More than 100 years after its introduction, the venerable .30-06 Springfield remains one of the best all-around hunting cartridges. Period.
Why is the .30-06 still king of the hill?
- It’s been in use since 1906, has fought in two World Wars and hunted every continent.
- The .308-inch bullet diameter is versatile; bullets of 100 to 240 grains are options.
- This makes it flexible enough to take a wide variety of game animals.
- It will push a 180-grain bullet around 2,700 to 2,800 fps, so long-range shots are possible.
- Its recoil is manageable for a majority of shooters.
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You don’t have to wait for the rut to punch your tag.By Bob Robb The rut is like a religious experience for many dyed-in-the-wool whitetail hunters, and it truly is a magical time. But I’ve also found that the early season, while bucks are still bachelored up, the weather’s nice, and there’s been little hunting pressure, can also be a great time to fill your tag. Hunting the early season requires different tactics than hunting the rut or later. Here are my top 10 tips for early season whitetail success.
1. Know the DeerTo consistently connect on a mature buck during the early season, you have to know exactly where he beds during the day, where he feeds at night and how he gets there and back. Recognizing the natural lay of the land and both quality feeding and bedding areas is the first step. To increase your odds, mineral licks, waterholes and mock scrapes can all be used to make sure that the patterns you’re hunting are established early, often and consistently throughout the entire hunting season. [caption id="attachment_3626" align="aligncenter" width="650"] A flexible strategy that allows you to hunt where the deer are feeding at the moment is key.[/caption] Recognize that the deer herd will be in constant flux now, moving as food sources change. Thus, having a mobile hunting strategy is important. Fixed stands may be the answer if you’re hunting a funnel during the rut, but the only way to zero in on the food source of the moment is to monitor the deer herd, then grab a lightweight hang-on stand and carefully set up on the hot sign. [caption id="attachment_3629" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Scouting on the ground will show you the trails deer are using, where they cross fences, and other movement patterns.[/caption] Spending time with your binocular from afar at first and last light is an excellent, no-pressure way to help put the deer-movement puzzle pieces together. Glass the edges of major food sources (crop fields in farm country, clear cuts in the big woods) the last hour or two of the day to get the most recent intel.
2. Smile for the Camera[caption id="attachment_3623" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Trail cameras are an important part of any scouting strategy and especially important during the early season.[/caption] Game cameras play a crucial role in early-season hunting. Pay close attention to the date and time stamps in pictures where deer appear and analyze what has them in that spot at that time. You can use your cameras to hone-in on where deer are entering specific fields, and that will help to learn where they are most likely bedding; in the early part of season, that usually isn’t far from their primary food source. With that knowledge in hand, you can better position your ambush point and figure out how to strategically access and exit that spot to minimize hunting pressure.
3. Silence is GoldenIf your treestand creaks, pings, pops or squeaks, get it fixed before setting it up. Your stand location will probably be near a bedding thicket, and the last thing you want to do is announce to the world that you have arrived as you climb into a noisy stand. [caption id="attachment_3628" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Hunting near bedding thickets can be very productive, especially when bucks are still in velvet early in the season.[/caption]
4. Bug OutEarly season hunting can be a time of hot, muggy weather and lots of biting insects. If you’re swatting at them, you can’t stay still and quiet. A Thermacell can keep bitey things at bay without the deer-spooking smell of insect repellents. I sometimes bring two.
5.The Downwind SideWe all know you need to keep deer upwind of your stand. The trouble is, during the early seasons, if you’re sitting near a primary food source, you’ll more than likely have does and young bucks walk past your stand before a mature buck arrives, usually at very last light. That means you have to have your scent cone blowing into a non-deer area. My favorite deerless areas are steep terrain features, waterways, roads, houses, open fields and mature, open forests.
6. Scout the Acorn Drop[caption id="attachment_3622" align="aligncenter" width="650"] When mast crops become available, deer will leave food plots to attack them. Be prepared to move your setup when this happens.[/caption] We tend to get a little obsessed with our food plots because, after all, we planted and nurtured them for months. Deer love them, but they’re not married to them, especially when mast crops start falling. The early season is prime time for the white oak acorn drop, as well as soft-mast foods like persimmons and apples. Find them, because when they become available, deer will leave food plots and concentrate on these resources like kids in a candy store.
7. Scent Control[caption id="attachment_3624" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Following a meticulous scent-control strategy includes washing clothing in a scent-eliminating detergent.[/caption] Warm weather makes us sweat, which makes us stink. To mitigate human odor, dress in lightweight clothing, don’t add layers until you’re at your stand to avoid sweating while walking in, shower using scent-eliminating soaps and shampoo, spray down all clothing and gear with a scent-eliminating spray (I continually spray myself down during a stand sit), and use an ozone-emitting clothing bag to kill odors on clothing, boots and gear before the hunt.
