Post Season Improvement
by Dana R. Rogers
The transition from one deer season to another is when I go over all my notes and plans from last season to find where I can improve. Whether you keep a journal, spreadsheet or 3-ring binder full of data, I would highly suggest you input as much information as you can to plot data points in the off-season. Things like date, stand, sightings, weather, barometric pressure, moon phase, wind direction etc. You can really learn a lot about movement patterns in your area, pressure and the effects as well as volumes on habitat conditions, food sources, population numbers and sex ratios. As primarily a bowhunter, I’m always tweaking stand locations and ground blind setups. The spot and stalk approach can also benefit from looking over seasonal bedding areas and historical mast locations and glassing areas.
Once I go over my seasonal approach review, defined what works and what hasn’t, then it is usually about time to shed hunt in late February and March. I usually wait until my trail cameras show that almost all of the bucks have shed so that I don’t put too much stress on the wintering herd. In the West, especially in northern climates, we often see deer yarded up in secluded canyons, ranch feedlot areas and south facing slopes with good browse. Shed hunting is a great family activity and you should log the location of the sheds and see if they can teach you anything about movement patterns, as well as letting you know what bucks made it through the past season. Feeding areas and fence crossings are two other areas I check aside from the predominant bedding locations.
A few other things I like to do that help me monitor the herd as well as helping to sustain them through the winter is to operate a winter feeding program where legal. Obviously most areas don’t allow hunting over bait but its post season now so many areas allow feeding wildlife. Make sure to check with Game and Fish prior to starting the feeding program and once you start, make sure there is a variety and a constant flow. I like alfalfa and shelled corn, mixed in with high protein pellets. I use this method to draw deer to trail camera locations and help keep them close to find the sheds as well.
The last thing I’m doing in late winter is pruning trees such as crabapple to help produce more deer forage. We don’t have a lot of those in the places I hunt but there are a few. I also like to frost seed clover into my existing food plots to help give them a boost in the coming spring. Clover can be frost seeding into about any decent soil with a neutral PH. You can use a rake to clear some of the debris and start a small plot as long as it gets 4 hours of sunlight a day. Those are a few of the things I do each winter to improve my hunting strategy and benefit the deer in my area.
Good hunting and remember when you are afield, respect the land, respect the landowner and respect the wildlife.