Images and story by Thomas Allen
The journey to a thousand sheds begins with a single step. — Whitetail fanatic somewhere
At the center of my whitetail shed display is one of the smallest antlers in my collection. But it’s the first shed I ever found and it means a great deal to me. It isn’t much to look at, but it was the first in what’s become a fairly impressive collection.
That represents to me what hard work will produce. I look at it as a daily reminder.
Building a hunting club from the ground up requires a similar approach; it takes dedication, hard work, time and sacrifice — all of which require a first step.
We took that first step during the summer of 2017, and if you’ve not had a chance to read parts 1 through 12 of this series, I highly recommend you do so to see first-hand the challenges we overcame, mistakes we made and successes we enjoyed.
Year 1 of our central Alabama hunting club is in the books, and you can experience it for yourself by visiting this link.
Year 2 is about to begin, and the saga will continue for 12 more installments — parts 13 through 24. Just like the first 12 editions, my goal is to provide a running journal of our experiences, share in our failures, both for your benefit of entertainment and education, and maybe brag about our successes. Links to the first 12 installments are at the bottom of this article.
I feel like with all we learned last year, this season will present ample opportunity to apply those lessons to make our club even better.
Even Year 2 begins with a single step. Join us as we do our best to make this season even better than the last.
We had a couple of members choose to not re-up their membership this year. They made the choice based on personal circumstances, but we made sure to let them know they are welcome back if open spots exist down the road.
We currently have room for nine members in total. We signed up two new guys to fill those vacant spots and put us back to flush. It was actually easier to get those memberships filled than it was to gather up members at the very beginning.
I believe that having a year of data; experience to share and confidence to share actually helped us sell prospects on joining up. Hopefully the club can live up to those expectations.
We have three access gates on our 600 acres; each gate had a lock that was opened by the same key. Each member had a key. For some reason one of the gas line folks cut off one of those locks late last winter, and we had to replace it with a different lock altogether. That meant that each member had to have two keys.
To keep confusion down, we just decided to spend the $40 and buy a new set of locks with 10 duplicate keys. It’s a good idea to have a few extras on-hand anyways, especially in the event that someone loses one.
Rest assured keys will get misplaced.
Plus with outgoing and incoming members, it’s smart to maintain security.
Last year we signed the lease contract in the middle of September, which set us back on food-plot preparation. Fortunately, the weather worked to our advantage and we came together as a club, planted our dirt with an array of Mossy Oak BioLogic seed and enjoyed a very successful growing and hunting season.
Generally speaking, August and September are pretty dry months in central Alabama. As fall sets in, moisture returns and all is well with the world. This year however, it’s stayed pretty wet, which should work to our advantage when we begin planting.
So far, we have a head start.
All of our 10 food plots have been mowed and disced. At this point we will be planting the entire club during the final week of September, depending on the weather.
We expect to disc each food plot once more because there will some mild weed regrowth. Then we’ll fertilize and plant.
I’ll report back.
After one year of outstanding BioLogic growth, we have determined a few things we’d like to improve upon for even better results. Once we plant, I’ll explain and demonstrate those changes. But knowing what’s coming, I’m already excited.
Last year we ran 25 Wildgame Innovations trail cameras and were able to capture images of several very nice bucks by Alabama standards. I do have several cameras up and running, but not all. At this point a few bucks that we knew about last year are back and looking good.
I grew up hunting the Iowa hardwoods, and there the rut peaks during the tail end of the first two weeks of November. That makes sense if fawns are to survive the period in which they are born, and the following winter.
In Alabama the rut varies from early December into late February. It’s just strange compared to what I’m used to, and it took a little getting used to.
Last year we just guessed on timing. Our assumptions were largely dependent upon daytime buck activity according to trail camera data, and we were pretty close.
Fawn pictures began appearing in mid July, and if you consider that a whitetail deer’s gestation period is 201 days, approximately 6 1/2 months, you can backdate the rut to about the first two weeks of January. And I’ll factor in two weeks either side of that time frame to accommodate a loose estimation.
Of course we’ll need several years of data to really narrow down on a specific week or two when the rut actually occurs, but for Year 2, this is far more info than what we had to go on last year.
And we’ll plan our season accordingly.
Here are a few snapshots of who will be back on the hit list for 2018:
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