I hunt opening morning on public land just as I would on private land. That is, I ignore the other hunters and pretend they don’t exist or annoy me. Or I use their predictability to my advantage. At least for the first day.

I no longer hike for hours in the dark to get past the huddled masses on opening day. Later in the season, sure, then it’s good strategy. But not on opening day.

For that day I find a place away from the other hunters but still in the area. I pick a nasty spot that everyone else avoids either because of terrain or vegetation. Most hunters stay put on stand until at least 9 a.m., but once they start moving, my prospects gets even better because they will use predictable paths, or “hunter highways.” The deer pattern the hunters and avoid those places. I simply hunt off those highways and in a place where the deer feel comfortable.

A smart buck who has survived a few hunting seasons knows that when he moves, he is in danger. He understands that with all these hunters in the woods, if he runs off in a blind panic or tries to cover a lot of ground, he will get shot. He knows that sitting still and hunkering down is the key to surviving the day. He can move into a remote area after dark. But sometime in the morning of opening day, he will pull back to a comfortable place. A place he uses a lot and likes, a place where he feels secure and safe. A trashy place. A place where I am waiting.

For more opening day tactics, click here.