Although the previous deer season may not have produced the success most of us were looking for, it presented ample knowledge and lessons learned for us to use in the upcoming season. As we anticipate the 2015-2016 bow season, it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves. The food plots may be planted and the cameras snapping away, but we may be overlooking the most useful scouting tool we have had all offseason – reflecting on lessons learned. Take time to recall different scenarios from the previous hunts: close encounters, bucks passed, and the ones that eluded you off in the distance during the last rut.
Many of us overlook tons of useful knowledge gained simply from being on stand in the fall and winter. Humans can become lackadaisical, lazy, or just plain stubborn when it comes to choosing our hunting spots. We may have watched bucks use a trail during the rut that would take a little more effort for us to have the best opportunity to harvest them. This is the time to hang that stand and then leave the area completely undisturbed until you slip in to hunt the rut. Look for old rubs or scrapes to pinpoint exactly which tree is the best stand location. Think about the dominant winds during that time of year and be on the downwind side of the trail. As tempting as it is, refrain from hanging a trail camera to avoid the temptation to visit the area before the time is right.
One of the brightest points for my upcoming season is all of the 2 and 3 year-old bucks I saw and have pictures of throughout last season. Knowing that there should be several 4 year-olds on my leases gives me hope that I will have a high probability of harvesting a mature buck this season. Think about the age structure of your hunting property. We know that there are always those bonus bucks that pop up during the rut, but if you have multiple leases this is vital information for the early season. If your cameras on a property that you were seeing all year-old or 2 year-old is still showing the same bucks, maybe focus most of your scouting efforts to a property that was frequented by mature bucks. Maybe that extra camera on that piece will help you pinpoint an early season shooter. Don’t settle and shoot a lesser buck just because there is simply no better buck on the property. Let them walk and remember their patterns for next season. You may not harvest a buck this year but double up the following season.
Finally, be prepared for the late season. Key in on the plots you held the most deer and also where your mature or close to mature bucks were feeding and bedding. Too many hunters are worn out and exhausted from the rut and overhunting the early season to capitalize on my favorite season to hunt. Mature bucks that are exhausted from the rut key in on the available food sources and become very predictable. Maybe your farm had a great number of deer bedding on it but they were going to the neighbors to feed. Think of this area and get a turnip or even a green plot in there. There is still time to get them in. Turnips can work during the second part of the rut and into the late season. If you have a grain plot, then key in which trails those bucks were using, wait for the perfect wind and a bit of bad weather, then move in for the kill. Many times mature deer will winter in the same areas they inhabit during the summer and early fall. Those bucks may be there now and feeding on a neighboring property and by introducing a green plot you may just set yourself up for a great early season hunt. Take this time to make your game-plan and use hunting season to execute them!
Best of luck and hunt safe