In addition to the points discussed in Part I, you also want to consider your exit and entrance strategies to avoid giving your presence away to deer. Many hunters simply refuse to hunt September whitetails on a field in the mornings, and for good reason. If you try to access a field-edge stand in the dark of the morning, you are likely to bump deer on the way in and those already feeding on the field. You might not see or hear the results that morning, but you will later in the hunt as deer begin avoiding your location.
For that reason, most smart buck chasers hunt afternoons only. Getting into a green field is a snap since the fields are vacant in the afternoons, unlike morning hunts. But you’re not out of the woods yet. After dark you’ll often find yourself surrounded by does and bucks, leaving you with few options to get out. If you feel sure that all the deer are on the field, you can use a backdoor exit through the woods — but that risks the chance of leaving scent and putting bucks on alert when they return to bed. Plus some woods are just too vast to sanely navigate at night.
One of the best lessons I learned as a hunting guide was to use a vehicle for nighttime pickup. It sounds strange, but hear me out. In most areas, whitetails are used to vehicle traffic and equipment activity like tractors or ATVs. Use that to your advantage. Have a partner drive to your stand after dark to pick you up. If you keep the motor running and adhere to a steady pace, the deer might run to the wooded edge, but once you drive away they soon return to eating.
Dial Down The Pressure
Lastly, you have to consider hunting pressure in the September vote for best hunting month. Most of the credit for this reduced pressure falls on the fact that the majority of hunting seasons are bow-only, and national statistics on hunters support that theory.
Slightly more than 3 million bowhunters hit the fields annually. Numbers for firearm hunters are a bit sketchier, but according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, there are more than 10 million deer hunters — which is 94 percent of all hunters out there. However the math works out, you can see there are considerably fewer bowhunters in the field at any given time. Plus, of those bowhunters, many work, and so they have to plan for hunting trips. The payout of the rut lures scores of them to consider the rut for their hunting vacation.
What this means to you and me is less hunting pressure and more opportunity to hunt game that is visible, and possibly even get on more hunting ground. Landowners might be more open to allowing hunting access in early season before the masses start knocking on their doors. By October and especially November, most hunting seasons are in full swing and so is the hunting pressure, and pressure to secure hunting permission. In September that pressure is lacking.
“I see hunters all the time putting off September hunting to take advantage of the rut. Several of my neighbors won’t take off extra time from their job for that reason,” says Helin. “It works great for me. I don’t have to consider what stand to sit on my property based on where they might be across the fence. They simply aren’t out in September.”
As a precaution, don’t wait until September to get permission from landowners. As fall swings into action, so do farmers with the fall harvest. Summer is a better option. Few of us want to be bothered in the middle of our busy working day, and harvest is a time of incredible demand on farmers, especially if inclement weather hampers progress.
September might not have the romanticism of rut hunting as bucks run wildly with raging hormones, but it can provide the same high success, if not better. Put a September hunt on your schedule this coming season. I am, and this time I’m betting those pesky muleys won’t get in the way.
Dress For Success
I haven’t hit the woods naked yet, but I’ve been close. If you want to be cool in the early-season heat, yet still be successful, choose your clothing wisely for comfort and scent control.
September heat means increased perspiration amplifying your body scent. To control and eliminate possible body odor, look into scent-containment clothing like Hunter’s Specialties Tek-4 series (www.hunterspec.com). This base system is designed with permanently bonded silver antimicrobial yarns for odor control, and the technology can be traced to the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project on how to keep crewmembers free from bacterial growth in clothing while jetting to distant planets. Silver-based agents incorporated into the fibers of clothing provide an all-natural antimicrobial effect.
Another comfortable option is found in Under Armour’s Heatgear (www.underarmour.com). Form-fitting shirts and leggings of a microfiber blend move moisture away from your skin to increase evaporation and decrease the sensation of dampness. Plus, Capture technology is woven into each garment that uses a polymer shield to grab scent. Simply wash the garment to reactivate.
In extreme heat temperatures I try to dress minimally on the hike in to avoid excessive perspiration, and I complete my attire below my tree stand. In every situation I spray my boots and equipment liberally with products like Hunter’s Specialties Scent-A-Way to boost my scent-free status and eliminate any chance of a buck stumbling across stray scent during my entrance.