February 09, 2016
By John Dudley
I've been a hunter for 30 years now, and there's no doubt my success rate has increased as the years have passed. I credit that to everything I've learned from more experienced hunters, as well as lessons gleaned from my own successes and failures.
As I continue to evolve as a hunter and seasoned competitive archer, I have also continued to refine what I see as my blueprint for success. It's a simple recipe I follow each year to make sure the next season is better than the last. In this article, I am going to share my blueprint and tell you how you can be at your best when hunting seasons open up again in August.
Once February rolls around, it's time to take inventory! I am a firm believer in getting my Stealth Cam back on winter trails and food sources in my hunting areas. This is a great time to see what deer are still around and what you have to look forward to next season. Some people need motivation to make it through months of commitment. Well, here is your motivation. This inventory also is a building block for something we will do later in the year. So, don't neglect this!
What you may find is that after some of the mature deer in your area were taken out of the herd, there may be new ones moving in. Prime habitat will always house mature animals, and the natural pecking order in Mother Nature means that if one leader falls another will take its place. This is the time to learn that. Having your trail cameras out will also tell you when to start looking for shed antlers.
Last, if your state allows supplements for game animals then you should consider giving your herd nourishment during the toughest time of year. You can give your bucks a boost by giving them fuel just prior to growing season.
March is when you check the sign and make moves. I really like this month, because the foliage is not quite popping with spring green and the game trails are well worn and very noticeable.
One mistake people make is only scouting right before hunting season. During that time, the noticeable travel routes are going to be to summer feed and crops such as soybeans or corn. Read the signs of the woods in March and it can show you the areas that had great travel that you may not have known about. Sometimes game trails slightly change without warning.
My experience is that food changes, deadfalls or washouts can shift travel routes, and if you don't know about it then you may have missed all the action by only a few hundred yards. I like to explore my timber and read these signs before the spring greenery hides it all. This is the time to mark some trees or adjust some climbing sticks to the new areas now in use. This is also a great time to look for sheds and pull those trail cameras, since the bucks will certainly have shed by now.
Look for more ways to rule the off-season in April and June, right here on Petersen's Bowhunting.