The first question many hunters ask themselves after a dedicated deer season is, “what am I going to do now?” In this installment of our three part series we will cover three more areas to focus on in the valuable offseason. The offseason is just as important, if not more than the season itself. This will layout the groundwork for your hunting season. The more effort you put in during the offseason the more likely you are to be successful during the season. Let’s jump in.
Prep - stands, shooting lanes
We already covered the initial prep work in part one where we discussed the importance of breaking down and cleaning up your hunting areas. Now it's time to solidify your sits. Use the scouting information you have been gathering to decide where your sits will be for next season. Regardless of the spot being new or old, pruning and trimming are in order. The best time to prune and trim is usually after leaves fall and before spring budding. This time frame is when plants are most dormant and cutting them will effect them the least. Sit in your determined stand or blond location and identify what needs to be trimmed back. Start by trimming the area around the sit for comfort and sight line. Then look down your shooting lanes and decide what needs to be opened up. The goal is to open up your line of sight and shooting lanes while not greatly disturbing the area or compromising your position. When to set up blinds or stands can be tricky but here are some guidelines. If its a new spot, setup your stand in early spring or as early as possible. For established sits with less cutting involved mid to late summer will work. Stands that stay up year round are already set just make sure to do a safety and function check before opening day.
Feed - Feeders & Food Plots
It would be great if everyone had a natural clover patch in their hunting area, but unfortunately that's not the case. The good news is feeders and food plots are effective and easy to get into, which makes them the next best thing. If you have feeders do a postseason check to ensure they are functioning properly. It's a good idea to clean out your food plots from debris that may have accumulated before returning to plant. Trying to clear a food plot and sew seeds is a recipe for disaster. Look at your scouting information and place feeders and food plots in a central locations close to high traffic areas. Don't put a feeder in the middle of a game trail. Deer do not take well to a noisy feeder going off on their usually quiet route. In high pressure areas older bucks catch on to corn appearing during deer season. Mixing grains or switching to other food sources may help. What you plant in your food plots heavily depends on your area. Oats may be great in warm states but wont live in the colder states. If you want to better manage your heard health, consider putting out feeders and food plots year round. Introducing year round forage opportunities will benefit their overall health and add mass. Oats, wheat, and cotton seed are all popular alternatives or supplements to corn. To find out what works best talk to other hunters in your area and go out and see what the deer are naturally feeding on. If you don't have the right mix or feeder set up, don't be discouraged. This takes some trial and error to perfect.
Hunt - Predators and Pigs
Hunting year round is amazing. It’s the perfect opportunity to sharpen your skills without the risk of ruining your chances of shooting that elusive buck. Predators and pigs each have their own challenges. They are grouped together because they are widespread and offer year round hunting opportunities. Taking on the challenge of calling coyotes without being spotted will help you get your shot off during deer season. Tracking a dog through a magnified optic is difficult but getting those reps in will help you hunt all game animals. Hunting pigs can be frustrating because they are smart. What deer lack in brains they make up for by being flighty. Pigs on the other hand learn quickly which means repeating the same hunt becomes increasingly difficult. Making adjustments is a big part of being successful in the field. If you learn how to hunt around obstacles it will make you a better hunter.
Make sure you scout your hunting area and plans your sits accordingly. Trim your spots and setup stands as early as possible. Don't forget to keep hunting! Keep your eyes open because the answer to what stumped you last year might be right in front of you. The more time you spend walking the woods, scouting, hunting, and analyzing pictures in the offseason, the better understanding you have of the area and animals. That knowledge will prove to be valuable season after season, year after year.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series!
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