These are the five things you should know as we head into deer season.
That fateful time of year is drawing near. That wonderful period many of us dream about all year long is almost here.
If you’re like us, when you’re not hunting you’re likely thinking about hunting, preparing for a hunt, or simply wishing you were hunting. With the leaves changing colors, shorter days, and cooler temperatures quickly approaching, that can only mean one thing. Deer season is upon us.
Thank the Lord.
As we reach the home stretch waiting for deer season to arrive, there are a few things we should all keep in mind. No matter how many TV hunting shows you watch, your hunt likely will not be like those you see on screen. It won’t be as easy. It likely won’t be quick or without your share of disappointments.
Before the camo clad army heads to the woods, let’s take a quick look at five things you need to know to increase your chance of success this fall.
1. Set your standards.
Going into any season, hunters should make clear the rules and standards they hope to operate by during their hunts. This is especially true if you hunt with family or share a property with more hunters than just yourself.
With the rise of proper deer management, many of us are hoping to harvest mature animals this fall. Make clear and agree on what everyone believes is a mature animal. Should the deer be a certain age or be able to measure a minimum score? Whatever your standard, make sure everyone agrees.
Another rule that many hunters have adopted is that if it’s good enough to shoot on the last day of the deer season, it should be good enough to shoot on opening day. Many hunters would argue that a mature deer is a black and white decision. If it would meet your requirement on the last day, be comfortable shooting it right away. If you’re not comfortable shooting it on opening day, it’s likely wise to let it walk on the last day and wait another year.
Get comfortable with your gear. You should have a maximum shooting distance determined that limits where you are comfortable shooting and where you are not. If you’re not comfortable or confident in your abilities to make a clean, ethical shot, it’s best to wait for an opportunity that matches your capabilities.
Whether you agree with these examples or not, ensure that you have clear expectations and standards as you approach your deer season this fall.
2. Scent Control. Scent Control. Scent Control.
This is not a new topic. In fact, libraries could be filled with just the articles and approaches to scent control. One thing nearly all agree on is that scent control is one of, if not the most important factors contributing to successful hunts.
Following some simple rules can dramatically improve the odds of successfully harvesting that deer. Get your gear out a few weeks in advance and place them in a setting similar to where you’ll hunt. Get rid of the basement or closet smell and start to acquire natural scents.
Here’s a great article on scent camouflage and how it can work for you. At a minimum, get yourself some scent eliminating spray and play the wind. Studies show that deer have an unbelievably strong sense of smell. If you’re not seeing any, it could be because they noticed you long before you noticed them.
3. Know your dates and regulations.
Every state and every deer season is different when it comes to laws and regulations. Some states have different laws in different areas. Take an extra moment to confirm you’re operating within the local regulations of the area in which you plan to hunt.
If you’re fortunate enough to travel to different locations to hunt, don’t put yourself at risk of operating outside the legal boundaries of each area. Things like which caliber firearms can be used, minimum draw weight on bows, and even the type of gear in your pack can be subject of specific regulations in many areas.
Even if you only hunt the same area each year, don’t forget to check with your local agencies or consult your licenses and applications each year to verify that rules haven’t changed over the course of the offseason.
4. Speaking of Offseason, Don’t Take One.
It’s no secret that if you aren’t prepared for your hunt, you’re substantially less likely to succeed. Those who are committed to harvesting mature deer and capitalize on that once in a lifetime opportunity don’t waste time hoping for luck. They put in the work to prepare.
No one will argue that practicing shooting is important. But while our thoughts for preparation typically go to immediately to practice shooting, there is much more too it than this.
Studying how deer behave in your specific area is a fantastic way to prep for a coming season. How do they travel? Which routes are seeing the most traffic? Is there any new or unusual activity in the area that could alter their behavior? Increasing your understanding of these factors can help substantially when it comes to knowing proper treestand placement or hunting areas.
Are you taking advantage of trail cameras? Offseason use of trail cameras can help in our efforts to understand buck inventory. Knowing which deer you’re pursuing before ever hitting the woods can make your hunts incredibly more productive, not to mention increase your odds of harvesting that wall-worthy trophy.
Have you considered using nutritional supplements? While opinions on this vary, proper use of supplements can have a profound effect on the health of a deer herd. If you’re considering this or are currently supplementing your herd, let’s be clear on one thing. This is not about pumping your bucks full of growth hormones or steroids.
Overall herd health should be your goal. Healthy does give birth to healthy fawns. Healthy fawns, with proper nutrition, grow up into more healthy does and trophy bucks. Do your research and find a quality nutritional supplement for your herd. And don’t forget about the rule above. Make sure to check local regulations for when and where nutritional supplements can be used.
5. Understand Necessary Criteria for Deer Life.
Food, Water, and Cover. These are the three necessary criteria for your typical deer habitat. A common whitetail or mule deer will require each of these three areas throughout the course of a typical day.
Understand the geography of the area in which you’re planning to hunt. Where is the best area of cover? This will be a common day or evening bedding area. Is there a water source on or near the property, and if so, how is it typically accessed by deer? Is it seeing more traffic in the morning or evening? Likewise, what sources of food are available for deer? Which food sources are used during early season vs later in the year?
Having a good understanding of each of these factors will dramatically improve your odds of success this season. Which of these three areas will you hunt near? When and why will you make that decision?
Answering these questions and keeping in mind the other topics in this list will help make this deer season one of your best yet.