If you ask any successful hunter what their secret is to a productive season, the odds are that their answer is going to sound something like I had a lucky tag draw, and I started early. Tags for big buck units are hard to come by, and if you’re like most hunters and find yourself without one of these golden tickets, you may be wondering how to still have a successful season.
The key is to start early. Put in extra work early in the year, we’re talking like the start of July or as soon as the snow melts, scouting your area, setting up trail cameras, and studying movement patterns all before most hunters are even thinking about the season. This way, by the time September comes around, you’ll be able to skip the weeks of preparation and go straight into the fun part.
Below are some tips on how to start your mule buck season early in order to set yourself up for a fun, productive season of hunting.
Start Virtually with Available Technology
There is so much technology available to help you before you even head out the door for hunting season, and if you aren’t using it, you’re going to start your season behind everyone else. Apps like Google Earth allow you to see the entire area you plan to hunt so you can mark places that stand out.
Look for large bodies of water, feeding grounds like large meadows, wallows, and saddles and mark them on your map. This way, when you arrive in person to scope out your hunting area, you can be much more efficient and stick to the areas you have already marked.
There is also endless amounts of numerical data for units such as the number of bucks harvested each season, their size, and the number of hunters that have drawn a tag for that unit. This data can seem overwhelming and hard to sift through at first, but if you stick to the numbers from the last two to three seasons, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the types of bucks you’ll be able to hunt and the amount of pressure that will be on that unit.
Just because you can see the entire landscape of the area you’re hunting online doesn’t mean you should overload yourself with marked areas you want to scope. Remember, you’re going to be hiking into these areas to scope them out, and you don’t want to tire yourself out by hiking to multiple different spots before the season even starts.
Pick a small number of spots you think are the most ideal spots for a herd, mark them on your map, and scope them out in person. If you get to a spot and realize there are no signs of bucks in the area, you can always replace it with another area or just eliminate it. Work smarter and not harder.
Scouting = Hunting
Now that you’ve done your homework and you have a few places you want to scope out in person, the fun part begins. However, you don’t want to get too carried away while scouting because you know you’re not actually hunting. You should approach the areas you’re scouting just as you would while hunting, meaning leaving little trace or scent and making as little noise as possible.
Alerting herds that there are hunters in the area before the season even begins is a good way to have a really terrible season. So, scout like you hunt.