What do whitetail hunters do in the off-season? The most dedicated of them use their time to good advantage by working on projects that increase their odds of successful hunting later in the year. If you’re wondering how you can start preparing right now for the fall hunting season, here are a few great ideas.
If you have a regular hunting area, or if you have access to a new site you’re planning to hunt, one of the most valuable activities for future success is to ‘case the joint.’ Once the snow melts, you’ll discover valuable signs to local deer activity. Clues are easier to spot through light spring foliage than through heavy summer cover. Look for rubs and scrapes, as well as rut leftovers. Winter trails become obvious at this time of year, and shed locations give important information on where to place your stands. Consider using your intel to place a trail cam if possible.
Create a Food Plot Strategy
If you hunt your own land, you may well have planted food plots in previous years. Traditionally, many hunters have relied on a large plot planted with a single food source such as winter wheat or clover. However, there are a couple ‘tweaks’ to this plan that can increase the success of your food plot game plan.
Your aim is not only to attract deer, but to keep them in the area over the long term. Growing a combination of different food plants will happily keep deer munching throughout the year. A great bow hunting strategy is to plant small ‘snack plots’ between the bedding area and your major food plot. These create perfect locations for your tree stands.
Hang Tree Stands Early
Don’t wait until the week before hunting season to hang your stands! Disruption of the surroundings are obvious to deer and make them more wary. Hang tree stands in the spring and take the opportunity to upgrade any stands you leave up year-round. Make use of available branches or even grapevines to improve concealment of your stand. Be sure to check your state’s regulations on tree stands on public lands.
Clear Shooting Lanes and Access Routes
Major pruning of entry and exit routes as well as shooting lanes should be completed in early spring. Again, you want to avoid compromising your hunting area just before the season with human scent, the odor of chainsaw oil, and disrupted foliage.
Hunting Property Permissions
Beat the crowd! Check with property owners early for access to choice hunting areas. Early permission will also give you plenty of time to scout the area, get the lay of the land, and even hang your tree stand.
In the End
Preparation is key to a successful hunt. Use this off-season to plan strategy, complete your projects, and look forward to a successful fall season.