For the last several years, David has kicked off his fall hunting season with a September muzzleloader whitetail hunt in Kansas. The opportunity to tag a big buck in the early season exists, but hunters have to navigate the challenges that are also associated with the early season like heat, abundance of standing crops, nocturnal activity and more. David says that the great thing about early season muzzleloader hunting is if you can get on a buck that is showing up during daylight hours, you have a good chance of getting it. However, the tough thing about early season muzzleloader hunting is finding a buck that is actually showing up during daylight hours. David says the earlier in September, the better your chances are of tagging a buck as they are still on their late summer feeding patterns and fairly predictable. However, once bucks start to shed their velvet and the bachelor groups begin to break up the deer become very nocturnal and their patterns completely change. That further complicates a hunter’s ability to find a buck that is moving during daylight. The key, David says, is to not pressure the deer. Movement patterns are very fragile this time of year. If you pressure them coming or going to your stand you may very well break off any daylight activity a buck has been engaged in. Having a strategy once you find a buck that enables you to get on him, without bumping him, is important. That might mean you can’t hunt mornings, David says. If you go in the morning and the buck is already there you run the risk of chasing him off with a good chance that he won’t return. The early season is all about low pressure and patience.
Hunting nocturnal deer is tough, there is very little motivation in the early season for a buck to get on its feet during the daylight. During this pre-rut period they are fat and happy, bulked up and waiting for the rut. By nature, deer are low light animals, so David says early season hunters have to use the small windows they have to their advantage. Deer will move in the later afternoon and early morning hours, but primarily at night. That doesn’t give hunters very many hours each day to actively pursue deer, but in the early season, these hours are likely your best bet. To be successful, hunters need to hunt major food sources, hunt places that are highly desirable, have a lot of patience, and be mindful of keeping your pressure to a minimum. David highlights a memorable early season hunting experience where a buck stayed just out of reach, stepping out seconds after the close of legal shooting light. The buck, a 180” giant stood only 90 yards away, leaving him with no option other than to just sit and watch. David says early season hunters can be rewarded with big bucks if they play their cards right, however they will have to invest time and a good amount of patience to seal the deal.
David then pivots to after the shot circumstances. A hunter’s number one responsibility is to be an ethical hunter and that means recovering the animal you are hunting at any cost. David says that hunters owe it to the animal they are hunting to put forth their best efforts at recovery. You should always assume a hit until you can prove otherwise, he says. As a ranch owner and someone who frequently guides hunters, David says it is amazing how many times he has seen a hunter shoot a deer and be certain they missed because the deer doesn’t react in the way they expected. However, after taking a closer look, they find out they in fact did wound or kill the animal. You can’t go by perception alone, you have to get on the ground and look for sign. In a scenario where you are tracking, and you realize that you have a deer that will not expire quickly and it’s running, David says you have to bring out other tactics to recover that animal. In a situation like that, he says he’s a firm believer in dogs to track and aid in the recovery. He notes that last year in Kansas he used a dog to help him locate a deer that jumped the property line and expired in a dense thicket. Had it not been for the dog, because there was very little blood, David says recovery would have been difficult if not impossible. We owe it to the animals we hunt to do everything we can to recover them – spend our time, put forth the effort and exhaust all methods at our disposal to make it happen.
Finally, David talks food plots and understanding what is required in different parts of the country to be successful. Tecomate Wildlife Properties was started about a year ago, David says, with the goal of helping people apply the Tecomate Management System and achieve their deer hunting goals with warm season food plots. He says they want to show what is possible when hunters use food plots as a central nutritional source and talks about a property in Georgia they are implementing these strategies with great success.
Low pressure and patience,