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6 Missteps for Opening Day

Opening day is the Christmas morning feeling for adults.  No doubt, you have been thinking, planning, and preparing for this special event even if you’ve done it many times before.  The first day of archery deer season can be your state’s first legal hunting day or the first day you can go hunting.  Either way, if you are serious about success, don’t take these missteps and screw up your best first chance.

Gas Up Well Before Opening Day

One of the worst things a deer hunter can do is buy gas on the way to a hunt.  The scent of petroleum is so strong, most humans can smell it.  Even if you wear plastic gloves when gassing up, your feet will be soaking up the smell of gas.  Back in the car or truck, that smell transfers to your gas pedal and floor mats.  If you use a UTV, you probably have driven it with your street shoes so it is contaminated also.  It’s best to keep your boots and clothes in a plastic container and change them in the field.

Where the Wind Blows

Wind direction should determine which stand you hunt and if you should hunt at all.  On opening day, deer will probably have a routine of feeding and bedding and if they don’t smell danger, they will continue that routine.  If you pollute your environment with human scent, deer will detect you and detour you long before you see them.  Even if you take appropriate scent control measures (shower, spray down, use ozone scent eliminators) a deer’s nose is so sensitive, it will detect you from downwind.

Stalk your Stand

I have several stands with excellent early morning potential, yet I don’t hunt them because I’ll spook deer on the way in.  Keeping the two previous points in mind, you want to stalk your stand such that you don’t spook deer.  For this reason, many hunters choose to hunt opening day in the afternoon so that they can approach quietly in full daylight, access wind direction, and move when most deer are bedded.  Ironically, if deer are used to vehicles, farm equipment, or UTV’s it may be best to drive as close to your stand as possible.

Sense about Scents-

I’ll never forget climbing a mountain an hour before daylight, upping a tree in my climber, and watching a herd of deer approach at first light.  The lead doe walked directly under my stand with a buck trailing the group.  Suddenly, she smelled some buck lure I’d posted, snorted, and nearly exploded in her escape.  This was the early season when doe-in-heat lure was unnatural and she wasted no time in her retreat.  Curiosity lures may stop a deer in a location, but save the rut scent for a more appropriate time.

Change the Environment-

If you plan to hang a stand, post a ladder, or trim shooting lanes, do so at least two weeks prior to opening day.  You want deer to be traveling in natural patterns, the same environment they have seen in previous weeks so any change will be quickly noticed.  Last-minute changes will instantly alert deer.  Even putting apples or other bait (where legal) near your stand on the eve of opening day will alert bucks who rarely feed at baited sights in daylight.

Ignore the Food Source

White oak acorns are dropping early in the Mid-Atlantic states.  I was surprised (and delighted) to find large fresh acorns near my stand.  Even mature bucks will be food-focused in September and you want to keep food sources in your strategy.  A cut cornfield may harbor deer who emerge at dusk and feed along its edge.  However, once the corn is harvested, the deer’s feeding pattern completely changes.  Likewise, a prolific acorn drop will lure deer into the mountains and away from agricultural fields.  In a poor mast year, the opposite will be true. Opening day is always exciting, wherever it occurs.  Take care not t make these mistakes and your chances for success will soar.


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