A Good Post-Season Strategy Pays Dividends Come Deer Hunting Season
Find More Success With A Good Post-Season Strategy
By Alex Killman | PUBLISHED January 2nd, 2022
You may have heard it said that deer hunting is a 365-day sport. If so, you probably heard it from someone who works in the hunting industry, or at least spends an exorbitant amount of time alone in the woods. While that 365-day model of deer hunting may not ring true for the average hunter, the idea behind it is worth considering. But what does it really mean to be a 365-day hunter? Well, considering myself one, I can say it doesn’t mean I’m in the woods every day, or even every week, for that matter. With a family, a job, and all the responsibilities that come with being a human living in the 21st century, being in the woods every other day is nothing more than a fantasy. I’ve found that a 365-day approach really comes down to strategy, planning, and being intentional with the time I have available. In a nutshell, we can be 365-day hunters by simply being smart with our limited amounts of free time throughout the year. And that brings us to Phase 1 of a well-rounded strategy.
Phase 1 - Post-Season Scouting
Post-season scouting is going to look a little different from region to region, depending on when a given state’s season ends. However, the best time to get out and scout is going to be sometime within the first 4-6 weeks after a season concludes. There are a couple main reasons for this. For one, our minds are fresh from everything we observed throughout the season. We remember the prominent trails that were used, what food sources were being hit late in the season, where the deer shifted due to pressure and changing habitat/food, which funnels produced the best action, where new rubs and scrapes popped up - all the details that soaked in during every sit. If you’re like me, you probably marked it all on a map during the season, which is great, but the one thing that can’t always be accomplished through that alone is answering the why. We need to know why those things happened. Why did they travel that route? Why did they choose that tree to feed under? Why did they funnel there? Many of the answers we’re looking for revolve around bedding - doe and buck - and unless you want to ruin your chances of success, you’re not traipsing through a bedding area mid-season. But knowing where deer bed on a given property is going to drastically tip the scales in your favor, so when is the right time? Right after the season.
During the months following the season, deer are typically still on the same pattern and bedding in the same areas they were during the late season. So, finding their preferred bedding now gives us a leg up during next year’s late-season when locating deer can be difficult. And the beauty of doing this after the season ends is that if you bump deer that are still on the same patterns or bedding in the same areas, it won’t affect next season, and you’ll gain priceless intel. We can also investigate full scrape lines and rub lines, building a complete picture of how deer used an area during the rut. So, as you can see, taking a few days during the first month or two after the season to paint a picture of how deer use your hunting grounds can help you come up with a good game plan for next season’s rut and late-season.
Phase 2 - Shed Hunting
Shed hunting is another piece of the post-season puzzle that is going to depend greatly on region because there are many factors that contribute to when bucks in a given area will begin shedding. If you’re up North, you may see shedding beginning in January. The Midwest may see them shedding a little later than that. And the South, even later into March. Even still, photoperiod, doe-to-buck ratio, and injuries can change those dates for certain regions and certain bucks. However, sometime between January and March, the bucks in your area will be shedding, and that’s when you’ll want to be out looking. Finding sheds anywhere is good intel. Finding sheds in a bed is even better. The former tells you where a buck is traveling or hanging out, and that he made it through the season. The latter tells you the same, plus where he was likely bedding during the late-season. And if that bed is close to where you had an encounter during the season, you know the area he was likely bedding during the week/month of that encounter. So, don’t ever just pick up a shed and keep walking. Take a few minutes to put the pieces together, or at least figure out what questions to be thinking on, such as why he was in that spot when he dropped his headgear?
It’s A Marathon
Deer hunting really is a marathon, at least if you want to be successful on a consistent basis. You can sprint to success every now and then, scouting a week before the season and setting up in a hurry to have some unlucky buck traipse right in front of you, but those encounters are very few and far between. The 80/20 rule applies to deer hunting. You can get 80% of the work done with the 20% of available time you have if you’re smart and intentional about it. It just takes a little bit of strategy. So, get started now putting the pieces together.
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