Don’t get caught unprepared – deer season prep starts long before opening day. Here’s what you can do now to get the most out of your deer season when fall rolls around.
We all want our herds to be healthy. Here’s what you can do before hunting season is upon us.
1. Establish food plots (& maintain them)
Whether you’re after a big field of clover and alfalfa or a long fence line covered in greenbriar and brambles, you need to make sure you’ve got enough food for the deer on your property.
Summer is a difficult time for whitetails, and you don’t want to force them onto a neighboring property because you don’t have enough food. Get your food plots planted (if you haven’t already), and maintain them throughout the summer. You can also put out mineral blocks, which provide key nutrients deer need during their spring & summer growth.
2. Clear overgrown travel paths
Spring means new growth in the woods, and the brush around many of your old game trails have likely started to become thick and dense again. It’s only going to get worse, so take action now and start clearing those paths.
Deer prefer the path of least resistance, so help make it easier for them to get to your food plots. The same goes for your own trails that lead to your stands – you don’t want to walk into the woods on opening day and have to [loudly] machete your way in.
3. Repair (or replace) stands
If you’ve done the work to ensure you can quietly sneak into your stand without crashing through the brush, make sure your stand doesn’t crash to the ground once you’ve climbed up.
Now is the time to go in and make sure your stands are still sturdy and solid, when there is plenty of time for the surrounding woods to quiet down after the disturbance. Deer will have long forgotten that incessant hammering by the time August rolls around.
The same goes for climbers – no one wants to get stuck 20 feet up in a tree because the bottom half of your climber rusted apart. Yikes.
5. Check the rest of your gear
I tend to over-prepare for hunts, so this one comes naturally to me. I’ve got a designated place for all of my deer hunting gear, and I will add to it throughout the spring & summer.
Make sure you’ve got everything you need ahead of time. It’s a real bummer when you get in the stand in late August in swampy South Carolina without a Thermacell (a mistake you’ll only make once, trust me), or get up in the climber only to realize you left your face mask and gloves in your turkey vest.
6. Set up trail cameras
It’s important to get an idea of which deer are still on your property from last year, and whether or not any new ones have moved in. Setting up trail cameras around your property allows you to monitor their patterns early on, and better determine where the deer are eating, bedding, and traveling in between.
You’ll also get an idea of your most productive areas on the property. There’s little sense in hunting a stand with the hopes of spotting a deer when you have photographic proof that they’re spending most of their time on the opposite side of your land.
7. Pay attention to the does
As tempting as it may be, it’s not quite as necessary to focus on your big bucks this time of year. Their testosterone levels are still pretty low, and they are still fairly inactive. Of course, you want to keep an eye out for them, but monitoring the does will prove more beneficial.
Remember – when the rut starts, bucks change their habits completely, and their only thought is of the ladies. As the old saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” right? It’s the same idea during the rut – where there are does, there will be bucks.
Get a head start and begin patterning the does now – their patterns are much less likely to change between now and the fall.
8. Sight in your weapon
Even if your rifle has been in the gun case since January, you can’t be sure the scope didn’t get bumped after your last deer hunt in the back of the truck.
The same goes for bowhunters. Make sure to sight in your rifle or bow ahead of time, and check it again just before the season starts.
Take shots at various distances to practice for any scenario you might encounter.
Now that you’ll be prepared, let’s look forward to a successful 2015 deer season!