I almost titled this post, "The Best Setup: Early Season", but there is no such thing as "the best" setup, stand, or blind in the early season here in southern Iowa. Your mind might play a semantical battle with your ego, or you just might like this one particular spot over others. Yet, it's really not a correct or valid judgment. It is truly a matter of right versus wrong, and that is usually dictated by what the deer does in the remaining hours of daylight in the evening, or in other words, pure luck.
As an avid bowhunter and outfitter, I like to think that I have a moderately decent understanding of these whitetails, especially mature bucks. After all, mature bucks don't act like most deer. They're very unique specimens to say the least. Furthermore, each mature buck has his own personality, tendencies, awareness, habits, neighborhood, etc. They don't fit into a general mold like most hunters like to think. Once you have that in your head, you can proceed forward with an improved chance to hunt and kill a mature buck in the early season before the pre-rut and rut craze.
Back in the spring or summer, let's assume we identified the food source on the farm being hunted. Maybe there are multiple food sources (not referencing general browsing). We know that deer love green soybeans and corn. Corn is always a player, but beans will eventually not be a player until they dry out, 8 times out of 10. So, what green food sources do they have there? Brassicas? Clover? Both? Alfalfa? All three? Identifying these food sources is very important in the summer months well before the start of the Iowa bow season, October 1st.
Caption: Tilling dirt in Zone 5 for a Rackology Brassica Blend food plot. Thanks, Scott, for the help that day on the plots.
Now, we need a mature hammer to hunt. You can have the greatest food plots, the best farm, and the best access to such, but if you don't have the deer, it's almost worthless. If you don't have a deer to hunt, you're basically getting setup for a pre-rut and rut hunt. Yet, it is important to run trail cameras to try and find a target buck for the early season. These are the cameras that are being checked midday with the right wind. Be scent free going in and out. Be quick. Be quiet. Also, your spot might allow for scouting from afar. Don't sit in the blind. Don't encroach. Keep your distance. Keep your pressure down. Let the trail cameras work for you. Usually, this buck has either A) been frequenting or even living on the farm you're hunting or B) he moved into or nearby your farm from somewhere else when he shed his velvet in early September. September is your month to find these bucks. That gives you some time to plan your attack. Get to work. Find them!
Caption: An example of a summer hammer to try and target for an October cool front.
Now, we need to look at the farm. Literally. Hopefully, at this point you know your farm well enough to not have to intrude it looking around. This is where you'd use an aerial map with the topography lines overlaying the physical elements. Reference, onX Hunt Maps.. hybrid mode. If you're going to be keeping this farm for a while, consider looking at Hunterra Maps. We know the best wind directions for cold fronts during this time of year in Iowa... W, NW, N. Let this dictate your following plans with choosing which stand/ blind to hunt or which stand/blind to setup in respect to the deer's bedding and ideal food source with EASY access. I can't begin to express the importance of easy access.
What is easy access? Clean access! You need to get from the vehicle to your setup without being seen, heard, and most importantly, smelled. You must come in downwind of the food source and setup. If you have something to hide your visual presence like a creek, a ditch, tall CRP, or a timbered fence line. Let the terrain help you. Yet, you can't walk through an area where the deer could be bedded. We know what that leads to... BLOWN OUT. If you can get in clean, you got it working in your favor.
Let me paint a hypo