Every year I seem to look back on the season and analyze how things went. As I have progressed as a bowhunter it has been less about how many deer I harvested and more about what I have learned. This year is no different. I have one more week left in the archery season here in Georgia and I will get after it a few more times. If I do not pull off getting the buck I had been hunting I will be disappointed but will look forward to the potential of this mature buck next season. How do you measure the success of your season. There is no question that one of main goals of bowhunting is to harvest a mature buck (s) during the season. Beyond that I do like to critique myself on the following areas:
1. What did I do well?
2. What areas did I not do well or short cutted?
3. What did I learn about the property I am hunting?
4. What will I do differently next year?
5. Why do I think that buck out smarted me?
6. How will I hunt this property next year?
These are just a few things I focus on as I wrap up the season. I think it is always healthy to critique your skills. That is the only way you will truly get better in the woods so you see more deer and have a chance to harvest that particular buck you are chasing. So, lets use my season as example of what I did well and what I did not execute effectively….
What I did well
I am a very detailed person when it comes to bowhunting and preparing for the bowhunt. I think about my scent before and during the hunt, I used more aerial maps this year to better understand the property and deer movement. I focused on the food sources for my Georgia and South Carolina properties. I practiced a lot in the off season, used good Bowhunting Equipment, and used resources such as our Game Forecast charts and moon phases to determine when to hunt (oh yea the weather channel to). Now I saw a lot of deer and a number of really good bucks that I passed on. Although, I only had one encounter with a really big mature deer in Georgia (150 class deer). It was a great encounter but did not work out to my advantage.
What I did NOT do well
With all that said I did a fair number of things right as a bowhunter. So, why did I not shoot more deer? It boils down to the details. There were times I was not the most strategic with the wind as I went to and left my stands. My stand locations were good but not great. I should have been more focused on better travel zones to and from bedding and food sources. While I did hunt these kinds of areas looking back I would make some changes for next year. I put time into our food plots but they did not have the yield this year I expected in spite of doing many of the basics such as ph tests, fertilizer, lime, good seed, ect… Having a proven game plan in important and following it is key. What happens if your game plan is not getting you the results you are looking for. You need to change it if you wan to get different results. Taking a new risk on a new stand location in an area you would not normally choose can be productive. I did not do that as much as I should have this year.
What will I do differently next year?
Hunting the Wind – when you only have one stand location and the weather changes for the better you want to get to woods ASAP. Well, what if the wind is NOT PERFECT do you still hunt. Well, I did make the mistake several times by gambling and went hunting. I knew better but only had a few chances to hunt so I rolled the dice. Well the outcomes was NO BUCKS. Does it mean that b/c of the wind I was not able to harvest a deer. Maybe, Maybe Not. I will say it sure did not HELP me with a bad wind. I will also be more focused on the wind as I get to my stand and will have multiple stands set up even on small piece of property.
Food Plots– I love putting in food plots even though I have made mistakes in the past. I have done some awesome food plots that have produced unreal results and know the potential of a well done food source. This year on our South Carolina Farm we made two big mistakes that resulted in weak food plots. The first was we did not use enough seed, and secondly, the way we prepared the plot beds hurt the potential of the seed to germinate. We will use a better method of raking in the seed once it has been applied or used a no till drill this year. Additionally, I am going use a variety of seeds including corn as a crop this year.
Stand Location – setting up in the right location is critical to continue success. Easier said than done. So, where do you focus your efforts? I always start with Food, Cover and Water as my primary considerations. Next, I factor in things such as part of the season (Early, Rut, Late Season), Staging areas to food sources, and how will get to that particular location. One thing I did not do as well as I would have liked this year is consider pressure on the property. I do not necessarily mean hunting pressure but human pressure. I hunt some suburban areas that have some human pressure that caused deer to be more nocturnal. While the property on the surface looked like deer would be all over it. The deer only moved in certain areas during the day due to this pressure. Understanding the pressure and considering how the deer will adjust to this pressure will help me have better set up for next season.
Using Maps– Ariel Maps can be a huge asset in helping you better understand your property or a new piece of property you may be hunting for the first time. Identifying Saddles, Funnels and other key areas that deer regularly use can save time and effort in locating a good deer.
When to Hunt and when not to hunt – I have gotten more disciplined on not going into the woods when the wind or conditions are not right. It can be hard to do when you only have a few opportunities to hunt a particular piece of property. Minimizing human pressure and being there when the conditions are to your advantage can pay off big….
Getting to my stand – Doing this with out getting busted can be a real challenge especially here in the Southeast when you have so much cover that can have deer bedded in. This is especially true on our South Carolina farm that has a lot of cover and a lot of deer on it. Trying to slip into your stand without getting busted can be a real challenge. Thinking about the wind direction as you get to the stand is key. Don’t be afraid to take the long way there or use a creek, stream, or bad boy buggy to get there.