Opening days are special. There is something about being out for the first shot at a deer, elk, antelope, or … It’s all good. Sure, there will be some others celebrating the day, but after 10 o’clock, they are back at camp or having breakfast.
Everyone seems to have an equal chance at their big game trophy when the sun rises. Back in the day, I would leave my western Maryland or Pennsylvania hunting camp at 3am. I would hike up into the mountains to my pre-scouted hot spot. A bag of dry clothes and snacks would be waiting for me. It was always cold in the morning, but I would wear gym shorts, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. My trek was always uphill and a few miles in. The sweat and exercise kept me warm.
Once I got to my hot spot, I grabbed my towel and wiped off the sweat. Next, I would use some non-scent spray to keep off any stink. There in the dark, I would stand buck naked until I began to get cold. Then I would add on layers as needed. My sweaty clothes went into the bag. Eventually, I was in my insulated bibs, boots. My handwarmers were toasty, as I waited for sunrise. I could sip on some hot coffee while the other hunters were just beginning their sweaty trek into the hills.
The strategy was sound. Most hunters would not leave camp until sunrise. They would create a giant deer drive for me. My stand would be in a place where I could watch and hear the parade. Usually, 30 minutes into the season, herds of deer would parade past my hot spot. I would pick my buck and was usually tagged out by 10am.
In Montana, opening days are different. When I have used this early riser and trekking strategy, it has paid off. The problem is that there are also Grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, and other challenges. More urban hunting areas may pay off using my trick. Some of Montana is just remote and not as crowded. You may not have hundreds of hunters driving critters to you.
Pick your spot for opening day. Scout ahead of time and come up with a plan. Be prepared to transport the critter. This may mean quartering, carting, sledding, or off-road horses. Most hunters take their guns for a walk. They leave camp and take a hike. Luck is their planned strategy. This can pay off but usually doesn’t.
Riding around in a wheeler or truck is no fun. Get to a location and park. Now use optics to look for your critters. Real hunters HUNT!
Create some pre-hunt traditions for your camp. Maybe have a pool or special dinner. Turn off the drinking lamp early. Booze and hunting don’t mix. Who will earn this year’s special hunting hat or Buckmaster shirt. Create special mojos or hatpins that may bring good luck. You will be surprised how well these traditions will be received.
Every opening day is one less. As we age, it gets harder and shorter. At some point our bodies close our openers. That’s when we become the camp cook or celebrity. Everyone can still enjoy and share in the opening day bounty. We also miss some openers due to surgery or rehab. Illness and injury are not a hunter’s friend. Taking off work can be a challenge.
Don’t waste your openers!