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Hunting Early Archery Season: Neil Pendleton's Top 10 Tips for Success in the Northeast

Neil breaks down his methods and tips for success when bow hunting the woods, both big and small

For me, hunting season starts off with using archery equipment, taking place in New Hampshire first, and soon after by bringing my bow and arrows to Massachusetts.

The same is true for many other passionate hunters across New England, spanning the landscapes of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. With the crisp September and October air comes thrilling pursuit for big bucks across the expanse of the Northeast, be it within small suburban pockets or the vast wilderness in the big woods. To make the most of the early portion of deer season, here are the top 10 tips that can help you succeed in your quest for a memorable hunt:

1. Hunt Over Scrapes: Utilize scrapes to your advantage.

Deer create scrapes as a form of communication, marking their presence and status. Buck activity in scrapes really ramps up during September and October. Mature bucks are often vulnerable in the early season by hunting over scrapes. Setting up near “primary”, “annual”, or “community” scrapes can increase your chances of encountering a big buck during the early season.

2. Stay Mobile: Embrace mobility in the woods.

 Scouting and setting up over fresh sign, remaining flexible to adapt to changing patterns is the key. Being able to relocate quickly gives you an edge in intercepting bucks as they move around their territory. Don’t waste time hoping instead of actually hunting… this means finding the freshest sign and setting up there now!

3. Capitalize on Cold Fronts: Pay close attention to weather patterns, especially cold fronts.

A drop in temperature can trigger increased deer movement as they become more active, making it the absolute best time in the early season to be in the field to kill a big buck. This can be big drops in temperature or even sometimes subtle cooling temps in the evening during that final hour of daylight.

4. Target Buck Bedding Areas: Focus your efforts on bedding areas where bucks bed during the day.

Being familiar with their bedding habits allows you to position yourself for an encounter as they leave their beds to feed or visit scrapes just before dark. Get in the game by getting closer!

5. Scout Food Sources Near Bedding Areas

While food sources may not be my primary focus, they still play a role. Hunting scrapes and bedding areas close to food sources can be super effective, as bucks venture out to feed in the evening hours. Food sources constantly change and may only last a day or two so being mobile is very important to staying in the most active feeding areas.

6. Opt for Evening Hunts Near Bedding

Shift your hunting strategy to focus more on evening hunts near bedding areas. Bucks are more likely to be on the move during daylight in very close proximity to bedding as they transition from bedding. Consider abandoning morning hunts all together until late October, except in the event of a major cold front.

7. Analyze Trail Camera Data: Leverage information from trail camera data gathered in previous seasons.

By understanding annual patterns, you can decipher why bucks are present in specific areas at particular times, allowing you to make informed decisions. Knowing and understanding the “why” and how to use that information can be a big part of the puzzle. Pictures alone are a good clue, but what that clue tells you about the bigger picture can be even more valuable.

8. Understand Annual Patterns

Bucks often exhibit the most amount predictability in their annual movements. Studying bucks and specific buck behavior and preferred travel routes in previous years can provide valuable information for your current hunt. Connect the clues!

9. Explore Less-Traveled Areas

Venture in to hunt and scout the overlooked territories where other hunters seldom tread. Mature bucks often seek refuge in these secluded spots, feeling safer due to the absence of human intrusion. These special spots may surprise you! Some e-scouting on onX in your downtime can help you to identify overlooked spots.

10. Embrace Stealth and Patience

 "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast" emphasizes the idea that when performing a task or taking action, focusing on executing it smoothly and methodically will ultimately lead to efficiency and speed. In contrast, rushing or acting hastily can lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. The saying suggests that by maintaining a deliberate and controlled pace, you can achieve both smoothness and speed in your actions or endeavors. Part of successful hunting lies in your ability to be patient and stealthy. Move quietly, avoiding making noise and too much movement, take into consideration the fine details like your scent and wind direction, and remain patient during your hunts.

A single well-planned and executed approach can yield remarkable results. Set your goals, plan and prepare to execute them this fall. As you embark on your early archery season adventure, keep these 10 tips in mind. By adapting and employing thoughtful strategies, and learning as much as you can about big buck behavior, you’ll increase your chances of encountering that elusive trophy buck that you’ve been dreaming of!



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