15 Early-Season Buck Tips

1. Secluded Waterholes Locating isolated water holes near thick bedding cover during the early-season can be a deadly big buck strategy. The key is to pinpoint a water source that is surrounded by protective cover that will create a sense of security among wary bucks that have survived a few seasons. Look for worn trails leading to these prime areas along with large droppings and deep tracks in the fresh mud around the waterhole. Hanging a stand and covering the water source during prime times of the day can be action-packed, especially during periods of hot and dry weather.Outdoor Life Online Editor
2. Creek Crossings Without question, creek crossings that connect feeding to bedding areas can easily be classified as early-season buck sign that must be hunted. Slick trails, multiple tracks along the creek bank, and muddy water all point to a target rich stand location. Bucks will routinely use these crossings due to factors such as water depth and location. Hanging a trail camera overlooking the worn trails will tell you what bucks are crossing the creek and exactly when you need to be in the stand. In addition, walking along the edges of a creek is probably the fastest way to locate hot early-season sign, especially when hunting big woods areas that are vast in size and lack traditional funnels.Outdoor Life Online Editor
3. Look For Apple Trees Early-season apple trees and bucks go together like your grandma's biscuits and gravy. Bucks simply love apples and knowing where to find these sweet treats can put you exactly in the right place to punch your tag early. Locating a full apple tree and glassing it from a safe distance during the late evening hours can tell you everything you need to know. It's important to mark the travel routes used by bucks to reach the tree and then find possible ambush points along these trails. Setting up directly over the apple tree increases your chances of being busted by does and smaller bucks that will generally show up first. To avoid this mistake try hanging stands along buck travel routes leading to and from the apple tree.Outdoor Life Online Editor
5. Focus On Field Edges It's not uncommon to see bachelor groups of bucks entering field edges like clockwork just before dark. In most cases, the bucks will enter and leave the field at the same time and location on a consistent basis. Finding these entry and exit points can help you close the deal on an early-season giant. Packing a light-weight climbing stand and quietly setting up along these routes will allow you to get the jump on an unsuspecting buck. This sneaky strategy eliminates the possibility of educating a buck by contaminating the area with unnecessary scent and noise.Outdoor Life Online Editor
6. Hit The Clover Large green fields of clover or small isolated patches have the potential of attracting large numbers of early-season bucks. During the opening weeks of season, it's still possible to connect with a buck along the edges of clover. However, once hunting pressure picks up try moving back into the cover to intercept bucks leaving and entering the field. A strategically placed ground blind or tree stand located near these travel routes can be a lethal early-season setup.Outdoor Life Online Editor
7. Seek Out Soybeans You can almost bet the farm that a soybean field will be covered with hot sign during the early days of season. Start out looking for large clumps of buck droppings and hand-sized tracks in the bean field. Next, pinpoint obvious entry and exit trails leading to and from the soybeans. Once again, you can hang a series of trail cameras or simply glass the area during the early morning and evening hours to find which routes are being used by the bucks. Start out hunting along the edges of the soybeans and move back into the thicker cover when buck activity starts to slow down.Outdoor Life Online Editor
8. Be An Acorn Ace Once acorns start falling, all bets are off and the hot sign you have found near other early-season food sources will usually dry up in a hurry. Acorn groves, where it looks like leaves have been bulldozed out of the way, are excellent starting points. Other hot sign will include multiple deer droppings, rubbed trees, and heavily worn trails. You better set up camp when you find this kind of early-season buck sign. The bruisers will routinely visit these areas to put on much needed bodyweight for the upcoming rut. In addition, the wooded cover creates a sense of security that can lure nocturnal bucks to these locations during the daylight hours.Outdoor Life Online Editor
9. Early-Season Funnels With bowhunting, a few yards can be the difference in a shot or a story about the one that got away. This is why locating hot sign near funnels that restrict deer movement can dramatically increase your chances of shooting an early-season buck. Bottlenecks, fencerows, steeps, saddles, gaps, cliff-lines, and ditches can control how deer travel from feeding to bedding areas. The key is to locate high-traffic funnels that are covered with hot sign like multiple tracks, trails, and droppings. Hanging a stand along these tight travel corridors can put you right in the middle of all the action.Outdoor Life Online Editor
