Ah…early-season hunting. With Alberta archery seasons opening as early as August 25th, you can take advantage of animals being easy to pattern. No hunting pressure and lots of high-protein feed means they concentrate in areas where they can eat, sleep, and drink with the least amount of effort. Agricultural fields are a good starting point—magnets for deer, elk, and moose.
Whenever possible, scout the area you intend to hunt so you can identify where animals are feeding. Then you can determine travel routes to secure bedding areas and potential water sources. Stack the odds in your favour—know where animals live and what their daily routine is like.
Scouting also provides extra time to ask landowners for access. Farmers and ranchers can be a wealth of information for where to find animals that might not be easy to locate. Don’t be afraid to ask what people have seen while working in the area.
Once you determine where animals travel between bedding, drinking, and feeding, plan to set up treestands and blinds, or locate ambush points on the ground. Identify good access points where you can get in and out in the dark and ensure you don’t bump animals out of a routine. Changing winds is entirely possible, so plan your routes from different directions. Always keep the wind in your face and prevent your scent from being carried to the areas you are watching and hunting.
Animals need to drink regularly when it’s warm. Depending on the year and area, water can be widespread or scarce. When water is limited, animals will be more concentrated and vulnerable to a bowhunter. Springs and mineral seeps are preferred drinking areas, as animals get more than just water.
Early-season hunts means green vegetation and quiet walking—ideal for spotting and sneaking up on an animal. Keep in mind an animal sees movement above them fast, so stalking up depressions, creek beds, or in other low-lying areas will help you stay concealed. Look over your terrain carefully, watch the wind, and take your time.
One of the best strategies is to watch an animal until it beds. A bedded animal doesn’t have the same field of view as it does when standing—our advantage. When you get in close enough for a shot, be patient and wait for the animal to stand and present itself. Forcing it to get out of bed usually creates a fleeing reaction.
As farmers progressively work in fields, animals change their routines, but they never move far. Keep tabs on the critters you’re hunting, so you can sneak out whenever time allows and be confident the animals are where you’ll be hunting.