Early-Season Whitetails with David Blanton

This game is far and away about scouting, trying to go in at the right time and making a surgical-type strike to take out a targeted buck.

By Tim Herald

It’s summer and, as many bow seasons begin in early September, most of us have the upcoming whitetail season on our minds. Recently Realtree’s David Blanton shared some of his early-season whitetail tactics with me, and I am sure all of us can use some of this information to make us better deer hunters.

“Over the many years of filming Realtree Monster Bucks, we have found two times of the year are by far the best bets in which to take big mature bucks—early bow season in September and around the November rut,” Blanton told me. “The September hunts around crops like alfalfa or maybe soybeans find mature bucks at their most patternable. Many states now open bow season in early September, and this can be a hunter’s dream. Bucks will come out in the same area each evening to feed as, at that time of year, eating and bedding is all they have on their minds. A smart hunter can really take advantage of this. It is pressure dependent, but these summer patterns generally only hold for the first one to three weeks of September. Team Realtree has had a lot of success on this type of hunt in places like the Milk River area of Montana, the Black Hills of Wyoming and Kentucky.”

Blanton stressed that being smart is the key to early success. “You need to think each move through on an early bow hunt. Scout from a distance so as to stay well away from the deer and not disturb them. I like to sit as far back as possible and use a spotting scope to watch afternoon deer movement. You can see what areas the big deer come from and can often hone in on a favored trail. By glassing from a distance, you will not pressure the deer, which causes them to change patterns.”

After you have scouted a deer and decide to hunt it, you must continue to think through your following moves. Blanton said of hanging stands, “We only go in to hang stands in the middle of the day, and we will only hang them if the wind is right. We do not want to blow our scent into bedding areas and alert the deer. We also drive a vehicle literally up to our chosen tree if possible. Deer in these agricultural areas are used to farm trucks and equipment, so you will pressure them much less with a truck than on foot. We hang stands quickly and quietly and get out. We also try to put our stands as close to the actual field as possible as we don’t want to take a chance on getting at all close to the bedding areas.

“When we hunt, we only hunt on the right winds, even if that means waiting a number of days to get in a given stand,” Blanton continued. “We don’t push it because if you give yourself away to a big buck, the game is over. This game is far and away about scouting, trying to go in at the right time and making a surgical-type strike to take out a targeted buck. That is one of the most fun parts of this type of hunting, really keying in on a certain animal or a certain bachelor group. It can be frustrating to have a good buck come out day after day where you have a stand while you don’t hunt it, but if you do go in on even a marginal wind, you are making the wrong move 100 percent of the time. Patience and self control are very important.

“We are adamant about scent control, using scent-elimination spray regularly as well as showering and washing hunting clothes in scent-free soaps,” Blanton said. “I won’t even wear the same hat very many days as hats get sweaty and put off a lot of scent in early season’s warm temperatures. A lot of guys have their favorite hunting hat, but they wear it all the time and it absorbs every smell in the world from the gas station to the diner to their dog. An old favorite hat can be a dead giveaway in a treestand. At this time of year deer are often bedding very close to the food source, so being quiet and as scent-free as possible is of the utmost importance. Also, you will eventually have does and small bucks feeding all around you as they generally come out before the big boys, and if you spook them with scent, the mature bucks certainly pick up on this and never come close to your setup.”

At this time of year, you will generally see a lot of animals, and this can create a unique problem. Blanton explained, “Hopefully the first time a stand is hunted, things will come together and the buck will give you a shot, but if not you have a real dilemma—how do you get out of the stand with a field full of deer? The answer is to again use your head. We have someone drive into the field and pick us up right at our tree and never even turn off the engine. Deer are pretty used to farm vehicles. They may leave the field, but they won’t be really scared. If you climb out of a stand and walk out, you have blown the whole deal. We have used this tactic time after time, and it has allowed us to hunt a stand location on multiple occasions without changing deer patterns.”

I have to agree with David, as early September is also my personal favorite time to bowhunt whitetails. The fact that you see lots of deer, generally see numerous bucks, hunt in comfortable weather and have a great opportunity of seeing a mature buck during daylight hours really makes this a special time to hunt. Take Blanton’s advice and both scout and hunt smart, think each move through thoroughly and just maybe you will tag your own monster buck this September. 

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