The Perfect Storm for a Great Bowhunting Season?

By Todd GrafSeptember 14, 2012

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

As hunters we can all look back at certain seasons past and think to ourselves “Man, that was a great year”.  Sometimes things just seem to fall in line and make one season better than another.  So far it looks like 2012 is shaping up to be one of those years.  Here’s why.

First off, we had one of the most mild winters in modern history.  I can’t recall off hand a year when we had less snow and warmer temps than last year.  Of course this means that more deer were not just able to survive, but they were able to come out of winter healthier and stronger than usual.

With the light winter and early spring green-up, it appears that many of the does produced twin fawns this year.  Judging from what I’ve seen on my trail cameras, fawn mortality wasn’t very high as I have plenty of photos of the same twins from early summer all the way until just recently.  While this may not make for a great season this year, it will certainly help the overall population in some of the areas it’s been lacking in recent years.

Now on the downside, we have had one of the worst droughts ever this summer.  Across much of the Midwest crops died in the July sun and many ponds, streams and water holes dried up.  Despite the drought, it appears that the head start most of our bucks got in the Spring did not deter antler growth as just about everyone I know has pictures of some great whitetails this year.

Dried up water hole thanks to drought conditions
Thanks to this year’s drought, many of the water holes on my properties have dried up.  However, if you do still have water in a pond or river it could be a great place to hunt during the early season.

Unfortunately with drought comes disease, and I know that EHD has impacted many areas this year.  Fortunately for me, none of the areas I hunt have been hit and I’m crossing my fingers they don’t get it before the season starts.  From reports I’ve heard it appears to be slowing down a bit as we get more rains on a regular basis.

Buck getting drink from water
Here a nice buck is coming into one of the few water holes I still have left, which is down 4-5 feet from normal levels.

On the plus side of this drought, so far as hunting is concerned, is that the corn is coming out of the fields extremely early.  Most years us bowhunters are complaining about the corn being up too long and our deer not coming out where we can hunt them.  This year that won’t be the case!

Many of the farmers I’ve talked to are already picking corn and have been for nearly a month now.  Those fields that aren’t fit for corn harvest are being picked for silage and it appears that by the time October rolls around most of the corn will be gone, thus forcing the deer into the woods and hopefully closer to our stands.

For those of you that hunt in areas that open in August or September, acorns and apple trees are certainly a hot food source.  With the trees trying to shed weight early this fall in order to survive the food has been hititng the ground hard already.  So if you’ve got apples or a good acorn crop, early season hunting could be great.  I know that’s where you’ll find me this weekend in Wisconsin!

Find the acorns and you’ll certainly find the deer.

Anyone who managed to get fall food plots in during late August or earlier this month could really have their hard work pay off pretty soon.  We have had some pretty consistant rains here in the Midwest recently and some of my brassica and turnip fields are already looking very good.  With all of the corn and beans gone already, and most spring food plots dead, these little honey holes of food could be attracting deer from a long ways off come November and December.

Fall Food Plot seed
I’ll be relying heavily on my Heartland Wildlife Institute brassicas to provide the local deer with a shot of nutrition this fall.

Food Plot
It’s amazing the difference a year makes.  This is one the food plots from last year.

Dead food plot
And this is the same plot this year.  Dead as a doornail!

To sum things up, it appears that our deer are very healthy and have large racks thanks to our mild winter, but will be much more concentrated due to lack of food this fall.  That combination of factors, along with moon phases that should have the bucks running out of control starting around 11/4 could very well make 2012 one of the best years we’ve seen in a long time.

So get out there, get ready and shoot straight!  And be sure to watch our entire season as it unfolds each week on our exclusive web show Bowhunt or Die.

Todd Graf
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