Outdoor Life Online Editor

During the first week of October your best tactic is to take a stand in the afternoon adjacent to a food source. A well-used deer trail near a field of alfalfa, corn or clover, or around falling acorns, is best. Find a spot where you can cover both natural mast crops and agricultural food sources and your odds shoot way up. If that trail offers good cover and a low-impact way to get in and out, you’ve found an ideal stand location.

The success of this strategy is predicated on your having previously glassed at least one or two shooters in a field or opening in the timber last month. If you didn’t do your homework, however, it’s not too late. Climb into an evening stand that affords you a view of a large feeding area (a crop field or open bench of white oak) and scout as you hunt. Or, leave your bow at home and move around glassing for big deer. After you’ve completed your recon, head into the field around lunchtime, put the wind in your face and follow a major deer trail out of a field that you spotted a good buck using-a good run will look like a cattle path. Don’t walk on the trail. Parallel it on the downwind side. No matter how well the terrain and foliage hide your moves, do not penetrate more than 100 yards. If you push any deeper you’re apt to spook deer, because many does and bucks bed near feeding areas in early fall.

At some point within 50 to 100 yards of a field, the trail should splinter into two or three feeder paths. Deer drop off ridges and walk up out of draws, coming from all directions before funneling into a main trail near a feeding area. Stop right there-that intersection is the spot. If you have a climber, you might shinny up 17 feet and hunt immediately. But if you wrestle with a fixed- position stand and you can’t help but rattle a chain or bang a buckle, you’d better hang the stand and then let it rest for a day or two.

After picking your stand location, decide on entry and exit routes. You don’t want to clamber down and bust deer out of the feeding area as you depart. Try to find a sneaky way out, and keep your eyes open during those last dingy minutes of dusk. Early in October a good buck might lollygag in on one of those trails, planning to arrive at a field behind you at dark.

To make the setup even stronger, look and listen for acorns falling within 50 to 75 yards of a trail junction. But again, don’t press too far back in the woods-you don’t want to ruin a good thing. If you find fresh white acorns, look for a flurry of rubs, sign that a buck is gorging there. Hang a stand in the mast, or along a trampled trail where the wind is better.