Pre-Season Hunting Chores -- Share Your Approach

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  • Derwood

    Member
    Jun 2, 2011
    995
    DC area
    I started hunting in 2007 as a young adult. There was no hunting tradition in my family before me. As I've become more experienced as a hunter, I've learned the importance of preparation. I now have my own small property for bow hunting whitetail. I also belong to a waterfowl hunting club that has its own location. I've learned almost everything I know about hunting from the kindness of other hunters who have shared their wisdom. ...and I watch a lot of youtube.

    I've really come to enjoy a youtube channel called Whitetail Habitat Solutions. He's got so much excellent info, including a monthly series/list of "deer chores", but it's sort of targeted for more northern latitudes and for people who have much larger properties and much larger budgets. He's a pro game manager...hunting is my hobby. I'd love to learn about some more mid-Atlantic specific approaches to hunting preparation.

    Those of you who hunt in MD/VA/DE/WV/PA -- I'd love to hear what you do in the summer to prepare for the upcoming season.

    How do you prepare your private land hunting location?
    How do you scout public land?
    How do you sharpen your hunting skills?
    Do you make sure to purchase certain equipment in the off season?


    My answers:

    Land Prep:
    I spent three weekends in March clearing paths and cutting down standing dead trees on my land to make my hunting areas better habitat for deer. For example, I hinged some trees to provide better forage and cover, and laid the dead wood down so that deer are directed towards my stand locations. I also got a ph/mineral content test on my soil and started augmenting it so that better forage will grow. It made a huge difference in terms of grass growth and thickness. Next year I plan to add more minerals (I only did lime this year just to get started) and put in a legit food plot. I also put out mineral/salt blocks and am avoiding going into the stand areas at all. I put in some licking branch setups to hopefully make bucks want to hang around more often. Now that all the leaves have come out, I am planning to do one more trimming of branches to clear shooting lanes -- I'll probably do this in mid-August when everything is at peak growth.

    In April, we rebuilt a duck blind that was damaged by a storm and are investigating planting wild celery around the area.

    Scouting:
    After my last hunt on public land in the VA deer firearms season, I stayed in the forest an extra night to scout new locations and found a few new options that I'll try with my climber stand. At a WMA in Maryland, I did something similar in February and was able to find a large bedding location.

    Skills Development:
    My goal is to shoot archery once per week at home, including practicing from a climber stand (not my actual hunting spot) and getting a 3D target. My goal is to shoot trap/skeet once per month from July through September. I miss way too many ducks. My dog recently died but normally I'd be out training with her every Sunday morning. I maintain an exercise program throughout the year.

    Equipment Acquisition:
    I'm going to install a second permanent two-man tree stand in mid-August. This may bee too late in the year...but this is when I can do it. I'm planning to make a large order of steel ammo since I'm down to almost zero duck loads after two seasons of pandemic shortages, so I need to act fast on that. I'm also going to buy four more trail cameras to bring it to 8 total.

    What am I forgetting? What do you do? What's your favorite part about preparing for the season? I love the anticipation almost as much as the hunts.

    Thanks in advance for anything you're willing to share about how you prepare for the hunting seasons.
     

    chilipeppermaniac

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Sadly I have not hunted my main place for maybe 10 years. I used to put up deer cams and finally got a ladder stand and a climber. I never used the climber due to back issues which is also a partial reason I have not gone out. I sure miss it.

    I'd say scouting, leaf removal to make entry quieter on hunting days etc would be my prep, plus re doing my ladder stand to make sure it is safe to use again.
     

    outrider58

    Pronouns: It, That
    MDS Supporter
    Jul 29, 2014
    37,799
    Once I become familiar(I have a 3 year rule) with the property I'm hunting, I found, the less I intruded, the better I did in any given season. A lot of that can be attributed accumulated knowledge. The less I manipulated the surroundings, the less I had to worry about deer becoming accustomed to the changes. I do very little shooting lane clearing, especially down along (deer)approach trails. I might cut a shooting hole along them(rarely though), but really, the more cover along the deer trail, the better my chances of drawing my bow undetected.
    (this was the short version...)

    Scouting, again, accumulated knowledge. I knew when and where the deer moved, depending on a given time of year.

