Deer Hunting An Early Season Feeding Front

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There are different types of cold fronts that travel through during the entire hunting season, and as this current front is fast approaching, I thought it was a good time to discuss exactly which type of front this is, and how it effects stand selection. Many are planning on hitting the woods this weekend, including myself!

This is what I call an early October “Feeding Front”. I notice that this drastic of a front, including 20-30 degree temperature reductions, will increase the rate of feeding. Also, when this front is combined with the loss of summer forages including beans, alfalfa, and native vegetation due harvest or maturity cycles, deer need to turn elsewhere. Those 2 factors combine for the “perfect storm”, setting up an outstanding early October feeding front. The following are some tips and tactics for choosing the right stand:

*This is not a pre-rut or rut front. Instead, a feeding front will expand and increase movements associated primarily with feeding activities. Save your “rut” stands for a couple of weeks from now during another cold front, and concentrate mostly on those that have to do with feeding activity. Some of my favorite pre-rut stands are located between bedding areas on a good travel corridor, hidden bench, etc., but those stands don’t see a lot of movement during a feeding period, when deer are primarily moving straight from bedding, to feeding.

*During the heart of the front, when temps are diving and the wind speeds are high, find a quiet spot to take a seat, but avoid burning out your stands for the next day’s sits when the conditions are quiet, and much better. The downwind side of a dense stand of cedars or native grass field can be a productive spot for feeding deer, and the quiet and protected side of a ridge of at least 30’ in elevation or higher could provide for a deer-filled sit!

*I love to set up near food in the evening…but far enough away for me to get in and out of the stand without spooking deer within the food source. It’s not uncommon if the winds settle down to see does feeding 3 hours or more before dark on un-hunted and un-pressured food sources. Keep it that way! And remember if does are hitting the food a ½ hour before dark, that is probably not enough time for a much more patient and reclusive mature buck to get into the field. I get very excited when does are feeding early, because that can often equal a great hunt for the early season during the closing minutes of daylight, while targeting an older buck.

*Bedding area stands that allow you to get into a stand under the cover of darkness without spooking deer in adjacent food sources OR bedding areas are a great choice too! Getting into positions as close to the bedding area as possible without kicking out a deer that may have beat you to the location is a great choice for the morning hours. If you have a close, adjacent natural food source such as fruit or nuts, or possibly a waterhole, you may find that during the mid-morning hours a mature buck will leave his bed for a quick snack or drink.

Where am I sitting? Take a look:

Sit 1: Thursday Night
Conditions: Diving temps into the 50s by the start of the sit, down 20 degrees from the day before, high winds
Location: Between bedding areas on a bench that funnels deer movement up and towards food sources. This is the “Quiet” side of the ridge that towers approximately 80’ in elevation above the stand. I can expect deer to move from the bedding area around the point located in high winds, towards the quiet side and up the hollow towards oaks and eventually food sources within open fields 400 yards away.

Sit 2: Friday Morning
Conditions: Temps in the 30s and moderate winds.
Location: Same stand as Sit 1. This is a “low hunter impact” stand location that allows me to get in and out with minimal scent left behind. This is also very close to bedding areas…while allowing me to get in without spooking deer within those bedding areas. Again, this is a very “Quiet” stand location and an be accessed by avoiding food sources primarily a few hundred yards away.

Sit 3: Friday Evening
Conditions: Moderate and diminishing winds, temperatures dropping into the 20s overnight and starting at “sit time” in the upper 40s.
Location: Waterhole bench stand, with a bedding area located over the point, south and southeast of the stand location. Evening food sources start approximately 200 yards through the woods and into the field. This is an “early exit” stand…meaning does and fawns use this water source early on their way to the food source. The stand is located adjacent to one of the better bedding areas in the area which is surrounded by high food sources of change…including harvested corn, beans, and last-cut hay. Dry conditions have forced the social activity levels up at all of our water sources, and those dry conditions do not appear to be changing with this front.

Sit 4: Saturday Morning
Conditions: COLD! 20s for temps and light to moderate winds.
Location: No sit. This is a “Feeding Front”, with a high priority placed on feeding movements. For Sat. morning I do not have a stand that I want to use that will not hinder my efforts during the evening feeding sit…so, although 3 weeks from now I would be taking a seat in 1 of my 25+ stands and expect great opportunity during outstanding pre-rut conditions, not this Saturday.

Sit 5: Sunday Morning
Conditions: Cold, with changing winds! Northerly winds that ushered in the major cold front will be shifting back to westerly and southwesterly directions.
Location: Ridge top stand location located at the end of a narrow food strip, adjacent to a stand of mature oaks and a waterhole. The bedding area is very close to this location, and this is one of our best daylight all season mature buck game cam spots…providing pictures for the entire season for all bucks. I will be sitting high, with rising thermals, and my scent will be far from any deer’s nose. I know the water level in the container is over ½ full, and the area is full of deer.

Sit 6: Sunday Evening
Conditions: Moderately cold afternoon temps, and shifted winds to more southerly from the previous days Northern blast.
Location: Inside woodsedge bench stand funneling deer from bedding to the right, and a small food source and then large evening food to the east/southeast. A waterhole at the stand location helps to define movements and doe bedding is located within 75 yards of the stand. Once the deer leave the water…they are “clear” and on their way to the small food source approximately 60 yards away. The area is secure, defined, and has been holding a small bachelor group of bucks that have been exiting the cover to feed on rye grain, oats, wheat, brassicas, and winter peas.

Conclusion

Variety is key…and my own stand sites are chosen to preserve the next several sits. During a quality weekend like this I enjoy narrowing down the best 5 or 6 stands out of 25 that are appropriate for the conditions and time of the year, and then mapping out when to use those stands. If I don’t have a stand for the conditions that is fresh, and that doesn’t effect another upcoming sit…I choose not to hunt. When available stand locations are minimal due to the timing of an early October cold front, it’s not a bad idea to hit the same stand for an evening sit…and then morning, hoping that the deer take a long enough time getting back to their bedding areas from feeding into the middle of the night that any human scent left behind is not a factor.

And finally, preservation is key! With the pre-rut only 2-3 weeks away, it doesn’t pay to dive too far into the timber to access your best of pre-rut to rut stands. Instead, chipping away at those feeding movements during a “Feeding Front”, will provide for high quality sits while using stands appropriate for the time of the year, and not using stands that are better for another type of cold front…

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By Jeff Sturgis, www.whitetailhabitatsolutions.com

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