8. Watch the WeatherOnce you have your deer scouted and stands set, monitor the forecast closely for sudden weather changes. Both warm and cold fronts move deer. Smartphone apps make it possible to stay in tune 24/7. Both The Weather Channel and Weather Underground are reliable weather resources. During the early season, deer generally fall into nocturnal feeding patterns during lengthy periods of warmer temperatures. When a cold snap is on the way, deer sense the barometric change and get on their feet earlier. In my experience, and there’s research to back this up, no other aspect of the weather has as big an influence on deer movement as barometric pressure. That’s why you see increased daylight movement when a storm front is approaching. The best time to be afield is as a weather front is either moving in or leaving—indicated by a falling or rising barometer—with the approaching storm front the very best time to be on stand. Studies have shown that whitetails seem to move most when the barometric pressure is between 29.90 and 30.30 inches, with the best movement occurring at the higher end of that range, around 30.10 to 30.30 inches.
9. Pick Your Spots[caption id="attachment_3625" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Knowing how the deer use your hunting property—where they bed, water and eat and how they get from one place to the other— will let you set up a killer stand.[/caption] The thing about the early season is, you still have a lot of time, often months, of deer season left if you don’t tag out. So, don’t hunt on days when the conditions aren’t right. If it’s hot and windy, chance spooking deer in a marginal day? It’s better to wait for conditions to improve.
10. Sleep InDuring the early season, I rarely, if ever, hunt mornings, especially if my focus is on a food source. The exception is if I can get to a morning stand with zero chance of adversely affecting the evening hunt; the chances of spooking deer in the dark as you travel to a morning stand are extremely high. However, after sitting all day away from high-quality food sources, all deer can generally be counted on to move to their evening food sources like clockwork. If you can hunt a morning stand without hindering a high-quality evening hunt, then by all means, go for it. But during the early muzzleloader (and archery) seasons, you should never risk a low-value morning sit at the expense if a high-value evening sit. [caption id="attachment_3627" align="aligncenter" width="650"] An evening sit on a big food plot produced this nice buck for the author.[/caption] One caution about those evening sits. Since the last hour of daylight can be a magical time, hanging in there until last legal shooting light is critical. But that can make getting out of your stand without spooking deer almost impossible. If you're on a crop field, consider having a buddy pick you up in a vehicle or tractor. Deer are usually familiar with farm equipment and less likely to run off to parts unknown when they hear it. I’ve even sat in my stand for two hours after dark, waiting for deer to move off. It’s a pain in the petunias, but critical to long-term success.
It’s All About the FoodWhile the spring hunting seasons are most popular—bears are coming out of hibernation are absolutely ravenous and, on some level, make for an easier hunt—the fall hunting seasons often coincide with deer seasons. While a dedicated fall bear hunt is surely possible, many are taken as a target of opportunity, but you need to be in the right place at the right time. [caption id="attachment_3597" align="aligncenter" width="650"] A bear is driven by hunger, and a wise hunter will use that to their advantage.[/caption] The black bear’s range extends from coast to coast and from some of the southernmost states like Florida, New Mexico and Arizona all the way into Canada and Alaska, but the species is predominant in northern regions. Depending on the part of the country you’re hunting, you’ll be targeting different food sources, and here in upstate New York, where I live, I like to concentrate on places that are in close proximity of both remote wilderness and a sizeable food source. A bear will make a sizeable dent in a standing cornfield, for instance, knocking over stalks and rolling around in the field as they devour ears of corn. Here in the Hudson Valley, we also have a good number of fruit farms, and the fall apple crop is a black bear favorite. Soybeans, wheat, and other crops will also attract them. [caption id="attachment_3594" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Time spent scouting in the bear woods can definitely pay off once the season arrives. The more information you can gather, the better your odds will be.[/caption]
Sightings, Tracks, Scat and FootworkPossible food sources aside, the best way to scout for black bears is to actually see a black bear. Sightings, either your own or by someone you trust, are a nearly guaranteed means of knowing you’ll be hunting in the right area. I like to concentrate on places that are in close proximity to both remote wilderness and an attractive food source. So, what if you haven’t seen a bear or heard of recent sightings? If your hunting area doesn’t border an agricultural area, there are no two ways about it: You’ll have to use your legs to find bear sign. [caption id="attachment_3585" align="aligncenter" width="650"] If the author had to wager, he’d say this bear has been feeding on grasses and the like, based on the lack of seeds and nut fragments in his scat. (Photo courtesy of North Country Guide Service)[/caption] In wooded areas, especially those remote areas away from human population, the bear’s diet and mindset will change as the fall progresses. Finding bear scat, certainly a tell-tale sign of their presence, provides clues as to what they’ve been dining upon. Undigested seeds from berries, seeds of grasses, pieces of nuts and other bits of food stuffs will indicate their menu and give you a leg up on the food sources on which you can set up a possible stand. [caption id="attachment_3587" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Finding bear tracks in the mud gives a good indication of both bear size and the number of bears in your area. (Photo courtesy of North Country Guide Service)[/caption] Water sources in wooded areas are another place to start looking for a sign. Look for tracks in the mud or flipped-over stones where a bear has been searching for grubs and other insects. When I find these signs, I then fan out, looking for game trails in order to find more tracks and other signs of bears in the area, such as rotted stumps that have been torn up in the search for insects or claw marks on trees where a bear may have climbed for safety. When the weather is still warm, I also look for day-bed imprints in the landscape. Bears like shady, secluded places to lie up in the heat of the day, and these beds are yet another good indication you’re in the right place. [caption id="attachment_3586" align="aligncenter" width="650"] This bear has been into the berries, judging by the amount of undigested seeds in the scat.[/caption] One thing to keep in mind is that, with agricultural areas, bears may use well-defined trails to and from crops, because these are reliable food sources. But bears living in dense wooded areas will have a harder time keeping their bellies full. Their food is far more widely scattered, so these bears tend to cover a lot of ground. You will be forced to do the same while scouting.
