To have a successful hunting season, your off season must involve some prep work such as planting food plots, setting up trail cameras, sighting in your bow or rifle and practice, sharpen your knives, update the gear in your pack, make sure all your safety equipment is in working condition, put up any tree stands and check to make sure they are sturdy and safe, most importantly; scout the area your hunting area year round.
Planting food plots can make a substantial difference in the health and activity of deer in the area, making them much easier to hunt. For best results, changing the type of plants each season will keep the deer coming back for more. In the summer soy beans and alfalfa will be appetizing to the deer, but in the early fall you will want to plant some sorghum seed heads. From late fall into winter, the deer will be stocking up on carbohydrates to keep them warm throughout the cold months. Be careful planting any foreign plants because they may be aggressive and take over any native plants. You can also buy food plot seed if you don’t have the time to plant individual crops.
If you want to catch a peek of some of the deer roaming around your hunting area, setting up a trail cam is a great way to do so while you kick back and relax! There are many brands of trail cameras ranging in price from about 30$ to over 300$! Trail cameras have flash so during the late night hours you can see the deer. The flash shouldn’t be so strong that it will spook the deer but strong enough to make the picture visible. You can set a delay on how often it takes a picture, if the camera is placed on a trail where animals don’t hang around, then make a shorter delay time. If you have you camera near a food plot or feeding area, the deer will hang around and eat so you can set a long delay between each photograph. Trail cams are an excellent way to keep a record of the deer in your area.
Safety is the most important thing to practice as a hunter. Make sure all of your harnesses are strong and durable. Check to make sure all of your tree stands are sturdy and free of rust, rot, and tearing fabrics or cables. If required, make sure that you have the legal amount of blaze orange to let other hunters know you’re not a target. Never climb into a tree stand with a loaded gun. Always use a tow rope after you get into your stand and buckle your harness. Before you head out on to an unfamiliar hunting ground, get topographical maps and familiarize yourself with the land and the areas you’re permitted to hunt on.
Scouting is crucial during the preseason months, if you’re looking to kill a trophy this year then get scouting. Now, many hunters mistake scouting for a stroll through the woods looking for deer droppings and a few tracks. True this is one thing you want to look for but there are many other important tasks involved with scouting. If you find some tracks, be sure to consider the age of the track. If the imprint is sharp at the edges and the dirt looks fresh and not dry, it’s probably a fresh track. If the track looks weathered and crumbly and dry, the track is most likely old and isn’t very important. Soon before the season starts you should be searching for rubs, scrapes, and sheds. Identifying a heavily used game trail is easy. Deer and other animals want to get around as easily as possible. If there is a lot of brush or obstacles on the trail, most likely it is rarely used and not many deer pass through. If you come to a clear trail that is fairly easy to walk on, then chances are it is used quite often. Keeping a map of the area you are hunting and drawing on it with different color markers is a great way to keep track of all your stands, the game trails, and other hot spots that you don’t want to forget. Many deer have bedding areas on south facing slopes and drainage areas. It’s a great place to put a stand to hunt any time of day.
Practice, practice, practice. The more practice you get in during the offseason the more likely you will be to get that trophy. If you are an avid bow hunter shooting 10-20 arrows per day will put you in good shape. Get a dot target so you can be positive that your sights are dead on accurate and make sure your arrow’s fletchings are intact and undamaged. If they are you can take them to an archery shop to get them fleched or learn to do it yourself. It saves plenty of money. If you plan on fleching your arrows at home, make sure you have a clamp. You can purchase one for about 20$ at your local outdoor or archery shop. Rifle hunters must make sure that they are sighted in and practice from different vantage points and distances. Also, check to make sure everything on you fire-arm is in good working condition.
There are countless things you can do to prepare for the oncoming season. No one can fit all of them in, but we all can scout a little, practice, and be safe!