Opening Day Deer Hunting Tips for Bowhunters

Camron Stover

The opening day of archery season presents hunters with a unique opportunity to pursue an animal that doesn’t know it’s being hunted.  The first weekend of the archery season typically sees a large number of mature bucks hit the ground.  In fact, years ago, well before started running, I completed an in-depth study of mature whitetail buck kills in my home state of West Virginia and found that opening day produced just as many big buck kills as any other day of the season, including the whitetail rut!

As great as opening day can be, it certainly comes without its fair share of challenges.  Warm weather and high temperatures are just some of the many hurdles that hunters have to overcome to be successful during this time of the year. Below are some useful tips to help you find more success this season during the bow opener.

Identify Early Season Patterns

Whether you’re glassing from afar or casting a smorgasbord of trail cameras in hopes of capturing a glimpse of a suitable target buck for the upcoming season, identifying patterns will help you be successful on opening day.  Not all deer are patternable coming into your favorite hunting spot but they are patternable somewhere.  Sometimes it’s a water source, food source, or bedding area where big bucks are killable, and finding that spot isn’t easy.  With time and planning, finding and patterning deer is key to consistent success during the early season.

cheap 8x binoculars tasco

Focus on Food Sources

electric fence for deer hunting

Early season patterns are often associated with food and finding those key food sources are essential to success.  Keep in mind that food sources can change rapidly during this time of the year, so stay alert to what’s going on in the whitetail woods near you.  For instance, a nearby apple tree might run out of apples just before opening day and the deer that you’ve had your eye will find another food source.  Also, once the acorns start dropping, especially white oak acorns, deer will drastically change their patterns seemingly overnight.

If you can’t beat them, bait them!  (Where legal of course)

logan county wv hunting

Baiting (where legal) is a great way to pattern and kill bucks during opening day.  It won’t take long before deer start changing their patterns, so if you’ve got a buck coming to your corn pile in the days prior to opening day, then you better get in the woods and take advantage of the opportunity.

Reduce Scent and Odor for Better Early Season Success

should I hunt the wind or use scent control

I’m a scent control guy and you should be too!  Whether you agree or disagree, making an attempt to reduce unwanted odors makes a difference.  It might not make a difference in every situation, but if it increases your chances by just a couple of percent, it’s worth the extra effort.  Utilizing extra precautions to reduce unwanted odor on my hunting clothing and gear, as well as my body helps me stay confident to take risks to close the distance when necessary.  For me, there’s only one option for scent control products and that’s Elimishield Hunt.

Utilize the Right Hunting Gear for Early Season Success

warm weather hunting gear list

Not all hunting clothing options are ideal for opening day, so be sure not to overdress and overpack for the occasion.  Temperatures are often high during this time of season, so wear lightweight clothing and leave the 20+ pound climbing treestand at home.  For a full list of early-season hunting gear options to help you be more successful on opening day.  For more information on early-season hunting gear options, check out this blog post.

Control Bugs and Insects for Early Season Hunts

tick prevention methods for to stay safe while hunting

If you’ve ever hunted river bottoms in the west, marsh bucks, or anywhere in the Appalachian Mountains, insects are not your friend during warm weather hunts.  Treat your clothing, boots, and gear with Sawyer’s Permethrin, and don’t leave home without a Thermacell.  Also, Sitka offers clothing specifically designed to keep bugs away, such as ticks and chiggers.

Pre-Season Scouting

do big rubs mean big bucks

Don’t wait until opening day to start scouting!  You should be scouting. preparing, and planning for the upcoming deer season the moment that it goes out each season.  Spending time scouting, whether online (e-scouting) or with a boots-on-the-ground approach will help you have more success the following season.  Learning where deer were will help you learn where deer will be in the future.  Oftentimes, it’s the knowledge gained during the offseason that creates success during the season.

The Best Sign is the Freshest Sign

best way to kill a mature buck

As solid as you think your strategy for the upcoming hunting might be, you must learn how to adapt!  Ignoring fresh sign to focus on old sign can and will cost you opportunities.  We’ve all been guilty of walking through the best sign to get to a waypoint that we blindly chose on the map.  Learning how to interpret fresh sign takes time and exposure to both fresh and old sign takes time, but any hunters have success by dropping their gameplan and climbing into a tree on a fresh rubline.

Did You Find a Mature Buck?  If so, Stay Away!

big buck photo

One of the hardest things for hunters to do is to stay out of an area once they’ve found a big buck.  Savy hunters will leave a trail camera to soak until it’s time to hunt the area rather than checking it each chance they get.  If you’ve found a buck bedding area, throw up a trail camera and simply walk away until the conditions are right to return.  In recent years, I’ve found myself leaving trail cameras out all season long in areas that I might not have a chance to return and hunt that season in hopes of learning more about the area and how deer are using it all season long, without human intrusion!  This is a great way to learn how to hunt a new area.

Wait Until the Conditions are Right

Early season archery season can produce a wide variety of hunting conditions, so it’s best to hunt when the conditions are in your favor.  Pay attention to the forecast take advantage of the coolest days of the week and stay out of your best spots if you find yourself having to hunt on days in which the conditions aren’t in your favor.  For me, I like to hunt on cooler days in September, particularly after rain events, or during light rain events.  Pay special attention to the wind direction because the hotter it gets, the stinker you and I become when hiking to our hunting destination.  If the conditions aren’t in your favor, spend the time scouting new ground, practicing with your bow, or knock off a few items on the Honey-Do List so that you can take advantage of the best conditions to hunt during the first couple of weeks of the season.

Avoid Morning Hunts.  Hunt the Evenings Instead

Can you kill a big buck during the morning on opening day?  Of course, I’ve done it before but it doesn’t mean that you should be hunting in the morning just because the season is in. Instead, most hunters have learned to skip morning hunts during the early season and focus solely on evening hunts.  Morning hunts often do more damage than good because deer are often gathered around primary food sources before daylight and quickly return to their bedding areas once the sun goes up.  There’s very little room for error during morning hunts but that’s not to say that it can’t be done.  However, it’s not something that I would recommend.  Instead, focus solely on evening hunts and have an escape plan if hunting on or near food sources.

pretty deer sunset pic

Play the Wind

how do thermals affect deer and elk hunting

Beating the nose of a deer is a daunting task that many will say is impossible, especially during the early season.  Instead, be sure to play the wind and take thermals into consideration around dusk as wind conditions typically change during this time.  For more information on thermals, check out this blog post, How Thermals Influence Hunting Success for Both Deer and Elk.

Do you have a tip for opening day that you would like to include or a harvest photo to share?  If so, tag @huntinggeardeals on Instagram or send us a private message.

Interested in learning more about early-season hunting gear?  Check out our blog post The Best Whitetail Hunting Clothing Options for Warm Weather

Hunting Gear Deals is funded by affiliate commissions. We may receive a small commission when you buy from our partners using the links provided. There is no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting us by using our links when making your purchases.

Are you interested in getting free hunting gear in exchange for a detailed and honest review? Apply for our Review Corps here!