Early Season Big Woods Hunting

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KRoss480
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Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby KRoss480 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:56 pm

Hey guys looking for some early season advice.

I’ve noticed lately that I struggle to get on mature bucks in early season. It’s something I want to get better at so what better time to start than now. I normally don’t have much trouble getting on bucks in the pre rut/rut. For starters I mainly hunt hardwoods with some crp thickets or palmetto thickets with sloughs mixed in. There are oak trees for as far as the eye can see. The tracts I hunt are normally 10k+ acres of unbroken forest, which leaves glassing out of the picture. And for the most part the land is flat as can be.

So if you’ve got an area with monotonous terrain for miles, basically unlimited acorns, and no way to glass before the season how would you go about trying to hone in on a buck to kill opening day?


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brancher147
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby brancher147 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:36 am

I struggle with early season in the big woods mountains I hunt. I have no experience with flat land. But early season I am looking for fresh rubs and scrapes and tracks usually near acorns. Then I revert to previous scouting to narrow down bedding and setup as close as possible. Usually early season bucks are not real far away from the sign but are easily spooked. Pay attention to the wind and how you access not to spook anything. I have never killed a good one early season but I do see them and that’s what I have learned.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby headgear » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:30 am

I put on a lot of miles in early season, not uncommon for me to go a full week and never cut a decent track or find any fresh sign and cover 20-30 miles. Not that they aren't there but it is just so much harder to find them. After many years of scouting and hunting I do have spots that I know some older bucks use early season but even then they are not easy to get on. Keep after them and you will start to have more encounters and slowly start to figure it out.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby raisins » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:39 am

I'd say the terrain only looks monotonous to humans. Are you scouting much? I'd scout and luck for big buck sign and then set up trail cameras accordingly.

If you don't have hard transitions, then I'd look at soft transitions (changes in forest age or species) and smaller terrain changes (if it is all flat).

I think early season is an easy time to get on bucks because they are still following a summer pattern and they haven't been scared yet by pressure.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby Cchez » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:00 am

Big woods aint easy. THe best advice i can give is find your edges and scout them out. Clearcuts, windstorm damage, burns, swamps, terrain breaks, creeks, ponds, anything that creates an edge in an otherwise monotonous environment.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby KRoss480 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:57 am

raisins wrote:I'd say the terrain only looks monotonous to humans. Are you scouting much? I'd scout and luck for big buck sign and then set up trail cameras accordingly.

If you don't have hard transitions, then I'd look at soft transitions (changes in forest age or species) and smaller terrain changes (if it is all flat).

I think early season is an easy time to get on bucks because they are still following a summer pattern and they haven't been scared yet by pressure.


I scout a good bit but there’s always room to improve. The land is as flat as a pancake, can drive for hours in each direction and never change more than 5 feet in elevation.

Guess my next question is it possible to determine the difference in early season sign to rut sign when scouting in the winter/spring?
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby KRoss480 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 4:02 am

brancher147 wrote:I struggle with early season in the big woods mountains I hunt. I have no experience with flat land. But early season I am looking for fresh rubs and scrapes and tracks usually near acorns. Then I revert to previous scouting to narrow down bedding and setup as close as possible. Usually early season bucks are not real far away from the sign but are easily spooked. Pay attention to the wind and how you access not to spook anything. I have never killed a good one early season but I do see them and that’s what I have learned.


Man that’s me. I hear all these other people say that early season is one of the best times to kill a mature buck but it dawned on me that I’ve never killed, much less seen a mature buck during the early season. Its normally pushing 80 degrees that time of year down here so it’s tough hunting for sure.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby kher » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:17 am

I feel that the big woods if you are focusing on acorn as the prime food early season, you just have to pay attention to if a tree is hot in droppings and if so when do the bucks travel to feed on it. Early season you have a lot of competition as far as food goes. Find bedding and correlate that to food.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby whi52873 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:56 am

I've had luck in the early season but it's definitely tough.

Our season opens in the last week of September every year. IME, while the bucks are still grouped up and it's still warm temps they prefer low stem count areas where they can sit in the shade during the day and feel a breeze. I've found that mature oak flats are a good place to start where white oaks could be dropping. Near a creek or water source is an ideal place to start.

