The crisp evenings of late October and the blustery days of November remain several long months away. This is the time the whitetail hunter cherishes, The rut is about to begin and the wise old bucks will soon be on the move, driven nearly mad with the desire to breed. Hunters who achieve success during the Fall know full well their hunting season began many months earlier. This offers them a distinct advantage when the hunting season officially begins. Here are five ways to start your hunting season in July.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Whether you are a bow or gun hunter (or both), we all need to practice. Shooting is a perishable skill. Proficient hunter knows full well, the first time that weapon is fired each season should not be with a deer in your sights. Scopes and sights can be jarred out of alignment in the offseason. Strings experience stretch. Take the time to zero in your optics before the first sit of the season. It should be a goal to extend your range further and further each year. Practice shooting from a seated position as well as other contortions you may find yourself in while hunting from your stand or blind. Having established a comfort level with shooting from various positions is a skill many hunters overlook.
Maybe your mother told you, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Odds are she was not talking about deer. Preparation of your gear can save you precious time and frustration in the field. Take the time to stock up on need supplies before you get distracted by holiday on-goings during the busy hunting season. Hand warmers are a must, as well as zip ties, paracord, and batteries of all sizes. Test your calls, your range finder, and your flashlights. And pack your gear in an easily-accessible manner, because efficiency and ease of access cannot be overlooked. Price-conscientious hunters can often purchase these items at a lower price in July, before the start of the hunting season.
Scouting is Key
July is a great month to deploy your trail cameras. Bucks will have obvious growth to their antlers and doe’s will have fawns in tow, making for great pictures. Place your cameras in high traffic areas such as breaks in fence lines, stream crossings, or pinch points. Position camera closer to the ground as to capture the whole animal in the frame, and not cut off their head. It can be extremely frustrating to have a picture of a big-bodied whitetail near your stand and not be able to identify if it’s a buck or a doe. Also, consider keeping a journal of whitetail movement around your stands or blinds. Taking note of time, wind, moon phase, and temperature can paint a picture of a pattern. Specifically early in the season, this information can be analyzed and compiled to your advantage.
Blaze a Trail
The weather in July is not the most conducive for working in the fields or forests. Yet this is the ideal time to clear trails and brush. Fallen trees and branches need to be removed and tall grasses cut. The hot and humid conditions do not make for the easiest of work environments. And don’t even mention the mosquitoes and wood ticks. Bug spray can be your best friend. Whitetails will often take the path of least resistance so use this to your advantage. Considering creating artificial pinch points to funnel whitetail movement closer to your stand or blind. Strategically placing fallen trees or limbs can funnel deer closer to you and give you a strategic advantage.
Location, Location, Location
With the information you’ve gleaned from your trail cameras, position your blinds or stands in locations most favorable to whitetail movement. Keep in mind, patterns may change with weather conditions, food availability, or pressure. Place them off the trail, not directly on. 20-30 yards is ideal and considering clearing yourself a path for quick and silent entry or exit. Cut and clear shooting lanes and it never hurts to take measurements to landmarks for quick distance references. Always keep in mind the prevailing wind, when hanging stands and placing blinds. Scent control only goes so far. Most importantly, think of safety. Platform blinds should be inspected for stability and check straps for hang-on or ladder stands which are favorite snacks for red squirrels and mice.
The official opening of bow hunting season is still ten weeks away and gun deer even further. You, however, can greatly increase your odds of filling a tag by starting your hunting season in July. The work you put in pre-season is directly proportional to your success rate. And will pay dividends in one form or another. As the dog days of summer roll on, begin to prepare with these five ways to start your hunting season in July. Come October or November, you will not regret it.