    Skills development is important. I used to shoot my bow, beginning around the end of summer. I would start out at 30-40 yards. By the time I was ready to hunt, I was shooting 60-70 yards. I never took a shot over 45 yards(two times= two kills) but a 35 yard shot was a breeze. Nowadays, since I've been shooting the same bow for the last 14-15 years, all I do is step out into my back yard a couple times and shoot a couple dozen arrows in order to refresh my muscle memory. I'll do that 3-4 times and I'm ready to go. I don't take any long shots anymore. A 30 yard shot is extremely rare. I'll wait and hope for a closer, easier, high percentage shot.

    Equipment. I find I spend very little on it these days. I rarely, if ever, use trail cams anymore. Mostly, I'll place one over a salt lick that I placed in mid winter, more for inventory for the coming season. Other expenses are stocking up on the necessities like laundry detergent, body wash, etc. Maybe upgrade a piece of clothing that's seen one too

    I Kept this to bow season because it tends to require most consideration. Otherwise, I consider bow season as prep for gun season or deer season lite.
     
    My brother and his 2 adult children have a lease on a small piece of property on the ES. We try to have our treestands ready before the corn gets too big. Along with that our cameras. We don't normally put out feeders until the corn is harvested. Other than monitoring the cameras we don't do much else
     

    Bisleyfan44

    Active Member
    Jan 11, 2008
    1,653
    Wicomico
    We only hunt from late October on. So we go out in July to clear any trails of any branches that had fallen over them. Reestablish the trails we want deer to use by blocking off certain ones while clearing others. Then we put corn out, not to feed the deer at that point, but to help direct them and pattern them to our desired trails.

    We hunt mostly from ground blinds (natural built, not commercial) we built. So we assess and rebuild/rebrush as necessary. Then we get out until the season. Late season, especially if snows are predicted, we might put some corn out again.

    Practice with all relevant weapons year round. The kids hunt with MLs, bows, and guns. I only hunt with handguns. We buy body wash and laundry detergent as needed and use the same Walmart camo clothes we've always had.

    In my early years of hunting, I always had to have all the latest and greatest gimmicks, bells, and whistles. Latest weapons, equipment, scent free this or that, feeders, etc. Spare no expense. Well no more.

    These days, I really enjoy the simplicity of just hunting from the ground with an iron sighted revolver. Sitting on my butt, Blackhawk across my lap, nothing between me and the deer except the natural blind I built. Close in shots. Playing the wind. None of the modern tech and fluff and stuff, doo dads, or widgets. Best of all, we always get our deer. Good luck to you and yours this season!
     

    Afrikeber

    Active Member
    Jan 14, 2013
    2,761
    Urbana, Md.
    Actually went out to the farm
    I have permission for hunting this week to get DNR paperwork signed off with the owner. Planning on sitting at dusk and dawn next week to observe what’s out at my favorite spots. I’ll be doing muzzleloader season and gun season this year. Had hard time finding primers for my muzzleloader last year. So I had to borrow some from a friend. That’s on my equipment list for this weekend.
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    9,401
    Speaking of I need to go out my ladder stand up and cameras out soon. End of season I put a mineral lick out in the woods next to a very sheltered area (near a big bamboo stand they use for shelter a lot). I put in some subterranean clover near where my stand is going, but it didn’t do great. It is just too shaded in the woods. It would have been better for mid season, but now I know. It does mean I cleaned up the woods some. It’s thick enough shooting from an elevated position is almost impossible early season and not so good late season. Now at least there is a fair area that is somewhat clear (and the deer have continued moving through it from the tracks).

    I am still unsure if I’ll just throw up my blind in my side yard early season or just concentrate on the stand towards October. I guess I need to see what is moving deeper in the woods. Edge of the woods and “on the lawn” I’ve just been seeing does, fawns and some nice spikes with one really nice 8-pt across the street.

    My freezer still has too much meat in it, so I am not feeling very pressed to get any deer early season. But I also don’t like just letting the weeks slip away without taking an opportunity. Since I’ve been bow hunting I’ve never waited past about the first week of the season to put up a deer for the freezer. Then again this year I’ve got probably 40-50lbs of venison still.

    One thing I need to try is canning venison chili. If that works out okay I can run through several pounds to make chili. We eat a lot of chili too, so that works.

