There are few things I look forward to more than the opening morning sit each year in September. Waiting and working all summer, letting the apprehension build each week as we get closer and closer to opening day. When opening day finally arrives, the last thing I want to do is wait another 10 hours to go hunting and skip the morning sit. But is that the smart move?
Should you hunt mornings during the early season?
No sugar coating it, popular opinion votes against morning hunts before mid-October (see articles here, here, and here). According to these articles, the main arguments against morning hunts during the early season is they put pressure on deer which negatively impacts the typically more productive evening hunts. As Jeff Sturgis, Owner of Whitetail Habitat Solutions states one of the articles mentioned above,
“If you hunt in the morning in the wrong locations, you risk over-pressuring your land. Worst of all, there are many times that hunting during the evening hours is at a premium, so if you hunt during the morning at less than optimum times of the season, you risk spoiling your potential high value evening sits that could have taken place later in the day”
During the early season, the deer are on a much more predictable pattern during the afternoon/evening rather than the morning. This predictability is what creates the “premium” Jeff was referring to in the statement above. This isn’t exactly the information I was hoping to hear about my beloved opening morning hunt.
So, we should never hunt the morning?
To the contrary, during certain times of the year the “premium” switches from evening sits to morning sits. October cold fronts are a great time for a morning sit. During October, deer activity normally increases with a drop-in temperature. The odds dramatically increase of a mature buck meandering back to his bed during daylight hours during the crisp mornings of late October rather than the typically warmer September mornings.
In addition to the cold mornings of October, any morning during the rutting period has a higher chance of success as well. Anytime during the rut, there is potential to have a cruising buck walk past your stand. The mornings, however, always seem to be an extra special time. In the previously mentioned article, Sturgis goes on to say,
“While hunting whitetails in the morning hours has produced 75% of my top 25 bucks, the amount of time that I actually hunt during the morning hours accounts for less than 25% of all my sits. Shooting a mature buck in the morning is probably your best bet, but there is certainly an appropriate time and place. The potential power of hunting well-timed, limited sits in the morning cannot be overstated enough”
If your goal each season is the kill a mature buck, then it is most likely in your best interest to hold off hunting the mornings until the cool mornings of October arrive. However, if you are like me, and have a very hard time sleeping in during those early season mornings, there are still some options.
Other side of the story
The guys from Land & Legacy recently did a podcast where they discussed what determines if a hunt is successful or not. The main point being, if your definition of a successful hunt is harvesting an animal, you are going to end up with many more unsuccessful hunts than successful hunts each year. However, if your goal is to get outdoors, relax, and try to learn something new each time you go out, you will be a much happier, more successful hunter.
With that in mind, on our family farm in central Minnesota we have come up with a couple strategies to still get out in the woods during early season mornings, without putting too much pressure on the deer. First, this summer we put up a couple of stands within 75 yards of our cabin (see pictures below). These stands are more of observation stands than anything. However, hunting these stands shouldn’t put any more pressure on the deer than our regular activity around the cabin would anyway.
In addition to our new “observation” stands, we also designated a couple of lower risk stands to hunt during the early season mornings. These low risk stands are located away from our best evening stands. Therefore, hunting the low risk stands in the morning should still allow “premium” evening hunts in our best spots. Additionally, we did some work in the offseason to sure up our entry/exit route to make sure there is as little impact as possible on the deer overall.
I have heard a handful of different hunters say watching the woods come alive during a morning hunt is as close to a spiritual experience as it gets. I tend to agree with them. Days that I begin in a hunting stand result in a happier, more relaxed version of myself than days I sleep in. Which is why I will continue to see ways to get out in the woods in the morning as much as possible, no matter the time of year.
*Blog Written by Guest Writer Reid Dale. You can find more information about Reid via Instagram on his page, MGB Whitetail Management, handle: mgb_whitetails.