The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Hunting White-Tailed Deer During the Early Season

deer at sunset

Hey there, fellow deer hunters! Buckle up, because you’re in for one heck of an informative ride. My name is Claude, and I’ll be guiding you through everything you need to know about pursuing white-tailed deer during the thrilling early season.

Whether you’re a total greenhorn or a seasoned expert, this comprehensive guide has got you covered. We’ll start from square one together, taking things nice and slow. By the end, you’ll be armed with all the strategies, tips, and secrets you need to set out on the hunt of a lifetime!

But first, let me share a quick personal story about my first early-season whitetail hunt. Man, was I excited and nervous! After months of preparation and scouting, the opening day finally rolled around.

My First Early Season Whitetail Hunt: A Rookie’s Perspective

It was a crisp September morning when I settled into my ground blind, my heart thumping with anticipation. I remember double-checking my rangefinder, confirming the distance to my deer target. My camo clothes blended seamlessly into the golden meadow.

Suddenly, a flash of brown caught my eye. A decent 8-point buck emerged from the tree line, cautiously stepping into the clearing. My breath halted as I slowly raised my rifle. Exhale, focus and squeeze. My shot hit its mark, dropping the buck where he stood.

Success! I whooped and hollered, bursting with pride. After field dressing my harvest, I called my hunting buddies to celebrate. That fateful hunt ignited a lifelong passion for the sport.

Now, let’s dive right into everything you need to know as a beginner, using my firsthand experiences to guide you.

When Is the Early Whitetail Deer Hunting Season?

The early deer season typically kicks off in late August or early September, depending on your region. It runs through October in most areas.

This is prime time to hunt whitetails, with ideal weather conditions and deer behavior. Mild temperatures get those deer up and active during dawn and dusk. Mating instincts also kick into high gear.

In short, pursue that trophy buck in the early season before hunting pressure ramps up. You’ll have the highest success rate.

Alright, now that you know when early deer season is, let’s move on.

The Best Times of Day to Hunt Whitetails During Early Season

As an early-season whitetail hunter, timing is everything. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, when temperatures are at their coolest.

Target the early morning hours. We’re talking 30 minutes before sunrise to about 10 a.m. Whitetails finish nocturnal feeding and return to bedding areas once the sun rises higher.

Hunt in the late evening. Get set up 2-3 hours before sunset. Deer begin stirring from their beds and transitioning to feeding areas around this time.

Avoid mid-day: With hotter temperatures, deer typically bed down and remain inactive from late morning throughout the afternoon. They’re unlikely to move.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Bad weather might get deer on their feet. But generally, stick to early mornings and late evenings for your best shot.

Now let’s get into the juicy stuff – where to actually find those whitetails.

a swing set in a snowy forest

Scouting the Best Early Season Deer Habitats

Locating promising deer signs is arguably the most critical factor for early-season success. During this time, whitetails are still patterned toward food sources.

Keep these tips in mind when scouting terrain:

  • Focus on agricultural fields: soybeans, alfalfa, corn—whitetails flock to these. Scout field edges and travel corridors.
  • Target oak trees: Early fall acorns are a favorite food. Look for white and red oak stands.
  • Check for clear cuts: New growth from logged areas provides nutritious browse.
  • Look near water: Streams, ponds, and wetlands attract thirsty deer.
  • Locate bedding areas – Look for thickets and brush piles to ambush exiting deer.

I like to spend several weeks before the season observing and mapping deer habits. This gives me a solid game plan for opening day. Patience and dedication pay off.

Now, onto the fun part: choosing your deer hunting gear.

Picking the Best Early Season Deer Hunting Gear

Selecting the right equipment for your early-season whitetail hunt is critical. Consider climate, regulations, and personal preferences when choosing gear.


Most states allow shotguns, muzzleloaders, and specific calibers of rifles. Bolt-action or semi-autos in popular calibers like .308 get the job done on deer. Include a quality scope for accuracy at a distance.

Or go old-school with a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun loaded with slugs or buckshot. Effective at shorter ranges in heavy cover.


