Taking These Steps Now Can Help Achieve a More Successful Fall Hunt
I once heard it said that deer season is never over. As time goes by, I realize that this is very true. The main part of deer season is in the fall, and nothing beats chasing a mature Whitetail in November.
But there are lots of steps to take in the off-season, and especially in the spring, to help you capitalize in the fall. Here are some things to do when you’re not chasing those spawning bass or long beards this spring to better prepare you for the fall bow hunt.
One of the main steps that help me prepare for the fall is shed hunting. It’s a great tool for learning late- season deer patterns. It’s also a way to find all the rubs and scrapes from the past season to get a better idea of how the deer use the property.
While you don’t want to invade the bedding areas in season, now is the perfect time to look there. I like to look around a bed to try to learn why a deer beds in a certain location, which way the wind is headed, and how a deer uses the cover.
I use the onX app on my phone to mark beds, runs, scrapes, and any other good sign. I can then look at it from overhead. This helps me even more in identifying deer travel patterns in the fall. It also timestamps the pins so I can view them year to year as the picking stand crops rotate.
Shed hunting is also a good way to find out what bucks made it through to hopefully be around next year. Training your dog to shed hunt will help you locate a lot more sheds, too. A great training aid is the dogbone antler and scent. If you head over to the dogbone website, Jeremy has plenty of videos and even a podcast to help with training.
Shed hunting is a great family activity, too. My daughter looks forward to it every year. I also multi-task while morel hunting and turkey hunting and employ some of these tactics. Nothing beats finding a shed while filling a bag with morels.
Picking Stand Locations
The next thing is I like to do is have all my stand locations picked out for the upcoming season and trim all the shooting lanes. I’ve found that this makes trimming in the fall a lot easier. I also take Roundup® and spray all my camera locations. This helps keep all the unwanted weeds and brush from growing in front of my camera. I’ll also try to clean up any debris that may have fallen on the entry and exit paths to and from my stand. Spring weather is perfect for doing that, compared to the summer, as the bugs aren’t nearly as bad in the spring.
Spring is also a great time to put out minerals. I prefer to use trophy rock, big and j, or big tine. Deer seek out the minerals to balance their diet, and they’re mainly looking for salt. Minerals are very healthy for lactating does that are nursing fawns. A buck’s antler is composed of 30 percent mineral, and they are able to store it for later antler growth.
As long as putting out minerals is legal in your area, mineral sites are a great way to inventory your local deer herd. I like to place the minerals on a tree stump so they can soak them in. Another idea that works great is putting them next to a water source. I’ll put a stealth cam fusion x on the spot and monitor that site all summer. I like to use lithium batteries in the cam, since they will last most of the summer. I may have to change them once, depending on the activity in the area. I also tape up the speaker and any other place ants may be able to get in. Spraying around your camera with Roundup® is a good idea, too, since this will prevent all those unwanted false triggers.
Planting Food Plots
Now is also the time to plant food plots and native grass cover.
There are several options to choose from, and it all depends on your location and soil. Clover seems to be one of the best options because it is high in protein and has a good yield. There are several companies that will give you pointers. I like to use Real World wildlife products. They have several videos posted on YouTube about food plots, and Don does several seminars a year. If you don’t have access to equipment, they also make product for no-till plots. In that case, you usually just kill off vegetation, add some lime (depending on soil pH), broadcast seed, and hope for rain.
If you don’t own the land, you can ask the landowner about leaving a quarter acre of crop standing for you, if you’re willing to purchase the crop. This is a great option because it provides an established, well-cared-for food source. Soybeans will bring deer in from all over in the late season, and the crop can easily be disced under the following year. It’s a win for both parties, as long as the farmer is willing.
Finding a New Place
Spring is also a great time to seek out new places to hunt. I like to ask permission from the landowners for doing this in the spring, for a few different reasons. First, it gives me time to scout the area and to shed hunt. That gives you an idea of the bucks in the area and how the deer use it in the fall. If I’m allowed to look the land over, I’ll also place a few trail cameras around to start gathering information.
I also like to talk to landowners this time of year because in the fall, everyone is trying to get permission to use the spots. I like to be the first to ask and I let them know that I like to be prepared. I also offer to help the owners with any chores, such as picking up litter or cleaning up downed branches in the field. This not only helps nature but may give you the edge over someone else who just asks to hunt the property in the fall. The more places you have permission to hunt, the better chance you have to locate a trophy-class buck. Asking permission also has the benefit that it’s free for me to hunt there, which beats paying $2,000 dollars for a lease.
Getting New Gear
Lastly, I like to get my new gear in the spring. With the archery trade show at the start of the year, you get an idea of all the new gear that’s being released. If you get new gear in the spring, you may find it at a discounted price from the following season.
I have found tree stands at 50 percent off just because stores were trying to get rid of them. Last year, I got my tethrd phantom saddle set up then, and that gave me six solid months to learn about it. If you have never saddle- hunted before, there’s a lot to it at first, and it can be overwhelming. With the lead time I had, once the season came around, I was climbing trees and had trust in my gear.
I also make any changes to my bow at this time. This year, I’m going to go from a multi-pin site to a single pin HHA, and I’ll have all spring and summer to shoot. I shoot my bow a few evenings a week. I shoot 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards every time I shoot. I will shoot farther for fun, but I don’t like to take a shot past 40 yards. Practicing a few days a week makes that 30-yard shot in November seem like nothing (especially when buck fever sets in).
I hope you can include some of these ideas in your springtime activities. I know that can be a busy time in the outdoorsman’s world. Hunting trophy Whitetails is a year-round pursuit. Every little bit helps to wrap that tag around his antlers in the fall.