Deer season has finally wrapped up across most of the country, leaving behind a variety of memories, and hopefully, filled tags and meat in the freezer. Now is the time that many deer hunters hang up their gear and begin to dream about what the coming season might bring. However, now is not the time to get lazy in the work that it takes to be successful year after year. There are a variety of chores that are best accomplished at this time of year to minimize the pressure we put on our local deer herds. With that said, here’s a look at the deer hunter’s post-season checklist to help you prepare for the deer season ahead.
Identify Future Treestand Sites
Yes, you probably just finished pulling treestands down from the previous season, but now is the perfect time to identify and mark new stand sites for the coming season. We’ll wait until later in the year to begin hanging these sets, but now is the time to take inventory and develop a game plan around much of the new sign we’re finding from the scouting mentioned above. You can also use this time to clear shooting lanes and knock out potential treestand obstructions around shooting lanes before green up in the woods comes back on.
Shed hunting has evolved over the last decade and become somewhat of a sport among many deer hunters. What once was simply a means of taking inventory and scouting for deer, has now turned into a full-blown obsession for a lot of hunters in search of the elusive bone dropped from a whitetail buck’s noggin each year. It’s a lot of fun. It’s great exercise and a good way see what bucks might have made it through the hunting season. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, bucks will begin to shed their antlers in February.
Identify Bedding Areas
February is a great time to find the sign that matters for deer season. You can make the rounds on the property you hunt to take inventory of the sign made during October, November, and December. It’s a great time to find any rubs and scrapes you may have missed during the season.
It’s also a good time to navigate bedding areas to find the bulk of the beds, as well as how deer enter and exit these areas. If you wait until spring to start scouting, you’ll likely find a lot of winter deer signs, which is not the intel you’ll want to rely on for deer season. You want to know where those deer are hanging out during hunting season, not necessarily their winter range.
Identify and Mark Travel Routes
Are you aware of how deer travel on your property? Spend some time in the days ahead learning and marking travel corridors on the properties you hunt. Mark deer trails and travel routes so you know how to best develop a game plan for an ambush, as well as how to get in and out with the least amount of pressure applied to the local deer herd.
Whether you’re hanging a visual flag in the woods, or just simply marking it on the mapping app on your phone, you’ll begin to put the pieces together. When you start to identify the way deer travel and connect the dots between bed and feed, you’ll greatly increase your chances for a successful ambush.
Replace Batteries in Trail Cameras
If you’re still running cameras, now is the time to reload with fresh batteries and SD cards if needed. Better cameras on the market can last all season long on a set of batteries, but after a long, cold winter, they are likely reaching their end. Load up with fresh batteries and relocate as needed to begin taking herd inventory and see how and where deer utilize your hunting property throughout the winter months and into the spring transition.
Explore New Ground
Now is a great time to explore new ground, or get to know the land you’re hunting better. Regardless of whether it’s public land, or private, there’s plenty to learn by putting boots on the ground and making the rounds. There’s no better time of year than now for low-impact scouting that won’t disturb the patterns and activity you rely on for hunting season. Make it a point to learn something new every time you step onto a property and your knowledge for that ground will experience exponential growth in a much shorter amount of time.
Don’t get lulled into thinking now is the time to relax and shrug off deer season. Now is the time to get outside and knock out the deer hunter’s post-season checklist. Remember, working harder than other hunters in your area will pay off big in the fall.