Planning For Success

archery

The month of February is a good time to sit back and reflect on the past deer season. Analyzing the things that worked for us-and also the things that didn’t turn out so well-can help us as we plan our strategy for  future seasons. If we killed a good buck, we can try to figure out why that particular setup worked. We can ask what the deer was doing there, and also why he was there at that particular time. This allows us to make intelligent decisions as we look for additional spots that hold the potential for producing similar results. Read more

Hunting vs. Killing

deer

Several years ago I wrote a book on deer hunting and included a chapter on hunting preserves and the effect they have on hunting. I expressed my opinions strongly and in no uncertain terms, and as a result caught some heat. I really didn’t mind, as I enjoy a good discussion. And some of the justifications that people come up with for pen ‘hunting’ are really quite amusing. Read more

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Hunting Plot-Checking Bucks

Hunting Plot

Given the choice of any two days, and two days only, on which to hunt whitetails, neither of my selections would be in November. At one time I would have scoffed at the notion of the best days not falling within the eleventh month. But we have tweaked our hunting style a bit in recent years and now kill a majority of our best bucks before and after the traditional rut hunting days.

What brought about this change is our experiences with the small hunting plot. We plant a number of small plots around the farm, a bit off the primary food source and set up with a solid wind advantage, along with good access. We often supplement the plot with a spin feeder to feed a little corn. But the goal is not to attract the bucks to food. It is to attract the bucks to the does who have been attracted to the food. Most of the bucks we kill in these small plots show little or no interest in feeding. They are checking out the does.

The prime days to catch them doing this is Halloween, and then again the thirteenth of December, give or take a day in either direction. We will get very few pictures of big bucks in our plots after the first few days of the season. They go completely underground for about three weeks. Then, on the thirtieth or thirty first of October it is as if someone flips a switch, and there they are.

After the first of November, daytime big buck sightings in the plots fall off as abruptly as they began due to the does avoiding them because of constant harassment by the bucks. Also, by this time there are probably some does ready to breed, and the bucks will be concentrated around them. When that happens it is time to quit hunting the plots and switch to the more traditional method of hunting funnels along travel routes and doe bedding areas.

We have observed the same behavior on or about the thirteenth of December. This would be about the right time for the does that did not get bred on the first go-around to be cycling again, and the bucks are once more patrolling the food sources to seek them out.

What always amazes me about these days is the precise timing. We have never noticed a variation of more than a single day in either October or December. The activity during these two short periods of time are the closest thing to predictable we have found in hunting mature bucks. We have taken advantage of this predictability over the years. We have been successful on a number of good bucks on these days, beginning with a 165 inch 9 point I killed on December 13, 2006 and including, among others, the 180 inch 11 point I shot in 2013 and a 160 inch 10 point my brother killed in 2008.

My 2013 buck was killed on November 1, David’s on Halloween, with  both bucks displaying classic plot-checking behavior. Neither showed the least interest in feeding and kept close to the edge of the plot. At the time of the shot, both showed every indication of being about to leave.

The plots certainly have some value as a spot to waylay a buck during the month of January, as the bucks get hungry and have to eat. But, as is often necessary to kill a feeding buck, it is hard to keep hunting a spot again and again in the hopes of catching one out early and not have him become wise to what you are doing. If he is feeding in the plot every night the odds are good that sooner or later he will catch on.

Small hunting plots have become our most effective tool for hunting mature bucks, and late October and mid-December are by far the best times to utilize them.

Henry Hershberger
Hillcrest Lumber

What Do You Do?

Drumming Log WIldlife Management

It’s, let’s say, mid – November.  You have been in the stand since noon and the sun is quickly setting.  Your phone vibrates and you check it.  It’s another picture text of a shooter down with your buddy holding it.  It’s the 5th one this month from someone you know that has connected.  The frustration level is taking ahold of you and it’s only November.  As you’re texting him back to congratulate him, you hear footsteps. You quickly shove your phone in your pocket and grab your bow.  It’s a buck!  He steps into the food plot and starts to feed calmly.  Now its decision time, what do you do?

