Like I am sure every avid whitetail hunter is doing right now, I’m counting down the days until the season opener. In fact, from the time the season ends in late winter, I am already fighting the itch. The good news is, there is always plenty of work to do in the offseason that will increase your chances of success when the season does roll round. And on top of that, it will help scratch the whitetail itch that I am sure you’re battling.
Getting all of your “whitetail chores” done during this time of the year gives you a few advantages. The one obvious advantage is that you’ll be ready when the season does open. Another advantage is that you give yourself the freedom of being in the woods when the pressure on your deer herd is relatively low. Nothing can ruin a season faster than disturbing the property after the season has already opened, so making all of the changes and improvements now will prevent you from having to do so this fall.
While October might seem like a lifetime away, the truth is it will be right around the corner before you know it. Use this time to get all of your chores done, so that when the season does open, all you’ll need to do is hop in a stand, and wait on your trophy buck. In the meantime, here are some chores to get done this summer to ensure you have an incredible and successful whitetail season.
Food Plot Prep
Other than actual hunting season, food plot season is one of my favorite times of the year. There is something very rewarding about working the land and creating forage that your deer herd will use and benefit from. Not only that, but you can also create a pretty great ambush strategy around your food plots if you plan it right. But creating a healthy and effective food plot is all about timing, and now is the time to get it started.
If you have found a prime location, ideally between bedding and a large primary food source, the next step would be to prep the soil, plant some attractive forage, and pray for rain. If you haven’t found a good spot yet, don’t worry, there’s still time. Fall plantings can be even more effective than spring/summer ones, so take this time to scout for a great spot, and start making a plan for your fall food source.
By now, you should have already successfully taken care of the maintenance on last season’s treestands. Now is the time to start scouting for hang sites. If you’re like me, you like to have options when it comes to setups, so this chore tends to be a bit more time consuming, and one that I like to have completely finished by the end of August, so as to not put any unnecessary pressure on my deer herd.
Finding a good tree to hang a stand in can be a bit of a task, but don’t overthink it. Find a spot that has easy entry and exit access, and determine the ideal position based on travel patterns and the prevailing wind. Use local bedding areas and primary food sources to guide your decision, and aim to get your treestands locked in before the leaves start changing.
Creating Mineral Sites
Before putting out mineral sites, check your local laws and regulations to make sure that it is legal, as some states permit the use of supplemental minerals on public land, while some areas may prevent it altogether due to the spread of CWD. If your state and local governments do allow it, mineral sites can be a great way to add to the health of your deer herd, as well as taking inventory of what bucks to look out for this season.
While there are debates about how effective supplemental minerals are to the antler growth of whitetails, the fact remains that if you’re looking to get trail cam pictures of local bucks during the summer, mineral sites are the best place to start.
Setting Trail Cameras
Playing off the last chore, hanging trail cameras during the offseason plays a massive role in my hunting strategy. While offseason patterns will likely differ from those during the season, there is still a great deal of data you can gather from summer trail cameras. Data such as what bucks made it through the winter, antler growth rates, feeding patterns for early season, are all great pieces of intel you can get.
I typically start putting my trail cameras out towards the middle of June. At this point, you can start to make out which bucks survived, and you’ll have a good idea of which bucks should go on the hit-list, and which ones should be left off. Mineral sites, food plots, and primary trails are all great places to hang trail cameras this time of the year.
Scout for Permission
Most of the bucks that I have harvested were on properties that I was fortunate enough to get permission to hunt. This is the time of the year when I start to focus heavily on properties that look like honey holes that I may be able to get permission to hunt on. Doing it this early in the year allows you to take a more subtle approach, which the landowners will appreciate much more than hounding them last minute, when the season has already started.
Not only does waiting till the month of the opener put unwanted pressure on the landowner to make a decision, but it also puts you months behind the competition. By the time September rolls around, any landowner with a hot farm has probably been asked for hunting rights over 50 times. Get a jump start on the local hunters by knocking on doors now. Just remember to always be respectful, and grateful for their time even if the answer is a no. Landowners aren’t obligated to give permission, it’s a gift that should not be taken for granted.
Unfortunately, I am guilty of pushing off this chore until the last minute almost every year. The truth is, it’s possibly one of the least exciting chores on this list, but also probably one of the most important. Every year, regrowth of sticker bushes, weeds, and fallen trees congest those perfectly manicured trails you had last year, and waiting until the season starts runs a risk of blowing out any local bucks.
Watch the forecast and look for a weekend where the summer heat appears to be more mild. Grab a chainsaw and some hedge clippers, and make a day out of it. It’s not the most luxurious chore, but your future self will thank you for it come hunting season.
I saved this chore for last because while it is likely the most obvious chore you should be doing, it oftentimes gets overlooked – especially by me. Being accurate with your bow isn’t like riding a bike, and if you become complacent with your practicing, your shooting will suffer. A great way to go about this chore is by spreading it out over the next few months.
What I do is, I make it part of my morning routine, but with very small increments. There’s an idea that small habits repeated over a long period of time have dramatic effects. Try shooting 10 shots every morning before going to work and you’ll be amazed at the differences. I like to shoot 4 shots at 20 yards, 4 shots at 30, and my last 2 shots at 40. This keeps me sharp with my craft, without overdoing it and causing burnout, which leads to rushed shots.
While the season may seem like an eternity away, the truth is there is still a ton of work to do in preparation, and in my opinion, that’s one of the things that makes whitetail hunting so incredible. The amount of scouting, preparation, planning and practice it takes to harvest a mature whitetail isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s what keeps my motivation at the ceiling year after year, like I am sure it does yours. Use this summer to cross off those whitetail chores, and be ready for when the time comes to draw back on your target buck. Good luck!