All hunters ask this question at some point in their life, but for dedicated deer hunters this hits particularly close to home. When you have researched, scouted, and hunted hard all season, the time flies by. Look back to the first bag of corn or first trail camera picture of the season. It was hot and the deer were in velvet. Now it’s cold and sheds are on the horizon. The setting sun on closing day leaves you feeling anxious, pondering an unsettling question. What am I going to do now?
In order to properly answer the question, we will break it up into three articles. Each Article will focus on three important off season activities that will improve your next deer season and keep you outdoors. The season can never come around fast enough but it’s always a scramble to get squared away in time. Join us for this three-part series and be better prepared when the season sneaks back around.
Tear Down & Clean Up
Once the season is over its time to get ahead of nature. Cleaning up is not exciting but it is necessary and beneficial. Start by taking down brush blinds, tri-pods, and tree stands that you don’t intend to use or leave up all summer. This will prevent damage to your investment and allow nature to reclaim the area. The goal is to allow plants to grow back and return disturbed areas back to their natural state. This will provide animals new growth to consume and superior opportunities to disguise your blinds/stands when its time to setup. Take some time to walk the trails to, and from, your permanent spots. Remove branches and limbs that impede movement or are prone to snagging. Watch your footing and look for anything that may be a tripping hazard. On opening day, when you are able to quietly slip into your stand, you will pause and appreciate the work you put in. It could also be the difference between pushing a buck out of your area in the dark, or bagging him day one.
Scouting never stops for a dedicated hunter. Success in the field can come down to any number of things but nothing is more impactful than good information. If you know where the deer are and what their patterns are, it greatly reduces the amount of guesswork involved in your hunts. Pick a couple days throughout the off season to put boots on the ground. Using satellite images and maps to scout from a bird’s eye can help pick new areas. Walk the area and always remember deer are looking for food, water, and shelter. Take your phone and binoculars to spot animals and take notes. Cameras are incredibly useful tools because they are scouting 24/7 regardless of weather. Use what you learn to relocate cameras to areas of interest and start learning patterns. Good field notes may prove to be the most useful asset during the season so don’t skimp here.
Don’t Stop Hunting
This will be a recurring theme because it serves double duty in preparing YOU for next season. Small game is an incredible opportunity that many hunters don’t take seriously because it’s not sexy. Antlers are cool but being an expert on hunting in your area is priceless. Rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons require different hunting methods than those required for an average whitetail hunt. Stalking, spotting, marksmanship, shot placement, and calling are all skills you can build while hunting small game that will transfer directly to deer season. Small game hunts double as scouting opportunities. If you are careful, you will inadvertently find deer or their sign. Although the focus is to be more successful during deer season, these critters should not be dismissed. Squirrel, rabbit, and raccoon is some of the best meat you can harvest from the woods. Many states have open seasons on these animals which is a bonus.
Don’t wait to take down your stands and blinds. Make sure you clean up the area around the stand as well as trails leading to and from it. Always continue to gather more information about your area and the deer that occupy it. Where do they eat, sleep, and drink? Utilize small game hunting to scout and increase your knowledge of the area. Tasty meals are a bonus so don’t forget your .22! Stay tuned for part two where we will cover prepping your area for the season and more hunting opportunities!
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