For archery season, compound, crossbow, or recurve bows are all effective. Match the draw weight to your strength. Use fixed or mechanical broadheads. Sight in your bow and practice regularly before the hunt.

Clothing and Camo

Choose light, comfortable camo clothing that blends into early fall environments. Popular patterns are Realtree and Mossy Oak.

Don’t forget bug spray and Thermacell units for scent control and tick and mosquito protection.

Other Gear

A rangefinder, hunting pack, flashlights, binoculars, knife, and basic survival kit round out the essential gear.

Now that you’ve got the right equipment, let’s talk about effective hunting strategies.

Employing Early Season Deer Hunting Strategies

Putting your scouting intel and gear into action requires smart planning and execution. Implement these hunting strategies for better early-season success:

Set up near feeding areas. Position a stand or blind downwind of acorn trees, field edges, and established game trails.

Use calling and rattling. Grunt calls and antler rattling mimic buck deer and can attract them.

Take advantage of the weather. Hunt when fronts move through, bringing rain and wind to mask your scent.

Use decoys. Place a buck decoy in a receptive doe posture to pull in rutting bucks.

Stay mobile. Still, hunting and stalking keep you in the action rather than waiting for deer to come to you.

Be adaptable. If your chosen spot isn’t productive, don’t be afraid to pull up and relocate.

Go low-impact. Utilize scent control, noise discipline, and slow movements.

Think like a deer and hunt smarter, not harder. Remain flexible, patient, and perseverant. You’ll tag that trophy buck eventually.

But we’re not done yet! Next, I’ll cover crucial mistakes to avoid.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Hunting White-Tailed Deer During the Early Season

Early Season Deer Hunting Mistakes to Avoid

We all mess up sometimes, especially as beginners. But don’t fret! Learning from your blunders is part of the journey. Here are some common early-season mistakes to avoid:

  • Scouting too little – Take time to thoroughly scout and establish deer patterns pre-season.
  • Rushing the shot – Remain calm and don’t take low-percentage shots. Wait for good shot placement.
  • Using the wrong equipment – Match your firearm, bow, clothing, etc., to the hunt location and conditions.
  • Neglecting scent control – Use sprays and play the wind right to avoid getting winded.
  • Over-calling/rattling – Use calls sparingly and appropriately. Don’t overdo it.
  • Lacking patience – Persistence pays off. Stay focused and maintain standing time.
  • Not having proper tags – Double-check your hunting permits, tags, regulations, etc.

We all make mistakes, but learning from them makes us better hunters in the long run. Now go use that knowledge to your advantage!

Answering Common Early Season Deer Hunting FAQs

Let’s wrap things up by answering some frequently asked questions about pursuing whitetails during the early season:

Q: What type of terrain should I look for deer during the early season?

A: Focus on areas near food sources – agricultural fields, oak trees with acorns, and forest openings. Also, target water sources and bedding areas.

Q: What cover do deer prefer during the early season?

A: Thick brush and vegetation that provide food, shade, and protection. Examples are regenerating clear cuts, creek bottoms, swamps, and CRP fields.

Q: How should I set up my deer stand during the early season?

A: Downwind of feeding areas deer use and along established trails. Place portable stands 14–20 yards from these spots.

Q: What’s the best way to attract deer during the early season?

A: Use decoys, calls, scents, and rattling strategically. Take advantage of bad weather days. Hunt during prime movement times.

Q: How do I track a deer after the shot during the early season?

A: Mark the initial shot location, then follow the blood sign, disturbed vegetation, tracks, and hair. Use grid searching if needed.

Q: Any final early-season whitetail hunting tips?

A: Be mobile and remain adaptable. Thoroughly scout and take time to pattern deer. Stay disciplined, patient, and persistent!

Alright, my friends, that wraps up this complete beginner’s guide to early-season deer hunting! I sincerely hope you find these tips helpful. Now, get out there, hunt hard, and make some memories. Wishing you the absolute best of luck tagging that trophy whitetail this season. Happy hunting!

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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