It was a cool evening in the middle of October. I was strapped into my favorite oak tree, comfortably sitting in my Muddy stand. The woods had that eerie feeling of calmness. The wind was slim to none and I had high hopes of punching my buck tag in Kentucky before firearm season hit. The magical hour was creeping up on me and I was on high alert. I had played every scenario in my head and marked each trail with my rangefinder. I was ready. Sort of.
As the last thirty minutes of daylight dwindled away, I watched as a beautiful ten pointer fed under a row of white oaks. There was one problem. He was out of bow range, and light was fading. The very next evening, being the young hunter I was, I climbed up in that same stand, only to have the exact same thing happen to me yet again. Due to work, I could not hunt the rest of that week. I never saw that buck again. I did, however, eat a Kentucky buck tag that year and it has haunted me ever since.
It is encounters like I just described that has made me the hunter I am today. I do not claim to be a great white hunter, in any means. I do, however, make it a point these days to learn from every experience I have with Whitetails in the hardwoods and build off of it. Ultimately, yes, I want to harvest a mature buck with my archery equipment year in, and year out. However, hunting puts food in my freezer. It feeds myself and my family members. This is why I chose to change things up.
My whitetail season never ends. Whitetail’s patterns never stop changing. Sure, you will have the same trails used in certain funnels or terrain features, you’ll have the same hillsides being used for feeding every year and you’ll have that one whitetail who never does change and is consistent their entire life. This is not always the case, though. I learned quick that harvesting a mature whitetail, buck or doe, consistently with archery equipment required a lot of hard work, thinking outside of the box and patience.
Let’s start with trail cameras. Sure, you do not hunt whitetails in the spring and summer, and some argue that trail cameras are useless during these times. I cannot, however, express how utterly wrong this is. If you want to know a deer herd on a property, you have to keep tabs on those intelligent creatures all year long. I want to know where they are, what they are feeding on, where they are bedding and how many fawns I have, and whether those fawns are bucks or does. That is a key element to providing yourself/family with a mature hunting property. So, run your cameras all year.
In the spring, once turkey season has disappeared, supplement your minerals (according to your state laws). Start supplementing your feed. The spring and summer are extremely important to your success in the later months of archery season. Does are producing milk, fawns are trying to survive and bucks are growing their antlers. Provide them with a stress free environment, where food is readily available and the nutrients they need, they are likely to hang around there, and only there. I have found not only does this hold whitetails on your property, but it keeps them off of your neighbor’s property!
Food Plots. Plant them. Even the seeds that do not need much sunlight, that only require a rake to clear and work the ground up, it is beneficial. You’ll be surprised how many does and fawns you will catch on your trail camera feeding in these little spots before going to back to bed. If you have the ability to plant 3-4 acres of lushes forage Soybeans, do it. Don’t think too much into it. Study what you will need, find a good forage soybean and plant it. Whitetail will be there. They will eat it. I can promise you one thing, it isn’t going to hurt your property in any way. Plant some late season food. Some rape and turnips will go a long way in the later months of winter. Even after your season is over, the whitetail will still be there consuming your plot. That is what you want.
Hang your stands in the late season, spring or summer. Don’t be hanging your stands in the season. Sure, it can work. It can also cause a lot of problems and if anything, it leaves a chance on the table that those deer will notice something is up. A wise hunter once told me:
“If you think you ought to do something, do it. If you don’t, it will come back to haunt you…”
Don’t take those chances unless it is the middle of the rut, and you absolutely have to! Find those funnels now. Hang those stands now.
We have all heard about the guy/gal that goes out two days a year and kills a good whitetail. They brag about not running trail cameras or using “fancy” equipment. I’ll tell you, there isn’t many of those out there. Be careful on the advice you get from them as well. Some are just blessed with extremely good properties with low pressure and natural food sources that are top notch. Run your cameras. Not two weeks before season, either. Supplement your minerals. Supplement food, whether it be feed or food plot, or both. Hang your stands months before season. Know your deer herd and know your funnels. The best way I found to improve my success is to find a successful hunter. Watch him and follow his lead. Or her(s).
Have fun! Now, let’s put some meat in the freezer this archery season!