As the sun tucked itself behind the last of the clouds, I watched as two bucks and five does fed into the fading light. This was a good way to end the last day of archery season. Unfortunately, the 150-class buck I encountered earlier in the week was a no-show for this party.
Before securing my boots into the Lone Wolf climber, I cherished the moment. This had been a good year. There had been several encounters and plenty of indelible experiences. Sharing these moments with my two boys made this season all the more memorable.
The highlight of the year was to hear my boys whisper from the other side of the tree, “Dad, deer!” I was going to miss the camaraderie. Shaking my head at how fast this season had passed, I stood there savoring the memories.
Then I realized—this is not an end—it’s only a beginning.
There are properties to scout
Having recently acquired several hundred acres of new hunting property, there is some serious scouting to do. Now that season’s over, it’s time to take a few Saturdays and bust the brush. We’ll be searching for prime bedding areas and learning the main travel corridors to and from food sources. Using GIS maps will enable us to assimilate this information and hang stands accordingly.
There are trail cameras to hang
Now that we can legally put out food and mineral, it’s time to move some trail cameras and establish what bucks we have on our property. Drawing a multitude of deer to a few strategically placed feeding sources, just might give us some pleasant surprises. We’ve already had some good bucks on the SD cards, so we’re excited to see what else might show up. Being a mixture of row crops, creek bottoms and heavy oak ridges, this property is bound to hold some bruisers.
There are sheds to find
With testosterone levels dropping, it won’t be long until the bucks will be laying some bone in the dirt. Having seen several bucks whose headgear would make a nice addition to our antler pile, we have the necessary inspiration to cover a lot of ground. There are several South-facing slopes that just might hold some large pointed pieces of protein. Hopefully it’ll be our good fortune to find them.
There are predators to kill
Plenty of coyote sign and a visible den are sure signs that we have excess predators. It’s the time to put the Fox Pro caller to work and reduce the number of predators on the property. Although predator hunting is fun, it’s also a must for adequately preserving the deer herd.
(At Christmas my children surprised me with Flambeau Lone Howler decoy. We named it Delilah and will be putting her out to help lure, Mr. Sampson Coyote. I think their gift was a hint they would like to make some fur fly this winter.)
There are new trees to locate
Post season is a great time to locate suitable trees to hang a stand. A tree might look good in early season and leave you completely exposed when it gets late and the leaves fall. I’ve already noticed a couple of suitable trees that I want to hang a stand in for next season. These trees offer good late season cover and allow for a proper entrance and exit routes.
There are shooting lanes to trim
There’s no reason to wait till next July to trim shooting lanes. Once we’ve located our stand locations, we’ll trim shooting lanes. Remember when trimming lanes that vertical lanes allow more cover than horizontal. It’s also important this time of year to consider the spring growth. Allow yourself some added room when cutting back limbs. Trimming shooting lanes this far in advance of the fall season will give your area plenty of time to recover from the disturbance and help to limit unnecessary scent within your prime hunting areas.
There are food plots to plant
We’re still working on our food plot strategy and will be working with the QDMA to make the plots as productive as possible. This means soil samples, ample fertilization, tillage and planting. We will also be working with landowners to help them understand our long-term commitment to quality habitat. Our property also holds Eastern wild turkeys, meaning our food plots will be serving a dual purpose.
There are 3D shoots to enjoy
Post-season means the start of indoor 3D archery shoots. Our family enjoys the competition and it’s a great way to spend the weekend when it’s cold outside. Shooting under pressure helps to keep us sharp and it’s a great way to meet other archers who share the same passion.
It’s not an end
As I planted my feet into the climber and made my decent, I realized again—there’s no off-season. The enjoyment and hard work of whitetail hunting goes on 365 days a year.
Bow season hasn’t ended — it’s just begun.
By Randy Hynes