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Creating a Hunting Club: Forget Shed Hunting

Images and story by Thomas Allen | Originally published on Outdoor Hub

Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment to a 16-part, comprehensive series about building a hunting club with buddies from nearly the ground up. Author Thomas Allen will share what he learns as he learns it. His hope is that anyone who reads this series can learn from his successes and failures, and apply them to a one-day fruitful hunting club. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh installments.

deer shed antler

People often say looking back is a sign of weakness, and success only comes from focusing on the next step and what is directly in front of you. I say look back often, never forget your failures — or successes — there’s always something to learn. Never forget your past. ~A. Nonymous 

I can tell you, without hesitation, that I look back on our first season as a club with pride. We accomplished so much on very limited time. We came together as a group of like-minded hunters and executed what seemed an impossible list of tasks to prepare for the 2017 hunting season.

And we did it. 

But, we kept a realistic outlook, and remained flexible knowing it wasn’t going to be a perfect season. In fact, we knew from the moment we signed the contract that it was a multi-year project to get the property to a sustainable level. 

Yet, we still experienced and enjoyed various levels of success. Not everything went as planned, we had many roadblocks to overcome and a few surprises along the way. 

We still have a long way to go, but one step at a time.

If you’ve taken nothing from this series, consider this: Patience is the most powerful tool you can possess in this process. A single year can’t possibly tell you enough to pass judgment on the eventual outcome.

Two things I’m most proud of are my children’s hunts, taking two very respectable bucks on our property. Tommy, my son, made a perfect shot on a fine Alabama buck that comes with a history. My daughter Taylor killed her first buck in Alabama on Christmas Day. The dandy 6-pointer was her third deer, and one she is very proud of.  

minerals and cornBack to Business

Since the season has ended, it’s time for postseason recon. Arguably, the time and effort you put in during first few weeks following the season’s end are the most important of the year. 

It’s time to find out who survived the season and might be around next fall. The traditional in-season camera tactics and mock scrapes won’t be nearly as effective. I believe concentrating traffic is the best way to garner an accurate herd inventory. Instead of running nearly 20 cameras, I’ve dropped it down to eight.

The key to postseason recon is by first identifying centrally located areas on your property where deer traffic has been the most consistent. Establish mineral sites that will serve as deer attractant until the season begins again in the fall.

 

 

For the purpose of mineral, I like loose Trace Mineral, (not the block) as attractant. Once the mineral site has been established, and the deer have a pit dug out, I might switch to the block. But to get the salt and mineral to thoroughly soak into the soil, the bagged trace mineral is ideal. 

On our 600 acres, I implemented four mineral sites, each being watched by a Wildgame Innovations camera. I also kept each of our four Wildgame Innovations feeders in strategic locations, also being covered by cameras.

But don’t forget to keep the feeder batteries fresh.

 

 

The Pipeline

One of the best attributes to this property is the gas pipeline that runs through the middle. It sold us on the lease. Any amounts of of open ground in Alabama, where dense pine plantations dominate the landscape, make open ground of any sort highly valuable. 

And we planted three beautiful food plots that not only made us look like we knew what we were doing, but they pulled the deer, too. 

But, that sort of land feature also comes with the risk of added human pressure. That’s a fact you’ll just have to deal with. The risk is worth the reward.  

In the following images, you can see the maintenance that was performed. This occurred during the final week of our season, which certainly impacted the hunting. But the good news is they likely won’t be back to perform this extreme level of maintenance for quite some time. 

gasline work

gasline work


Trail Camera Update

My trail cameras have been out and generating data on a daily basis. From all that I’ve seen since early March most of the bucks have shed their horns. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good estimation where any of those antlers have been dropped. 

trail camera
 

mineral site

And that brings me to my next piece of advice. 

Most of us don’t have the time to give fully to deer hunting. What I mean by that is simple: I’d love to have no other obligations than to just manage this property, but that’s not my reality. In fact, shed hunting in general has become the casualty of my commitments elsewhere in life. 

My family is very important to me, my career is very important to me, fishing is another demanding passion of mine, and I can’t even think of life without turkey hunting. So, more or less, I don’t commit myself to finding antlers like I once did in Iowa, where I grew up. 

I love shed hunting very much. And I miss it. While my current shed collection is impressive, it’s no where near where I want it to be — you just can’t have too many. For now it’s going to have to wait.

Perhaps the day will come when I have more time to get out and burn boot leather looking for fallen bone. At this point in my life — this year especially — it’s just not a priority. 

I have to prioritize to keep my house in order.

For now, trail cam pix will have to suffice. The advice? If family, career, passions and time are in short supply, forget about shed hunting. It’s not a necessary aspect of successful club management. 

deer antler shed

Is it beneficial? Certainly. Is it fun? Absolutely. But you can do without it if you’re looking for an area where time can be saved, that’s a good start.  

However, if you can fit it into your schedule, by all means, get to walking. Get out and walk. Like I said, one can’t have too many antlers.

Season Of Stats

Back in one of the early installments of this series, I mentioned keeping a Hunter Log Book. We did a pretty good job, and after spending a couple of day crunching numbers, I’ve found some very interesting statistics that were worth every hour put in mining it out.

Here are the critical elements:

The Alabama season begins October 15 and wraps up February 10 allowing for 118 days of deer hunting.

  • Eight members enjoyed a total of 53 actual days on the club.
  • Eight members sat — morning and/or evening — a total of 103 sits.
  • Between those 103 hunts, 133 deer sightings were recorded.

The blow graphs generated from the collected data tell a very interesting story. However, it’s worth mentioning that this system is imperfect. You simply can’t expect every member to always remember to fill out the log following each hunt — I forgot a time or two myself. Therefore the data collected and indicated may not be 100 percent accurate.

The data you do gather paints a very interesting picture that can easily educate and enlighten the entire group. Take it for what it’s worth, and apply it where applicable. 

Check this out:

buck doe sightings chart
days and sightings graph
January buck doe chart
stand location sightings chart

About the author: Thomas Allen calls central Alabama home, where he lives with his beloved wife, Kathryn, and two growing children, Tommy and Taylor. Follow Thomas on Twitter: @ThomasAllenIV and Instagram: ThomasAllen4 

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10 - PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15 - PART 16

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