Opening day of archery season is just a few short weeks away in most states. For many crossbow hunters, opening day is a culmination of hard work and time spent in the field scouting, planting food plots, creating mineral licks, filling and re-filling feeders, hanging trail cameras and collecting photos, cutting shooting lanes, setting blinds, and hanging stands. It’s time to formulate a plan for crossbow hunting during the early part of the season when bucks have yet to start or are just beginning to exhibit pre-rut behavior. This early part of the season offers you an excellent opportunity to determine a buck’s daily traffic pattern and hunt accordingly, making the investment of all that time and energy pay off in a successful harvest.
If you have scouted your hunting area on foot, you have identified the areas where there are signs of deer activity and you know where the trails leading to and from these areas are located. If you can hunt deer by baiting, you likely have set-up feeders and mineral licks in or near these spots. If you have been regularly inspecting the trails on foot, especially after wet weather, you have determined where there are fresh tracks and a high volume of movement. If you have placed trail cameras along the entrances and exits to these areas and at these bait set-ups, you now have some valuable data to help you formulate your crossbow hunting plan for the first couple of weeks of season.
One of the exciting parts of the beginning of archery season is the prospect that bucks are still in a daylight movement pattern and that they will continue to follow this pattern for a short period, until their pre-rut instincts begin to develop. Your trail camera pictures now give you a photographic history which documents the time of day and location where bucks are frequenting. Go back and look at earlier sets of pictures taken a month or six weeks before your most recent pictures were taken. Are you beginning to see a pattern in the time of day and location of one buck or a set of bucks?
If so, you have a more-than-likely chance that you will see this buck in the same area at the same time during the first few days of season and you should plan your opening day hunt based on this location and time of day. If you see a buck at one spot in the morning and another in the evening, plan to hunt each of these locations at the same times as you have patterned the buck to be there from the trail camera photos.