Early-Season Stands

Like most males, whitetail bucks can get downright addled by the presence of an attractive female. Unlike their two-legged counterparts, however, bucks concentrate their hormonal distraction in just a few months. Luckily for us, we can predict what this will make them do and when they'll do it. In a three-part series that begins here, we'll clue you in to where the bucks will be at each stage of the rut...so you can be there waiting for them.

September and early October can be a great time to ambush bucks as they travel to food sources. Check out our tree-stand placement on this hypothetical 100-acre property. For the most part, we're setting up and hunting from the outside in (we're even laying off our food plots for now). By minimizing our noise, movement and scent, we'll keep the whitetails glued to their bed-to-feed pattern. Tweak the six setups to the lay of your land, and there's a good chance you'll tag out early.

Stand 1: Crop Fields Our top stand is easy to access quietly from the north (logging road) or east (down the fence line). It's perfect for either a warm spell with a southerly breeze or after a cold front has gone through, when the wind turns out of the west. The fence corner should funnel some deer within 30 yards of the stand. On hot afternoons some deer will enter the field and gravitate to the shade of the tall trees on the northwestern edge. Even if we don't get a shot, we'll be able to sit and glass, patterning every buck that comes to the primary feeding area at dusk. Then we'll either move to Stand 2 or sneak down and hang another stand along the western edge of the field if a big buck pops out there a few evenings in a row. After dark each day we'll sneak out of this stand via the logging road to the north in order to keep from spooking deer feeding in the alfalfa.

Stand 2: Water Hole Early autumn is often hot and dry, perfect for waiting near a water hole where a buck is apt to stage and drink before moving to the food source at dark. A pond, slough or spring hole located near food sources is best. We can sneak into our stand from the east or south around 2 p.m. without jumping a deer. Any wind except east or southeast is okay for the spot. The strip of timber between the pond and the alfalfa creates a good choke point for deer walking in along the creek or circling in from the south. After dark we'll sneak out to the south without spooking any animals.

Stand 3: Mast Crop We glassed gobs of green acorns in these white oaks back in July and hung a stand nearby. This is our most aggressive post. We'll only hunt it one afternoon after observing from Stand 1 or 2 that deer are stopping to chow down on the falling nuts. A southerly breeze is adequate but a west wind is better. We'll sneak in from the southern edge of the field after lunch and depart via the south road after dark--hopefully we won't bump into any deer moving toward the water or feed. With clover to the west, alfalfa to the east and acorns out front, we can't help but see deer.

Stand 4: Fruit-Producing Trees Twice a week around lunchtime, we'll creep in from the south road and check these persimmon trees (you might have apple or another variety of soft mast on your place). When the pulpy, orange-brown fruit begins to fall, we'll climb into the stand and hunt a couple of afternoons. We won't see as many deer from Stand 4 as from our other stands, but it only takes one with a gnarly 8- or 10-point rack. He might follow some does out of the sanctuary to the west to gobble fruit before popping back into the cover or to the alfalfa at dusk. On a morning with a northwest or northeast wind, we might take a chance and hunt this stand. It's far back enough that we might catch a few deer moving to their bedding area at first light. The great thing about this stand is that you can get in and out without bumping deer.

Stand 5: Travel Corridor This is our sleeper stand; we'll enter and leave via the tote road on the northeastern side of the property. It's best hunted on a south or southwest wind. Early signpost rubs along the creek and on the hillside to the west indicate a bachelor group of bucks might be bedded there, perhaps up on the bench. If so, there's a good chance they'll walk the ridge toward the plot and alfalfa, stopping to stage and feed on the acorns upwind of our post. If we sit on the stand for a couple of evenings without spotting the bucks, the bucks are probably traveling the creek bottom instead. No problem; we'll move back to Stand 3 and try to shoot one. Stand 5 might also produce on a morning with a hard southeast or southwest wind. A buck is apt to lollygag on the oak ridge as he moves back to the bench.

Stand 6: Adjacent to Bedding Area This is our best morning stand; it's set as tight as we dare to the bedding thickets. We'll risk hunting from this stand only when the wind is from the northeast or southeast. We'll circle way around and access the post from the northwest by sneaking in before dawn and staying well off the ridge and creek so that we don't bump deer heading back to bed. The stand overlooks the cool, shady creek. A few deer might ease out of the sanctuary to feed and mingle during midmorning. A buck might drift off the bench to join them. It's as good a spot as any to fill your tag before lunch.

MAPPING OUT THE RUT: PART I

Stand 1: Crop Fields All sorts of possibilities here because of food sources and the fence line that channels deer your way.

Stand 2: Water Hole An early-season pick, especially in a hot, dry year. Thirsty deer might stop to drink before feeding.

Stand 3: Mast Crop This stand will be a solid choice as long as the acorns hold out.

Stand 4: Fruit-Producing Trees Strictly a short-term prospect. If you're lucky, these deer snacks will pull a few bucks in for morning or afternoon appetizers.

Stand 5: Travel Corridor No slam dunk, but a good bet in the evening when bucks are heading to chow down.

Stand 6: Adjacent to Bedding Area Wind direction is a critical factor in deciding when to hunt this morning stand.