Are you getting ready for the opening day of bow season? If you're known as a hunter, I'm positive that most people have been asking, "Have you gone hunting lately." It's almost as if co-workers and friends who don't hunt live vicariously through your adventures.
Soon, all the glassing, trail cam, and scouting efforts will be put to use after a long wait. Velvet bucks and their behavior could play a big role in your hunt plan. There's always some controversy about bucks that shift and whether or not velvet bucks play a role in success. But sometimes, going against the grain exposes the flaws. If you've got intel on velvet bucks, here are four ways they can make or break your opening day:
1. Repeating Patterns
Many states' bow opener starts in October, but even in the first few days of the season, bucks often stick to their summer routines. Keeps tabs on active food and water in the area to catch a buck on a routine.
- Water. List all the water you've marked during your scouting process. Now, break it down. Cover, proximity to food, and how many escape routes there are, are the most important things to know about water. If you see a buck only has a few ways in and out, your odds of arrowing him get better. Also, cover dictates a buck's feeling of safety. Remember that cover is relative to the environment, so it might not always mean thick brush.
- Food. I've written a lot about the ebb and flow of food. You need to understand your area well in this subject. It's not always based on dates. Weather is going to be the biggest influence on changing food sources. With an early cold snap, white oak acorns might get eaten faster, and soybeans might turn yellow earlier than other years. You'll always be set up for a change when you know what comes next.
2. Home Shift
The dreaded shift. Why did your target buck move? Is there a better food source available? Does he want to get away from less experienced bucks? By making a list, you can determine which area has the best food, cover, safety, ease of travel, etc., to decide where that buck might be huntable.
- Data Collection: Home shifts shouldn't be a big deal. Widening your net of trail cams year after year will help determine the edges of home ranges. If you're keeping track of a few key deer, pay attention when they show up on a different camera, even if it's only one time!
- In Field Notes. Some bucks have a unique signature. It could take form in the shape of their track or the type and size of tree they like to rub. Knowing details like that can bring you close enough for a good encounter.
3. Returning Customers
Every few weeks through October, you'll likely notice a visit from your target buck now and then. Look for a mid-October visit around a minor cold front and a longer visits that will happen as early as October 19th.
- Summer Homebodies. Buck's don't forget a summer haunt. You can bet that an October return visit from a summertime regular will begin around community scrapes. That visit often happens at night, so how far away is his new home range? Sneaking between a home range and a community scrape is ideal.
- The Drury Way. The Drurys can be credited for the idea that velvet bucks that appear around August 20th will be your target bucks in October. Knowing which velvet showed then is what you can expect to look for when things get hot in the woods!
4. Take Away
Velvet bucks are a good use of time when it comes to an opening day hunt. Use your own judgment and the information you've collected. After that, repeated live experience will be your best teacher. This year, invest a little extra time keeping track of minor details. When did your encounter occur? Was it a deer you were surprised to see? Maybe it was a buck you hadn't seen for a few years. What made him leave? Is there less hunting pressure in your area than you noticed on other hunts?
Reading articles like this and watching as many YouTube videos as possible will only get you so far as a hunter. Most successful hunting revolves around creating your own questions and finding your own answers. Velvet bucks are no exception.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Blackhats Team Member