There are a short few weeks here in Iowa between the end of deer season (January 10 for most), and the time frame in which I feel really confident about hitting the woods hard, looking for sheds. Unlike many who own large tracts of land, I cannot wait until March to look for sheds. I tend to start searching fields and areas that won’t pressure bucks that are still holding antlers, into leaving the property. But this poses a question for us that are hopelessly addicted to the outdoors: What do I do with these few weeks of down time? I’m going to give you a few ideas based on what I do, waiting for the bone to hit the ground.
Scout, Scout, Scout
This is a perfect time of the year to find what I like to call, a “killing tree”. With fresh snow on the ground, it is very easy to see where the deer are moving. Every step, mapped out for you to record. While I realize that deer patterns and times of movement are different than when you may be bowhunting them earlier in the year, you will still be able to see clearly how deer move from bed to a food source. Many times for me, this has revealed some useful tips on stand placement. Sometimes I only get to hunt a few of my stands once a year. So when I do choose a stand, I need to know that if a shooter deer moves through the area, my stand is in the “perfect” tree. Now is a good time of the year to see how deer are effected by the topography of each acre, and which trees they are most likely to walk within range of.
Inventory Your Deer Heard
This falls in with the scouting topic, but I wanted to make it a topic of its own, basically because of its importance to the way I hunt. Many people I have spoken with, run trail cameras from September, through bow season, and take them down when gun season starts to avoid the higher risk of theft.
While this may be necessary in some areas, I highly recommend putting them back out after the season is over. Throughout the season you have gained a knowledge of what deer are in the area, and hopefully a little about each deer’s personality. Getting them on camera now will let you gameplan for them in the upcoming year, as well as give reassurance as to which deer aren’t in the neighbors’ freezer. Also, many times new deer have moved into the area, either in search of food or a safe place to hide from the “Orange Army”. Finally, and most importantly, running cameras allows you to monitor when a majority of the bucks in your area have cut loose their headgear, meaning that it is time to safely start looking for those sheds.
In a normal year, this wouldn’t make the list. This year on the other hand, there were so many reports of EHD in the area, and now is one of my first real opportunities to walk all of the creek beds looking for the remains of deer that were effected. Several of our pro-staffers have found such cases during the season, but we won’t know the final damage until after we’ve looked over every farm. Since deer infected with EHD typically develop a high fever, the first place to look is at water sources where they would go in search of relief.
Shoot More…Shoot More Often
For most people I know, their weapons stay in the gun cabinet, or in the bow case, for 8-9 months out of the year. They get taken out, cleaned, and shot a few times before the opener of each season. I usually tell them that I’m less concerned with the bows’ performance than I am with the archer. Most skilled shooters, hunters and competition marksmen alike, will tell you that being accurate is more about muscle memory than anything. And the only way to gain muscle memory, is through repetition. When it’s below freezing, I don’t enjoy shooting outside. But there is no reason not to find a shop or indoor range to shoot at, even if it’s only 15-20 yard shots. This time of year, I’m not concerned with trying to dial in my 50 yard pin. I want to use the muscles that I use pulling a bow, or holding a gun steady, so that I’m more accurate during the next season. You always want to keep proper form of course, but I enjoy shooting, for the sake of shooting.
This is the perfect time of year to check all of your gear for the upcoming season. Your turkey hunting equipment is obvious for the upcoming season, but this is a good chance to check all of your bowhunting gear as well. Make a list of what is in need of repair, or replacement. Many times, after the season is over, you will find good deals for replacing equipment for next season. This will also ensure that you won’t be scrambling around in September, and trying to buy what you need from picked over shelves.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
Finally, and maybe most importantly, remember the people that give you the opportunities you have. Without the landowners permission, a lot of us wouldn’t be able to continue the sport that we love. This is a great time to visit all of the landowners that are so gracious to us, and see if they need anything. Offer again to help with chores, drop off some of the venison or fish you were able to harvest during the season. It’s a small gesture compared to what they give to us freely. Offer to take their kids out shed hunting, or on a turkey hunt in a couple months. Our goal as outdoorsmen shouldn’t be to simply take as much game as we can, but to advance the sport, and this is a great way to show people that we as hunters are more than meatheads with a gun.
Category: Deer Hunting