Hunt From The Outside In
Deer hunting is like finesse fishing for bass. Sometimes a soft, subtle approach is best. That's the idea behind hunting from the outside in.
The early season is a great time to kill a mature deer. They haven't felt hunting pressure in months. They're at the mercy of their raging appetites. Most of them are still on a steady pattern. It's green lights all the way to an early season kill.
But one misstep could blow your season to bits.
I'm all for being aggressive when the time is right. I think there are occasions when being aggressive is better than being passive. But most instances will show reserved methods (early in the season) are the best approach.
This concept of hunting from the outside in plays off the idea that hunting fringes of properties early in the season puts less pressure on deer. Leaving the center of the land untouched during the months of September and October can make for some great November rut action.
Granted, this entire plan rides on the fact that no one sets foot on the interior of the property. There are a few problems with that, though. If you hunt public property, you can't control other people. If you hunt small properties, other people likely have permission to hunt those places, too. Lastly, this idea can't be implemented on just any property. The land composition, terrain, and topography have to be right for it. Small properties often don't have a center to the property that can be designated as a sanctuary. All of these things are out of our control.
But for those who have the right access, land, and control, leaving the interior untouched until the rut can make a huge difference in the quality and number of deer you see during the rut. Furthermore, hunting the fringes often provides better opportunities during the early season and pre-rut. Deer don't receive as much pressure. Therefore, they are more likely to move during daylight hours and venture to the outskirts of the property while the sun is still shining. Scouting efforts will show you when, where, and how to take advantage of this behavior.
Keep in mind, following this plan doesn't mean you can't creep inward as the season progresses. If you're target deer is reaching you just after dark, by all means, move in a little closer to put yourself in front of him in daylight. It's a judgment call. Just make sure it's justifiable when you move deeper into the property.
The 2013 season was a great example of this for me. I had a good buck on camera all summer. I got hundreds of pictures of the deer and formulated an early season game plan to kill him. I hunted the outskirts of the property a handful of days in September. After a few days in the stand, he disappeared. I pressured him. I backed off in October and didn't hunt much. Come November, I poured it on heavy and hunted that deer for all he was worth. I killed him on November 9, as he walked out of the 5-acre sanctuary thicket I'd designated as the no-go zone. The plan to hunt from the outside in came together.
Deer hunting demands everchanging tactics. You can't always hunt this way. There's even times you shouldn't hunt this way. At times—just as I did this season—it's better to be aggressive. But most times, during the early season, hunting from the outside in will provide better and more consistent results. Try it.