• Dakota Hunting Guide Magazine
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Whitetails Across the Season

by Shawn Weissenfluh

Every deer hunter has a certain time of year they would rather chase whitetails. For some, early season is the most exciting. For others, the rut is the most anticipated. Each phase of the whitetail season has advantages and disadvantages.

Early Season

Early season deer hunting, which for some states begins as early as August, can offer some of the best hunting of the year. Whitetails during this time are usually the most easily patterned. By the time archery season opens, many hunters have had deer-cams out for months and have a few specific bucks on the hit list. These deer have been using the same trails and hitting the same food sources for most of the summer. Set your stands or ground blinds up near that food source and get your popcorn ready. Play the wind right and odds are you will get an opportunity at that bruiser you have been getting on camera all summer. The one downside of early season deer is that they have a tendency of being fairly nocturnal. Overcast days or cooler weather definitely will get these whitetails moving a little earlier.

Pre-Rut

Pre-rut deer begin to get a little more active. This is the time of year when scrapes begin appearing and rubs become more common. A lot of hunters will have the most success rattling during the tail end of this time. Start to move away from the food sources and closer to the rub-lines and scrapes.

Rut

For most hunters, the rut is the time of year that offers the best hunting of the year. Throw everything you were doing during early season out the window. Rather then hunting morning and nights, sit in your stand all day. If you scroll through the record books, you will see that a significant number of monsters were killed during the middle of the day. Bucks have one thing on their mind: does. Set yourself up in natural corridors and funnels. Grunting and rattling can also be effective during this time but don’t over do it. If you’re in a good stand location, chances are you’re going to see many different bucks cruising for does throughout the day so patience is eminent. If you see a mature doe by herself (without her fawns), odds are she’s in heat and a buck isn’t too far behind her. The rut is definitely the time of year when those old, educated bucks get love-struck and forget why they are as mature as they are.

Late Season

Late season whitetails can be a little tougher to hunt then the previous phased deer. As soon as the rut ends, these deer have one thing on their mind: food. Similar to early-season, these deer hit the food sources hard, especially bucks, to recover the body mass lost during the rut. One disadvantage of late-season deer is they become very nocturnal, especially in areas that have a lot of hunting pressure. Give these deer a little break after the rifle season before you pick you’re bow back up and they should be a little more active.

As the whitetail season progresses, the way you hunt them changes. Keep a few of these tips in mind and you might find yourself in front of that bruiser you’ve been dreaming of. Happy hunting and good luck chasing them whitetails!