Outdoors column: Water sources key to September bow hunting success

After spending August scouting my favorite whitetail bow hunting areas, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the deer right now are keying on water sources and expect this trend to continue into September. Here are some tips to help hang stands and what to look for as we continue to experience a very weird summer and fall pattern.

Water sources are key

With all the heat we have been experiencing the rainfall amounts have been basically forgotten.

Water sources are the key to early bow success – find the water and find the deer.
Water sources are the key to early bow success – find the water and find the deer.Submitted photo

We have had very little rain since June and this has caused the deer to have to travel farther to find sources and has really changed their travel and loafing schedules. Water is a bigger deal to deer than many hunters think and deer will re-arrange their schedules to find and keep close to water sources. When a property I hunt in western Minnesota has water in the creeks that dot the property the deer are there in big numbers. In years of very little water the deer vacate the property and live elsewhere.

This is a testimony to the power and draw of water sources.

Even though the food sources are there it shows deer will move according to where the water is located.

Hanging stands anticipating water

I hang my stands now and try and anticipate where the water sources will hopefully be come later in the fall.

Hanging stands by dried up creeks or old potholes can be valuable as you are basically hoping for rain to fill these areas eventually.

It is good to know you have stands already in place in hopes of using them when the conditions are right.

If the water doesn’t pan out, so be it.

At least you are prepared in advance.

Scout for tracks near water sources

There is nothing more exciting in August and September when scouting water sources only to find a major collection of deer tracks in the mud surrounding the water sources.

I love to explore the hoof sizes and try and determine sizes and weight by the size of the print.

Telltale tracks of large does and fawns will always be a giant sized track accompanied by a smaller track helping you determine the number of does with fawns on any given property.

Usually single large tracks indicate a dry doe or a buck.

Half the fun is to find fresh tracks in the mud telling you they are visiting this water source on a regular basis. If I find a great collection of mixed deer prints this will always indicate to me a great spot to hang a portable tree stand.

Chances are these deer will visit almost any time of the day and very often right at high noon on hot fall days.

Many early season bow hunters get hung up on the food sources when in reality the water sources are much more important especially now when we are in the middle of a mini drought. Find the water and you will find the action.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.