that they can eat on to things like acorns, persimmons, etc.  Now, when persimmons start to fall, that’s a hot spot.  That’s where you want to set up.  Apple trees, as well, though that’s more prevalent in October.  As the food starts to transition, you’ll start to find deer in more concentrated areas. A lot of hunters can bait.  Bait is always a good option, but bow hunting over bait isn’t necessarily advisable. Many times it could be a twenty yard shot but a hunter will hit that spot three times a week, and that’s why you don’t see any deer in that spot anymore.  Just trying to set up on deer pretty quickly as the food changes is a pretty good way to catch some deer this time of year.

My number one focus is finding that water source.  Just think about this time of year for deer the same way you’d think about your own work day.  You’re outside working all day, doing whatever it is that you’re doing throughout the day, and you get home and need that tall glass of water before you call it a night.  Well, that’s exactly what that deer is going to do before he goes and lays down. Deer don’t sweat, so they need a ton of water in the heat.  When the heat of the day breaks and the fish start biting, the deer are probably headed toward the water source too.