In the Carolinas, deer season starts early, especially for hunters in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where Aug. 15 is the kickoff. Hunters need to sweat it out in the middle of the summer to get stands ready and prepare their hunting areas. Good preparations well before the season opens should be a priority for hunters looking to score big.
Often overlooked, the early season is one of the best times to take a big buck. Deer are at ease during the summer, with food, water and shade their only requirements, and there is plenty to go around. Food is very abundant during the summer, with tons of natural greenery around, and the Carolinas are overloaded with massive agriculture operations to fulfill their daily nutritional requirements.
Early in the season, hunters can take a good buck long before breeding ever enters the animal’s thoughts. Bucks are growing antlers and hanging out in bachelor groups at their favorite watering holes or at the nearest agriculture filling stations. While some hunters set up their stands a few days before the season arrives, the better time to do so — and clear shooting lanes — is July, or at least six weeks before the season opens. Deer have time to adjust to the disturbance and get back into their groove. Luckily, they are resilient during the summer and are more likely to return to their daily pattern after a brief disturbance from hunters mowing trails and erecting tree stands in their home woods. However, hunters should still get in and get out quickly, keeping their disturbances to a minimum.
Agriculture fields are ideal places to have stands set up and ready for the season opener. The fields, full of peanuts and soybeans, are solid summer food sources and perfect places to encounter a bachelor group of bucks. Even when these deer start to break out from their bachelor groups and start to chase their mates, these fields will continue to pull in large groups of deer, making them ideal places for a stand. If there was ever a time and place when deer are predictable, early season food sources take the prize.
Not only should hunters set up a stand, they should set up multiple stands, some along the edges of the fields and some well back in the cover of the adjacent woodlands — all with respect to the prevailing summertime winds. Typically, deer will approach fields and food plots from the same general pathways each year.
Even though bucks are laid back during the summer, the few mature bucks using these fields are still going to be hesitant and leery upon entering wide- open spaces during daylight hours. Mature bucks will stage along the trails leading to these fields and may not enter until after sundown. Hunters should find a few incoming trails and set up stands to get a shot at these deer on their way to the dinner table.
Besides setting up new stands on major food sources, existing stands with a good early season history should receive their annual haircut to ensure that shooting lanes are cleared enough for a clean shot. There is nothing more frustrating than slipping into a stand on opening day and having some new branches covering up 90 percent of the shooting lanes. Preparations should be made well before the start of the deer seasons. And for the best results, preparations should be made well before the deer have settled in on these late-summer food sources.