DEER: Opening Day
Opening day of deer season comes only one time per year for each state you hunt; therefore, to be successful in taking a whitetail with a bow on the first day of season can be a challenge. Yesterday, September 24, 2011, was the opening day of Tennessee deer season with a bow and I took a large fat whitetail doe that will provide some excellent eating and replenish my freezer that was empty because of the power outage caused by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. While my hunting buddy and I were setting in our trees yesterday, we saw 21 deer walk past our stands. Since I have harvested a deer with a bow on the opening day of season for four times in a row, I have decided to share some common facts that may increase your chances for a first day bow kill.
Of course you need to get out about a week prior to the beginning of deer season and do some intensive scouting of the area you are planning to hunt. Be sure to look for large oak trees with an abundance of fresh acorns falling to the ground. Many trees may have a few acorns on the ground and you may see a few deer tracks, but you need to scout until you find that special oak tree or group of oaks that have lots of activity and sign that deer are coming to the area on a regular basis. Do not climb a tree just because it has a few acorns and looks like a good area. Do not hunt a trail just because it is well worn since many times these trails are nocturnal routes of deer moving from bedding to feeding areas and are used mostly at night. Remember, this article is about the opening day and deer are not spooked from many hunters being in the woods; therefore, they will use open woodlands at the first of bow hunting season in search of their favorite food-acorns.
So what do I recommend for you to harvest that whitetail with a bow on the opening day of deer season? I have already mentioned that special oak tree and now for the specifics. Find an oak that has an abundance of acorns and you will probably see a bunch of squirrels who also zero in on the food source. In addition to acorns, the ground should show sign of several deer using the area and the ground will be trampled up with many many deer tracks. But the most important thing to look for is fresh droppings that indicate the deer are bedding nearby and coming to the area prior to taking their daily dump. If you can find five or six piles of fresh droppings and maybe more old piles, you can bet that your chances of seeing a deer are magnified by the number of piles you find. Again, the following is what you should look for: 1) an abundance of acorns, 2) ground pulverized with tracks, and 3) five to six piles of fresh deer droppings within twenty yards of the tree.
What oak trees should you look for? My all time favorite tree is the white oak, but at this time of the year they are not dropping acorns very consistently; therefore, look for other oaks that are supplying food to the deer. In Tennessee, the northern red oaks have big acorns and are dropping acorns on a regular basis now. Another oak that are also being used by whitetails are the mountain oak that have the largest acorns in this area, but at the first of season are somewhat bitter. I watched a buck bust and eat the big mountain oak acorns yesterday. Also the yellow chestnut oak (chinkquapin) is also dropping acorns and these are relatively small acorns, but the deer love them. White oaks are best in the middle of October. In the late part of the year, shumard oaks, post oaks, scarlet oaks, willow oaks, and water oaks are good for late season forage.
However, you are not yet assured of killing your whitetail deer on opening day of season. The tree you select to climb is the next task at hand. Usually in this area, the best stand location is to the east of the special tree you have selected to hunt. The wind blows more from the north, south, and west in our location, but always be aware of the wind direction because a deer's best defense is its nose. Most of the times deer will approach a tree they are feeding on from the area of most dense cover where they bed; therefore, be aware of the most likely route deer will take to pass by your stand. In addition, be sure you select a stand location that has some cover that will hide your outline. The second best defense of a deer is its eyesight; therefore, do not climb a tree that makes you stand out like a flag on a pole. Also, be very cautious of your movement in the tree which can give away your location. Deer are very in tune with the movements around them even 20 feet up a tree. Your motions should be slow and deliberate when a deer's head is behind a tree or leaves.
Yesterday, as I set in my tree stand watching a bunch of squirrels constantly knocking big red oak acorns out of a tree, I knew it would not be long before I would see a deer. As I looked under the big tree, I saw a six point velvet buck limping toward my stand. His front right leg was hurt probably because of being hit by a car. The only problem was that the buck was coming straight to my tree and not offering a good shot. At ten yards, he smelled me and bolted right past my tree but stopped 10 yards on the other side of my stand. In my excitement, I just plain missed, but it was not long until six more deer would come to the tree and none offered a good shot. A very special moment did occur when a large spotted fawn came to the base of my tree and smelled where I had climbed. I took a picture of the deer with both my tree stand and the deer in the picture. However, the best moment was watching that young deer eat a large mushroom. It took him three bites to consume that white mushroom. The morning was over, but the afternoon hunt was just as exciting.
Late in the afternoon, two bucks walked past my stand but did not offer a good shot. They fed under the acorn tree and finally walked off. Next a big doe came toward my tree but smelled me and turned in the other direction. I was a little sleepy and not paying attention when another big doe came up within 10 yards to my extreme left side. When I herd a slight noise and looked around, we were looking eye to eye. It did not take her but a second to figure out that I was not suppose to be up that tree and she took off in a flash. In a few minutes later, two more deer approached the big red oak. This time I waited until the deer fed and turned in the right direction for a clear shot. After the shot, the big doe ran some 50 yards and expired. This was the end of another successful opening day of deer season.
Yesterday, I saw five small bucks from my tree stand and had a great time watching the wildlife and being in the woods where I always feel at home. Bow hunting is my heritage. It has been a part of my life since I was a small boy following my great grandpa George Curtis to the woods to make my first bow out of a white oak tree. I plan to write that inspiring story later, but for now I hope you enjoy your opening day of deer season as much as I have. Remember, find that special oak tree and I know you will be successful in your bow hunting adventures!!!!