The question of how old is he starts to rush through your mind.  You have only a few minutes to decide if he is a shooter, so you start to panic. You know for sure that it’s not a yearling so it’s either a two year old or a three year old.  You convince yourself that he is a three year old and he’s a shooter, but the thought of what if he isn’t, goes through mind.  You can’t help think about all your friends’ success, so you start to question your judgment because this deer isn’t as big as theirs. So you decide to pass on what was a three year old 140 class whitetail.

It’s human nature to want more and more usually means bigger in the whitetail world.  One thing is for sure, you cannot let peer pressure dictate what you’re going to harvest.  This road only leads to resentment and never being pleased with whatever you harvest in the future.

You have to find that place mentally in whatever decision you make before you pull the trigger or release the bow string. It boils down to what YOU are looking for and no one else. Doing your homework will help you.  What I mean by this, is to get an inventory of what is out there.  By conducting a soft camera survey you can get an estimate of what deer are visiting the property and learn their age classes.  This way, there will be some, but not really any surprises on what deer may be in front of you.

This, along with other small things like this, will solve many issues that expectations lead to.  Have fun this coming year and don’t let outside influences dictate your enjoyment out there.  Remember, “He’s going to be as old as he’s ever going to be when you shoot”, “dead deer don’t grow”, “ask yourself, would you mount him”, and etc. are slogans to remember when you’re at full draw trying to decide what to do!

Good luck – Have fun – No Hurry, No Worry, Keep Moving
Drumming Log Wildlife Management

Uh, Where’s All The Deer?

Drumming Log Wildlife Management

Whether it was taught at an early age on the playground at school or it’s just human nature in general, we are sure to pass blame when things don’t go our way.  One would think since we are adults, this behavior would stop and we would be mature enough to realize that sometimes the mistakes we make in life are caused by us, but that isn’t always the case.

That leads us to our article.  I just so happened to be at a local hunting goods store not too long ago, when I couldn’t help but to overhear several gentlemen talking about how their deer hunting was going.  It was very interesting to say the least because they weren’t seeing very much.  One gentleman, who seemed to be the most outspoken of the bunch, was commenting how he just purchased a scent free suit to hunt in and he just hunts whenever no matter what the wind direction.  He also stated he has been putting a lot of time in his hunting area trying to get that big buck on film with his deer camera.  Others listening didn’t bat an eye at any of this and were even saying the same comments.  Then, what I heard next caused me to cringe, “Yeah, since the state started releasing those dang coyotes to control the deer population things went to heck”.  Heads from the audience he had gathered up were bobbing up and down with agreement and he went on to say, “Then you throw all those dang youth deer hunts the state has on top of all that, it’s no wonder any of us aren’t seeing anything like we use to”.  Of course, that’s when I laughed out loud, which drew the attention of everyone. I went and paid for my goods so I could leave in one piece.  As I was paying, the out spoken gentleman said, “Hey funny man, why do you think there aren’t as many deer out there?”  I looked around at all the eyes staring at me and said, “Maybe sometimes all we need to do is look in the mirror”.  Total silence doesn’t explain the lack of talking in that store as I quickly walked out.

They say, all you have to do is put your time in and it will happen sooner or later.  I beg to differ.  I believe pressure dictates if we’re successful or not.  I believe the biggest mistake we make is going into our hunting area just to go in. For example, hanging a deer camera hurts us more than it helps.  Hunting when the wind is wrong is an obvious mistake, but so many hunters make the mistake going to their hot spot when it’s wrong.  The list goes on and on but research has shown time and time again that the older class whitetails that we all seek respond to such pressure and will leave for cover and go nocturnal which leads hunter to think there isn’t any deer around.

All this isn’t as simple as I make it out to be, but hunting smart is the first step in success.  Don’t get wrapped up in what others are doing and use your head.  So, before we place blame on ridiculous things and reasons, start with yourself and the way you hunt.  Pressure dictates everything in the whitetail world and the more you’re in their home at the wrong time, well, you’ll be the one going, “Uh, where’s all the deer?”.

 

Erich D. Long
Drumming Log Wildlife Management