By now, most deer hunting seasons have ended across the country. Whether you are saving money for an upcoming taxidermy bill or warming the pot up on the stove to fix a warm bowl of tag soup, you are probably also reminiscing about the past hunting season and wondering what you can improve on next year. Preparing for the upcoming season is never a bad idea, especially when the goal is to take a mature buck in the fall. Often, hunters can become burnt out from several months of preparing for the season through the summer and during the hunting stage in the fall.
It is no secret that most of us will not stick with our New Year’s resolution of losing weight. Rather than having a feeling of failure for an unkept resolution, make it a yearly goal to harvest a mature whitetail and begin preparing with these three tips that will make 2022 your best season yet.
Supplemental Feeding & Minerals
It is essential to take care of deer sooner than later to have a healthy deer herd and produce better bucks for the upcoming season.
After a long season of chasing does and competing with other bucks for dominance, the mature bucks become tired, weak, and need food and minerals to re-boost their energy before the harsh winter begins. As soon as the hunting seasons ended in my home state, I began feeding corn along with a mixture that attracts deer. Mossy Oak BioLogic Full Potential Mineral and Attractant is a scientifically developed formulation of minerals and vitamins that provides your deer herd the key missing nutrients to maximize antler development and overall herd health.
At the beginning of the year, bucks begin losing their antlers. When they do, I immediately start focusing on their antler growth for the upcoming year. High protein and fat-building feed helps improve a deer’s health and gives bucks and does needed minerals. Does especially need minerals to produce healthy milk for early spring when they have their fawns.
Most hunters feed minerals during the summer and expect them to help grow antlers bigger. In mid-July, most bucks have already grown their antlers to that year’s full potential. It is vital to give bucks the needed minerals before antler growth begins in January and February.
To have a healthy deer herd, hunters must take care of not only bucks but does and fawns too. Providing the extra boost of feed and minerals helps produce healthy fawns. One of the best ways to ensure fawns survive is by thinning the population of predators before spring when fawns are born. Once they are born, it is vital to keep fawns alive and healthy to ensure a better deer herd for the upcoming fall. Hunters should trap through the winter months or harvest predators by calling and hunting for the best fawn survival rate.
When hunting coyotes for deer management purposes, I hunt the hardest from February until the first part of April. By hunting until the first part of spring, I know I have had time to thin the population of coyotes enough to allow fawns to be born and grow without as much pressure from predators.
Many hunters like to improve their hunting properties during the off-season to provide better habitat for deer. Often, hunters mistakenly begin their improvements too late in the year, resulting in inadequate time to make a difference for that season. Performing tasks too close to hunting season also increases the risk of spooking more deer away than attracting.
One way of improving deer habitat is by hinge-cutting; this technique requires using a saw to cut halfway through small trees and brush, allowing them to push over yet stay alive. Pushing trees over horizontally provides cover and native browse in areas that were once lacking. Creating more cover earlier in the year allows deer to have several months to grow accustomed to the improvements instead of doing so a month before the season.
Another great way to improve deer habitat early in the year is by frost-seeding. When most areas typically receive snow cover during the winter months, hunters will use the frost-seeding technique to help improve their spring food plots. When the ground is covered in snow, hunters often spread their seed on top of the snow. When the snow melts as it gets warmer, the seed is pulled deeper into the ground, thus producing more lush and thicker food plots during the spring.
By taking the extra effort to focus on improving land and the deer that thrive on it year-round as part of a beginning of the year goal, one will reap the benefits throughout the entire year and will be rewarded this fall with their best deer season yet.