10. Bedding Area Mineral Licks A lot of hunters setup mineral sites along field edges and open areas to attract early-season bucks. However, most of the big buck activity in these locations takes place under the cover of darkness, but there is a way to put the cards back in your favor. This season try pinpointing buck sign like worn trails leading into thick cover and create a mineral site in between the feeding and bedding area. This move might stall a buck returning to the bedding area before daylight long enough for you to get a shot. It can also help coax him off the bed a few minutes early, which may create a shot opportunity before darkness falls.Outdoor Life Online Editor
11. Early-Season Buck Rub-lines One of the easiest buck signs to find during the early season would have to be antler-scarred trees in your hunting area. Bucks will start rubbing trees well before the rut for a number of reasons. The first rubs to appear are usually from bucks rubbing the thick velvet off of their racks. That usually occurs by mid to late September in most areas. Bucks will also make early-season rubs to leave behind scent and to prepare for upcoming sparring matches that will take place as the season progresses. From a hunting standpoint, an early-season rub-line is a direct indicator of buck movement and can help take the guesswork out of exactly where to hang a stand. Bucks will often rub trees along travel routes that they use on a daily basis.Outdoor Life Online Editor
12. Early-Season Scrapes Pay close attention to the first buck scrapes that begin popping up in your hunting area and immediately start looking for high-impact ambush points. These early-season scrapes will tell you exactly how a buck is traveling from preferred feeding to bedding areas. Setting up treestands overlooking scrapes that are dangerously close to a known buck bedding area can payoff big when dealing with bucks that are moving primarily at night. The key to hunting these sensitive areas is to carefully plan your routes to the stand and always have the wind in your favor. Remember, it doesn't take too many mistakes to completely ruin this early-season stand location.Outdoor Life Online Editor
13. Community Scrapes Another must hunt early-season buck sign would have to be community scrapes that are located inside of high-traffic areas. These extra-large scrapes can be found early and will be routinely used by does, small basket-racked bucks, and the big dogs as well. Although the rut is still off in the distance, these early-season scrapes will still attract a lot of attention due to social reasons. Mature bucks will frequently hit community scrapes to check and see what deer are living in his core area. Hanging a stand between the community scrape and a buck bedding area can be lethal during the early season. Throwing out a few social buck grunts during prime deer movement times may be enough to pull a curious buck into bow range.Outdoor Life Online Editor
14. Staging Areas As the early-season progresses, hunting over hot sign that was located near preferred food sources or watering holes will become far less productive. Bucks that have been pursued by other hunters will stray away from these locations until after dark. When this happens, try locating pockets of cover in between bedding and feeding areas that will allow you to catch a buck off guard. These staging areas are points where bucks can hangout safely until nightfall. You will usually find a lot of deer droppings and several rubbed trees inside of these prime locations. Setting up a blind or hanging a stand with the right wind can be all it takes to fill an early-season tag under these conditions.Outdoor Life Online Editor
15. Bedding Edges Sometimes you really have to push the envelope with your early-season scouting and hunting strategies. All it takes is a little hunting pressure and a few mistakes to transform a seasoned buck into a nocturnal nightmare. If the buck you're hunting turns to the dark-side then switch gears and locate his bedding area. Follow a rub-line or scrape-line away from a known feeding area until it disappears into thick cover. Next, hang a stand along the edge of the bedding area and wait for the right wind to hunt this highly-sensitive setup. This is a risky strategy, but it may be your only move on a tough nocturnal buck during the early-season when the big boys are sticking to a strict feeding to bedding pattern.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Get on these early hotspots if you want to punch your tag right now with a heavy-racked bruiser. By Travis Faulkner.