    Though at this point we are eating venison about 3 times a week to make a big dent.
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,772
    SOMD
    Speaking of I need to go out my ladder stand up and cameras out soon. End of season I put a mineral lick out in the woods next to a very sheltered area (near a big bamboo stand they use for shelter a lot). I put in some subterranean clover near where my stand is going, but it didn’t do great. It is just too shaded in the woods. It would have been better for mid season, but now I know. It does mean I cleaned up the woods some. It’s thick enough shooting from an elevated position is almost impossible early season and not so good late season. Now at least there is a fair area that is somewhat clear (and the deer have continued moving through it from the tracks).

    I am still unsure if I’ll just throw up my blind in my side yard early season or just concentrate on the stand towards October. I guess I need to see what is moving deeper in the woods. Edge of the woods and “on the lawn” I’ve just been seeing does, fawns and some nice spikes with one really nice 8-pt across the street.

    My freezer still has too much meat in it, so I am not feeling very pressed to get any deer early season. But I also don’t like just letting the weeks slip away without taking an opportunity. Since I’ve been bow hunting I’ve never waited past about the first week of the season to put up a deer for the freezer. Then again this year I’ve got probably 40-50lbs of venison still.

    One thing I need to try is canning venison chili. If that works out okay I can run through several pounds to make chili. We eat a lot of chili too, so that works.

    Though at this point we are eating venison about 3 times a week to make a big dent.
    I made several quarts of venison chili, alsi made several quarts of pulled venison like pulled pork. Also, have a dehydrater and made many pounds of jerky. I use to make the jery in the oven which worked very well. My wife bought me a dehydrater at Cabelas and now it is faster to use.
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,772
    SOMD
    I made several quarts of venison chili, along with several quarts of pulled venison like pulled pork. The pulled venison is the bomb. Also, have a dehydrater and made many pounds of jerky. I use to make the jery in the oven which worked very well. My wife bought me a dehydrater at Cabelas and now it is faster to use.
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,772
    SOMD
    I really do not have an approach, I am a tracker and I hit all the hunting areas checking for sign. Since retirement I have a lot more time to do so.
     

    JB62

    Active Member
    Mar 5, 2013
    1,490
    Annapolis
    Over the years have spent a lot of time in the woods in the spring scouting and finding new spots. Think I am ok on spots so have stayed out of the lease this spring summer.

    Going to get down and change out one tree stand sometime this week or next, check on the others, make minimal cuts to shooting lanes for bow and get cams out.

    Have couple practice sessions on the bow last two weeks to stay fresh, but will get in routine of practice regularly here shortly.
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    9,401
    I made several quarts of venison chili, alsi made several quarts of pulled venison like pulled pork. Also, have a dehydrater and made many pounds of jerky. I use to make the jery in the oven which worked very well. My wife bought me a dehydrater at Cabelas and now it is faster to use.
    I've got a dehydrator also. I am going to try to make some jerky this season. I just need to look up some recipes. A chance I might try to make some with what I have in the freezer. I love pulled venison sandwiches and venison chili. Just never tried pressure canning it before.

    Tangential, I am also playing with preserving chicken eggs this time around. My younger birds are young enough they'll probably lay some over the winter, but last year when they were still little with my older birds, no eggs from about Veteran's day until around April Fools. They are already starting to slow down a little (about 5-7 eggs a day from 11 birds, 3 are probably aged out of laying, but my wife won't let me convert them. It was 8-9 a day a couple of weeks ago). Anyway, I am trying to freeze eggs. I've heard decent things on that. I am experimenting with them shelled whole as well as lightly beaten first before freezing (I've heard best results on the later, but I am curious). More of a pain to deal with, but unlimited shelf life versus just storing them in a cool place, unwashed (or washing and liming them).
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    9,401
    Oh also I think its a 7-pt I saw. He was actually out in my front yard/neighbor's backyard this morning about 7am. He didn't head down into my back woods, but down my driveway and through my front woods and then across the street. Decent sized guy, probably a 2 yr old at a guess. Hopefully he has got some more growing to do on the beam and those points, but he is a shooter if he makes his way by stand/blind.
     

    Archeryrob

    Sir meat stuffer
    Mar 7, 2013
    2,300
    Fairplay, MD
    Pressure canned venison is a phenomenal!! trim it good and cube up all the stuff you might grind that is larger. The roasts work well also. Fat and tendons melt out in the cooking and fat collects at the top with a wax type ring. Remove the fat, drain the liquid and make Fajitas, smash with back of a fork and heat with BBQ sauce and pulled deer sandwiches on the quick. This has to be my favorite next to back straps.

