Punching a buck tag induces a flurry of positive emotions. As any deer hunter will attest, shooting a dandy buck ranks higher than almost every other experience out there (sorry, family). However, as we celebrate in our treestand, pumping the air and whispering exclamations of triumph, one nagging thought inevitably creeps into our noggins. Our season’s over, and there isn’t enough BHOD footage to maintain this high.
But we couldn’t be more wrong. Here are five activities that’ll keep our seasons alive after the big buck falls this year.
Most bowhunters shake off the cobwebs and start their season slinging arrows at a couple mature does. Harvesting a doe in the early season is excellent practice, crucial for conservation efforts, and reloads your diminished freezer. After building up our confidence and refilling the freezer, our focus tends to shift solely toward ungulates of the antlered variety.
However, harvesting a doe in the late season has many benefits. Observing doe activity not only allows you to gauge the success of management efforts on your property but also of your neighbors. Deer, especially yearling bucks, naturally disperse before breeding season. A once healthy buck-to-doe ratio might skew one direction or another, requiring an impromptu management goal adjustment.
Taking a census of the deer population after the dust settles will help drive your current and future doe management goals.
Test a New Bow Setup
Regardless of the gear, the late season is an excellent opportunity for field-testing your latest purchase. Typical whitetail hunters are predisposed to buying new and cutting-edge gear, especially during the holiday sales-a-thon. It’s a great time for gear upgrades, new arrows, or replacing a sketchy treestand.
But don’t wait until next summer to scurry up the tree and try them out. With the pressure of big-buck season behind us, mistakes are more forgivable. We should expect a longer setup time or extra noise with new hunting configurations, and we don’t want to be cursing ourselves next fall. Take time this late-season to work out the kinks in a real hunting scenario, before next season rolls around.
Try New Venison Recipes
Chances are, you know one or more acquaintances that don’t particularly like the taste of venison. For whatever reason, whether ideological or physical, your delicious venison dish is the last to grace their plate, if it even does at all. They’re wrong, of course, but don’t take it as an insult. Instead, assume it’s their lack of experience on some of the finest meat in the land and dedicate a few dishes to showing them the light.
A sweet and spicy venison kabob will convert any anti-venison patron. Sweet brown sugar breakfast sausage is always a favorite with the kiddos. Creamy-queso dip, bacon-infused stew, and stuffed jalapeno poppers – these are just a few of the combinations that are sure to please even the most cautious non-hunter sitting at your table.
Scour the web and hunting forums for your next venison meal and win them over. And don’t forget to save the deer heart! If you’re not saving hearts, you’re missing out. If you took the time to save these tasty organs from your harvest, now’s a great time to experiment.
Like doe management, predator management should be at the forefront of any bowhunter’s mind. As fawns enter the arena, predators fill their bellies with future trophies. Of course, adult deer aren’t impervious to predation, but most predators focus on fawns. As humble stewards, it’s our job to limit the damage. We won’t solve the predator problem entirely, but we can make a dent, and next year’s fawns will thank us.
When selecting a predator to hunt, coyotes are the obvious choice. They’re prolific, and they prey on deer throughout the entirety of the whitetail range. And, odds are, whether trapping or hunting with a bow or rifle, coyote season is open in your state year-round.
So, get out there and do your part. You can bet, predators are on the hunt, and you should be too. It’s a good cause, with lots of fun and excitement built in.
Be a Mentor
I’m a self-taught bowhunter. Although self-taught is a bit of a misnomer. I received a plethora of invaluable advice and guidance from several sources. Each provided me with critical information on how best to approach my quest for the next Hanson buck.
That said, it’s difficult to verbally explain the many nuances involved with hurling an arrow at a live target from an elevated position, much less actually seeing said live target. Considering the depth of knowledge we bowhunters must possess, a mentorship would have dramatically compressed my learning curve.
Passing along my knowledge of the sport seems like a logical next step. Plus, whether we choose to impart our wisdom on a sassy teen or a friendly next-door neighbor, a mentorship enhances the lives of all participating parties.
As a bowhunting mentor, you advance your bowhunting legacy, develop leadership skills, and potentially gain the camaraderie of a future hunting buddy. The mentee is equally rewarded, as they experience something completely outside of their current world view.
Who knows, maybe they develop a similar love for the sport and eventually engage in a similar mentorship. It could be the start of your very own bowhunting legacy tree.
So the next time you drop that shooter buck you’ve been chasing, ignore that pestering inner voice. Your season is not over. Whether you follow-up on your doe management goals, become familiar with your new treestand or engage in a rewarding mentorship, there is plenty of action and opportunity to keep you in the woods.