Getting the Timing Right[caption id="attachment_3584" align="aligncenter" width="650"] The Catskill Mountains lie in close proximity to the farms of the Hudson River Valley, and bears use the remoteness of those hills for shelter, while often feeding on the crops of the farms.[/caption] Depending on when the fall bear season in your area opens, your bear scouting will take place at different times of the year. In New York, we have an early bear season in September in both the Catskill Mountain areas in our Southern Zone and in the Adirondack Mountain areas in the Northern Zone, with our bow season opening in October and firearm seasons opening in October and November. I start scouting in mid-August, looking for the signs I’ve mentioned, but keeping in mind that, as autumn progresses, food sources will change. Berry patches are a hit with bears early on, for instance, but berry patches don’t provide a food source for long. If your season coincides, hit them while they’re hot and, if not, move on. Knowing your trees will also help you plan out a hunting strategy. If you can’t tell an oak from a maple, grab a book on the various tree species in your part of the world or find a website that will help you identify species by both bark and leaf. In the remote wooded areas, a crop of white oak acorns will draw bears (as well as deer and turkeys) like a paperclip to a magnet. But it can be tough to tell a white oak from a rock oak, which has plentiful but bitter acorns and is not a favored bear food, without doing your homework. [caption id="attachment_3591" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Bears love to feed on various nuts in the fall, including acorns, beech nuts and hickory nuts, as well as all sorts of berries.[/caption] White oak acorns aren’t the only nuts that satisfy. In my region, beech nuts are another bear favorite. Just last November, during our firearm seasons for deer and bears, I was quietly heading toward a favorite spot of mine. We’d had about two inches of snow the night before, and it was wet and heavy in the morning sun. The tracks of a turkey flock were plain to see on the logging road. Within a couple hundred yards of finding the tracks, I could hear those turkeys scratching in the leaves, making a helluva racket. Carefully, I approached the feeding flock, avoiding disturbing them, and much to my surprise what I found was a black bear sow and her trio of cubs, feeding frantically among a small stand of beech trees that had borne fruit that year. [caption id="attachment_3592" align="aligncenter" width="650"] An average-sized New York black bear, taken in mid-November while feeding on acorns and beech nuts.[/caption] The lesson is, find the right food source and you’ve got a good chance at finding the bear. Think with your stomach, then cover the ground you need to find the perfect place to establish your stand. From there, it’s a winter of hearty bear stew and bear steaks, plus a glossy black bear rug for your den. About the Author Phil Massaro is a freelance author and editor-in-chief of Gun Digest Annual. He is happiest hunting the wildest places left on earth. https://youtu.be/tMrOId2RQEE Connecticut Hunter Education Instructor Dieter Bromkamp explains the importance of having and maintaining a solid scent control regimen and offers many tips that you can implement before your next hunt.
https://youtu.be/bwl3XNJZ-tcIf you’re a bird hunter, you probably will never forget that first point or flush. Odds are, it’s what made you into a hunter. But did you ever think of your dog as a way to recruit new hunters? Inviting a friend to help you train your dog is a fun, convenient, safe way to introduce the magic of dogs — and hunting — to a newcomer. Watch the video to find out how and why — and while you’re at it, take the +ONE Pledge today and introduce someone new to hunting. You May also be interested in: https://www.letsgohunting.org/articles/5-things-to-look-for-in-a-hunting-dog/