As soon as the bucks split up in October, IME they will transition to high stem count areas in more of your typical bedding area locations.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby G-Patt » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:45 am

Try going into the woods with the intent to ground hunt. Leave the tree stand in the truck. Keep moving (slowly) until you see deer or until you come across compelling, hot sign, even if it's 2 miles into the woods. Off season scouting/ transition lines help with a starting point, but there is nothing like in-season scouting and making up your mind that you don't care how far you have to go until you find deer or compelling, hot sign. You have zero to lose, and you won't spook deer into different county, LOL! When you go back next time, you at least have a frame of reference to work with, because deer are still within their home range in the early season. Just a suggestion and assuming you do something different than what I've suggested. Good luck!
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby DaveT1963 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:58 am

Its not just big woods IME - anywhere where the deer have vast amounts of cover and are feeding primarily on natural browse makes finding them far more difficult. And it is never over as food patterns in the woods change a lot more frequently then they do in ag country. IME deer in vast areas have much larger home ranges and more core areas than the deer I hunt in Ag country.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby KRoss480 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:43 pm

G-Patt wrote:Try going into the woods with the intent to ground hunt. Leave the tree stand in the truck. Keep moving (slowly) until you see deer or until you come across compelling, hot sign, even if it's 2 miles into the woods. Off season scouting/ transition lines help with a starting point, but there is nothing like in-season scouting and making up your mind that you don't care how far you have to go until you find deer or compelling, hot sign. You have zero to lose, and you won't spook deer into different county, LOL! When you go back next time, you at least have a frame of reference to work with, because deer are still within their home range in the early season. Just a suggestion and assuming you do something different than what I've suggested. Good luck!

If these were open hardwoods that plan could work, the hardwoods I’m dealing with have waist to chest high palmettos. You ain’t sneaking up on anything in these parts :lol: it really is a different kind of hunting down here.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby elk yinzer » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:23 pm

This is my weak spot too. I don't have any answers but I see a lot of big ole "mature" bucks in "weird" spots in early October. Very little predictable pattern. They seem to be loners until they're not. For efficiency sake I tend to wait until they start associating with does mid October. Does are much more predicable and roam less and as soon as the bucks become interested they are much more killable. I try to find not just does, but the right does. The ones close to where big bucks live and the ones that live where big bucks are comfortable shacking up.
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KRoss480
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby KRoss480 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:46 pm

elk yinzer wrote:This is my weak spot too. I don't have any answers but I see a lot of big ole "mature" bucks in "weird" spots in early October. Very little predictable pattern. They seem to be loners until they're not. For efficiency sake I tend to wait until they start associating with does mid October. Does are much more predicable and roam less and as soon as the bucks become interested they are much more killable. I try to find not just does, but the right does. The ones close to where big bucks live and the ones that live where big bucks are comfortable shacking up.

That tends to be my strategy at the moment. The only difference is our season opens Oct 1st but the “pre rut” doesn’t normally start till around the 1st or 2nd week in December. So I normally spend 2 months of my season just doe hunting waiting for the right times to move into my rut spots. I wanna work to be more productive in that 2 month stretch instead of just waiting around.
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Re: Early Season Big Woods Hunting

Unread postby raisins » Sat Feb 15, 2020 1:49 am

KRoss480 wrote:
brancher147 wrote:I struggle with early season in the big woods mountains I hunt. I have no experience with flat land. But early season I am looking for fresh rubs and scrapes and tracks usually near acorns. Then I revert to previous scouting to narrow down bedding and setup as close as possible. Usually early season bucks are not real far away from the sign but are easily spooked. Pay attention to the wind and how you access not to spook anything. I have never killed a good one early season but I do see them and that’s what I have learned.


Man that’s me. I hear all these other people say that early season is one of the best times to kill a mature buck but it dawned on me that I’ve never killed, much less seen a mature buck during the early season. Its normally pushing 80 degrees that time of year down here so it’s tough hunting for sure.


Part of this might be that they are talking about smaller public parcels. I have one prime spot that is around 1,000 acres, but it has multiple points of access and is surrounded by small tracts of private, so people can walk in from all over.

I have to pattern a buck and kill it there within the first 2 weeks because the bucks disappear during daylight. I then move to larger pieces.


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