Early in the fall, whitetail deer activities center around food sources. (Photo: Ben Garrett)


First-time bowhunters who are used to trekking to the deer woods with a gun in hand in late November often experience a bit of culture-shock when they head to their favorite treestand in late September.

Tennessee’s archery season for whitetails opens Saturday across the state. The early season for deer offers different challenges and requires different strategies for hunters.

Chiggers and skeeters are still plentiful in late September; uncomfortable heat is in much greater supply than uncomfortable cold. Deer are more interested in food than companionship. And stands that produce consistently in November are going to be duds in late September.

Different hunters have different preferred tactics when it comes to archery hunting.’s Dan Perez says it’s all about food, food, food.

“There is no sense taking the risk of getting caught in (the deer’s) bedroom when he’ll probably get to his feeding area before dark and return the next morning well into shooting light hours,” Perez writes.

Perez says that the early season is an excellent time to catch big bucks off-guard, since they have not been pressured by hunters since last December. But, he adds, avoiding detection is key.

“It is far more effective (during the early season) not to draw any attention to your location,” Perez writes. “At different times, rattling and grunting can be very effective whitetail luring techniques. However, early on, your goal is to intercept your quarry as he travels between his feeding and bedding area. Bucks do quite a bit of sparring during this period, and the tickling of antlers would probably draw their attention. Nevertheless, if they catch you, the game is over.”

Perez and Havalon Knives’ Bob Robb agree that afternoons and evenings are the best time to hunt during the early season.

“In really hot weather the chances of catching a mature buck out of his bed when the rooster crows are so small they are not worth either the time or the chance that you will spook deer walking to your stand in the dark,” Robb writes. “Most all deer are bedded down when the sun kisses the sky, resting and ruminating after a long night of foraging.”

Both say they usually avoid morning hunts in the early season.

Like Perez, Robb says avoiding detection is crucial.

“Hunt with as little impact as possible during the early season,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is let the older age-class bucks know that something is amiss. I never hunt my best rut stands during the early season for this very reason.”

Research published by Outdoor Life magazine keys on weather factors for hunter success during the early bow season.

Specifically, Outdoor Life’s research pointed to temperature, dew point, barometric pressure and sky cover. When temperatures are four or five degrees below the historical average, daylight deer activity increases. The same goes with dew points within four degrees on either side of the low temperature, and a barometer reading of 30.00 and above — preferably rising. It has long been established, meanwhile, that an overcast sky will increase daylight activity.

Meteorologists are forecasting above-average temperatures this weekend, when Tennessee’s archery season begins. Long-range forecasters say below-average temperatures could be lurking as soon as the middle of next week.