In deer hunting (and life), it’s the false things we think are true that hold us back the most. While I could list a pile of these beliefs as they relate to deer hunting, a glaring example is the myth that there’s no reason to be on the stand during the midday hours before Halloween.
We all know that there is absolutely no reason to hunt the lunch shift during the early- to mid-season, right? I used to believe that wholeheartedly—until I started traveling to hunt public land in a bunch of random states. With nothing to do but nap in a blast-furnace tent in the midday, I started sitting later in the morning and going out earlier in the afternoon.
I also started seeing—and killing—a few deer when the sun was directly overhead, even though all conventional deer hunting wisdom said I was a fool for hunting. Those over-the-road September and October trips taught me the myriad reasons to be out there during the midday, but like with all deer hunting, the right conditions weigh heavily on the odds of success.
Hunt the Lunch Break
To kill a midday mover outside the rut, you have to factor in food or water. Bucks don’t have any other reason to move at that time other than for thirst and hunger.
Bucks will eat and drink during banker’s hours, but you’ve got to know where and understand why. But first, accept the fact that they aren’t likely to traipse out into a highly visible food source at noon or cross 400 yards of open pasture to get to water.
Incognito mode is the ticket here. The spots where a buck can munch on some soybeans, apples, or browse a soft edge in the big woods without exposing himself are the places worth sitting for the long haul. Even better is a small water source tucked into cover. All of these scenarios earn extra bonus points for being in close proximity to bedding.
I’ve found both food and water patterns that check the right boxes in the last few years on public land and have arrowed good bucks while the rest of my hunting party was back at camp planning for the evening hunt. But it takes more than just recognizing a potential midday deer hotspot and hunting it.
A Midday Mentality
I’ve always hunted mornings in the early season because I’d rather hunt than not. Those September and October sits have shown me a few things. The first is that bucks are absolutely killable at that time, but also that a lot of the deer movement occurs really late in the morning. The later I sat, the later I witnessed movement.
Bucks would bed for an hour, feed for 20 minutes, and then bed down again. Couple that with trail camera usage that provides a sneak peek into the whitetail world all day long, and you start to realize just how much is going on out there.
The first step to midday success is acknowledging this. To put requisite hours on stand, you have to believe there’s a solid chance of encountering a buck. This is hard when you’re hunting close to home. If you have the option to go back to the house to get some work done or grab a good breakfast, you probably will.
When you’re hunting on the road, that gravity isn’t quite as strong. If you pack for an all-day sit, it’s easier to stay out and keep hunting. You might also need to move stands at midday, which is a good way to break up the monotony.
Either way, if you don’t get your head in the right spot to believe you’ve got a chance, you won’t have a chance. It’s too easy to cave into the second-guessing.
As a lifelong victim of this mentality, I plan ahead to trick myself into staying. This might include candy or coffee or a plan that involves sitting a river crossing for the first four hours. Then I’ll head to a cattle tank at midday when the wind settles into a specific direction, and move back out to the crossing for the late shift. That plan is what allowed me to fill my North Dakota buck tag last year on a velvet deer on the second day of the season.
In other words, get creative. It’s unecessary to sit one stand from dark to dark in September or October. But the more hours you put in where the bucks live, the more odd-hour bucks you’ll kill.
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