Off Season Activities that Improve Next Year’s Bow Hunting
Did you harvest a deer with your bow this year? A better question might be did your season go as planned? Regardless of your answer next year’s bow hunting can be improved by taking advantage of the off season.
Bow hunting throughout the year and not grabbing a firearm in November, is choosing to enlist into a very difficult challenge. This challenge requires stacking the odds against yourself. Because of this some years result in failure, but putting time into these activities in the off season can result in a different outcome for next year.
Find out who survived
The first priority of the off season for any bow hunter should be taking inventory of which bucks survived. A post season trail camera survey is the best way to census your deer hunting property. This will not only result in finding out which bucks survived, but will give you valuable data for the start of the year such as a sex ratio, fawn recruitment rate, and a population estimate. These results are important to have before the bitter cold of winter and before spring food plots go in. Prime pro staff and GrowingDeer.TV host, Dr. Grant Woods supplies great information on how to set up and run a trail camera census on your deer hunting property.
A camera survey, beyond the demographic results, will give you an indication of where bucks have spent the late season on your property. Any clues on a buck’s fall/winter home range could make all the difference for next year’s bow hunting.
Habitat improvement and hinge-cutting
A camera census will give you population demographics, and may reveal that your deer herd may need help over the winter. The unfortunate realization that you missed your doe quota for the year will put stress on you, as well as your deer herd. Even if you have harvested the does needed to balance the herd, some habitat management may still be needed.
In most situations habitat improvement means two things for a property: cover and food. A chainsaw can be your best friend in the start of the off season. Hinge-cutting can create food and cover with each cut. Laying down small diameter trees such as maples creates horizontal cover, while at the same time dropping once unreachable buds to a deer’s level. Strategically cutting down numerous trees and creating early successional type habitat is creating quality bedding areas and will improve you property’s ability to attract and hold mature bucks.
The next step to tackle this off season would be to place these recently hinge cut areas or previously existing thickets as sanctuaries. Sectioning off a couple acres for a strict “do not disturb” restriction, gives life to bedding areas. Unpressured cover and thickets will beg mature bucks for use. This adds the ability for your property to hold more deer as well as increase traffic, giving rise to more frequent and closer encounters for next year’s bow hunting.
Not everything we suggest is hard work! It’s ok to have some fun…just do it progressively.
Shed hunters and shed dogs alike brave the biting winds of February and March to hunt for white gold. This off season take care to observe where you search. This is your one chance to get into every nook and cranny of the property without messing up your hunting. Every run, scrape, rub, and even some bedding areas are fresh from the rut and late season. Taking note on high traffic areas and other deer sign that can put you one step ahead for the upcoming deer season.
If you’re stuck inside this winter, your property has been properly cared for, and there are no sheds to be found don’t let yourself become lazy. You can still improve next season’s bow hunting from inside the house. First think back to this year’s season and the observations made while you were in the stand. Was there any specific thing that seemed in excess or lack of that you noticed about your food plots? Were your clover plots utilized in October, beans destroyed in September, or brassicas left untouched this winter? Are you providing enough of, and the right types of food for each month of the season? Are you providing food in the off season?
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If this has you questioning your food plot program, it might be time to take a look at google earth and plan out which groceries you will offer your deer. More importantly, the when and where should be determined in accordance with your bow hunting sets. Planning this out correctly will provide attraction and nutrition for deer during every month of the year, especially October and November.
This off season grab a head start on improving next year’s bow hunting by tackling these of season activities.