With the opening of deer seasons approaching in a few weeks, hunters need to start finding the major food sources that whitetails are using, set up stands along the trails they take to that food and then stay the heck away until opening day.

Those are some of the things that are on the to-do list that Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., keeps in his head.

Arey, a FLW Tour pro bass fishermen and former deer-hunting guide, said everything he does is geared toward that first week of the season, because its timing puts an awful lot of factors in his favor.

“I put out minerals through the summer, and I’ll have trail cameras out on the three farms I’ve got to hunt, but now I’ll start looking for muscadines and persimmons; those are very big things around here in the early season,” Arey said. “We’ve also got a lot of good browse in some 5-, 6- and 7-year-old cutovers, a lot of honeysuckle and blackberries.

“I will put my stands out a minimum of two to three weeks before the season opens, leave them up and not come back until opening day.”

But Arey won’t hunt directly over the food sources, opting to keep his stands a few hundred yards from the soft mast along trails deer use to get from bedding areas to the food. 

“I like to hunt little corners, pinch points, travel corridors between bedding areas and the food sources I find,” he said. “How far back depends on the kind of habitat you have; our terrain around here is so diverse. We hunt farms that are almost all fields with a few woodlots, to almost all cutover.”

Arey, who concentrates on bowhunting, said the other big factor that makes the first part of the season so important is how predictable bucks are.

“The first two weeks of the season, I concentrate mainly on hunting bucks due to the fact that they’re in a consistent summer pattern, still in their bachelor groups and because food sources are so important,” he said. “Where we are, gun season doesn’t come in until the week before Thanksgiving, so the best times to hunt are the first two weeks of bow season and the last two weeks of bow season — right in the middle of the rut.”