    On the eggs, have to looked up, or tried water glassing?
     

    Archeryrob

    Sir meat stuffer
    Mar 7, 2013
    2,300
    Fairplay, MD
    We Have four main hunting areas on the farm we hunt. One is movement from the neighbors into a bedding area just off the farm in pines. We have a small food plot near it and hunt it and the trails to food and bedding. Find food and water, find bedding and hunt between them.

    Second, A large food plot and it is fences and we cut 20' openings in the fence for funnels and of course have hidden well near the openings.

    Third, a large bedding area in the back. Has three stands. One on the North looking south huntable on a S or SW wind. A shooting lane hunt along the edge p f the bedding area. One stand on the south for North winds and a lane cut into the thick heading the the bedding area. One stand on the west side where the bucks cross the creek and loop around to approach the bedding area.

    Fourth, Far end of the woods from the previous bedding area. Stand at the top and bottom and this is a funnel for the bucks and does to head into the thick for bedding areas.

    As Outrider stated, it takes a couple years to learn from watching your local deer. If you got thick areas and cut a trail, the deer will use it. I have noticed how much deer use my access trails to my stands.
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    9,401
    We Have four main hunting areas on the farm we hunt. One is movement from the neighbors into a bedding area just off the farm in pines. We have a small food plot near it and hunt it and the trails to food and bedding. Find food and water, find bedding and hunt between them.

    Second, A large food plot and it is fences and we cut 20' openings in the fence for funnels and of course have hidden well near the openings.

    Third, a large bedding area in the back. Has three stands. One on the North looking south huntable on a S or SW wind. A shooting lane hunt along the edge p f the bedding area. One stand on the south for North winds and a lane cut into the thick heading the the bedding area. One stand on the west side where the bucks cross the creek and loop around to approach the bedding area.

    Fourth, Far end of the woods from the previous bedding area. Stand at the top and bottom and this is a funnel for the bucks and does to head into the thick for bedding areas.

    As Outrider stated, it takes a couple years to learn from watching your local deer. If you got thick areas and cut a trail, the deer will use it. I have noticed how much deer use my access trails to my stands.
    Yeah, my woods are mostly not super thick, though some big patches of wineberries and some thorns in there. Lots of Japanese stilt grass growing, unfortunately. A fair number of fallen trees, but way more mature trees and a fair whack of saplings from waist height to twice man height. Anyway, cutting a path down to my creek on one side of my property and down the middle and then along the creek with a grass scythe and using my electric push mower and riding mower to occasionally maintain it during the growing season I've found deer use the paths more than existing paths up from the creek and following the path of the creek. They still make their own paths, but they follow the paths I've cut for at least a good 60-70% of the deer traffic through the woods.
     

    BigCountry14

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Jan 17, 2013
    1,315
    In recent years I was in the Outrider camp of limiting intrusions, but things have changed on my property considerably.

    First, it was logged way back in 2009, the year before I purchased it. 13 years later, the canopy has really covered back over. I used to have hoards of wild raspberries, which are now extremely limited.

    Second, my neighbor has become a problem. The husband is a good guy, I really like him. The wife is an anti hunting fruitcake. We're pretty sure they actually hate each other at this point, but stand to lose too much in a divorce. In the early years, we had issues, but it had really cooled down for many years, until last summer. The neighborhood put down stone along our common driveway to prevent wash out, and she didn't agree with it, so for some reason she focused on me and started running her fairly aggressive dogs in the woods while I was hunting. I generally take the stance of its their property, they can do what they want on it, but it really blew up when the dogs routinely came onto mine. Superbowl Sunday they ran up into the backyard while my kids were out and my wife politely told her to get her dogs out of our yard or they'd be shot. We followed up with a letter stating they were not to be on our property and fully posting our property line. So $25k later the nutjob now has a fence surrounding their entire 10 acres of woods. Im sure the dogs will be running the fenceline all season, so I have to make some changes to my set up.

    The real downside of this is in the past her husband has let me access the back of my property via atv on his trails, as I have impossible ravines on my side. No big deal to walk in, buy getting deer out can be tricky. So now I'm in the process of building a bridge across the first ravine (with two more to come).

    I eventually have plans next year to widen the old logging road and plant a decent food plot. I'm planning on dropping some clover seed tonight in one small patch that gets decent sun right now.
     

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