April 05, 2022
We all crave the limited time we get in our favorite deer stands each fall. For passionate deer hunters, that time is precious.
In fact, it’s a shame our go-to pastime is squeezed down into just a few pages on the calendar. And once we reach those months, it can also feel like we need a miracle for everything to align. By the time a bowhunter juggles his or her work schedule, home life and the weather, quality hunting days can be few and far between.
Well, if you’re truly eaten up with deer hunting, there are many things you can do at other times of year to improve your experiences on those rare and valuable days in the fall. When deer season closes, I can see hanging up your bow but certainly not your boots.
In early spring, hunting for shed antlers is some of the best scouting a person can do all year. You may not only find sheds off of a buck you want to target, but it’s a great time to learn more about the topography of the country you’re hunting. When I’m hiking around in the spring, I’m hunting for great stand locations, such as pinch points and or scrape lines, as much as I’m watching for tines.
I get really excited when I find good deer sign up against something that restricts travel. For instance, a body of water, thick brush or maybe even a steep drop-off on a ridge. Setups such as these are special. They give you the opportunity to keep the majority of the deer movement on one side of you, thus giving you a chance to capitalize on certain winds. Such spots are rare but money if you can find them.
In early summer, I go back to those spots and use the information I gathered in the spring to set up and prep stand locations. At that time of year, you don’t have to worry about disturbing any critters. You can make all the noise you want knocking down trees and trimming shooting lanes. One thing I like to do is use deadfalls and any brush I can to block off trails that may be behind my stand or in any of my blind spots. Obviously, when it comes to manipulating deer to travel on certain trails, it’s far from foolproof, but every little bit helps.
Once I have everything prepped and ready, I set up a couple Stealth Cams on video mode, facing trails I think could be ideal areas for a shot. After a few weeks, I tiptoe into the area and check my cards. This gives me a good idea of how the setup is working, as well as time to adjust, if necessary, before archery season begins.
One of the first years I really put an effort into early-season “homework,” I arrowed my largest velvet whitetail to date. The archery season here in Saskatchewan opens on Sept. 1, and this buck was in a steady routine coming past my blind more than a month before the season started. Had I not been prepared so early, who knows whether I would’ve been fortunate enough to get that chance.
That hunt was as fairy-tale as bowhunting gets. Walking in that evening, I knew I was going to connect. I set my blind up on a fence line with a bunch of old, tangled wire. Behind that fence line was a farmer’s yard not too far away. I knew it would be very unlikely to have any deer travel behind me, and the wind was perfect. I found the spot while shed hunting in the spring. I returned a month later and got everything set up, just how I wanted it. Every few weeks, I checked the activity on my Stealth Cam. That’s when I learned of this buck. The whole process earned me this velvet king.
Before you know it, all these little chapters of homework turn your deer hunting into a lifestyle rather than just one activity in the fall. For most, hunting is therapy. Why not treat your bowhunting malady all year long?