TIP 1: SIT THE HOT SEAT
Dawn of the gun-season opener may seem like controlled chaos to you, but deer begin to react to hunter movement even before the first shot is fired. When the shooting does start, they’ll be on the move. That’s what makes your stand selection so critical. Escape routes and feed-to-bed trails may be your best bet. Deer that were on a food source during the night will beat a hasty retreat for thick cover once dawn arrives. Select your stand accordingly.
TIP 2: GET TO BED
Most deer, when pressured, are going to head for home. They’ll seek out those thick, nasty areas where they feel safe and secure. And that’s where you must be waiting.
How to Hunt It: Position your stand—an elevated a treestand is the way to go—on the outer edge of the best cover available in your hunting area. The key is to place the stand so that you have good visibility but are very near the thick tangle that deer are heading for. Edges are natural routes of travel for whitetails, and the added visibility will increase your effective shooting range. It’s critical to get into position long before first shooting light.
TIP 3: PINPOINT THE PINCH POINTS
Not long after first light—when the guns get to cracking—deer will be seriously on the move. They’ll do it quickly and efficiently. That means they’re going to follow the path of least resistance, so pinch points and funnels located in cover can be dynamite on opening day.
How to Hunt It: Locate your stand downwind of a prime terrain feature that will focus deer movement. Pack a lunch and stay put. When the pressure is on, you could see a shooter buck at any time of the day, either moving naturally (especially if the rut is on) or as a result of being bumped by neighboring hunters. Stay alert.
TIP 4: GET LOST
It’s an old adage, but sometimes you have to hunt where no one else is willing to go. A recent Penn State study of radio-collared deer showed that whitetails change their patterns almost immediately on the day before the general firearms season opener due to increased human traffic.
How to Hunt It: Go for broke and hunt an out-of-the-way location few others would consider. Small, obscure pockets of cover produce some of the biggest bucks each season. They may not look like much, but they are overlooked sanctuaries. A small ditch, a tiny ravine, a patch of grass in the middle of an open field. Hide and sit out the day.