By Chris Eberhart
There is a right time for everything. My most important advice for whitetail bowhunting fanatics on summertime whitetail preparation is basically: “go and do something else”. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting ready, it means you should concentrate more on more tangential aspects of the hunt, and stay as far away from your hunting areas, that have been set up since spring and are ready to go, as you can. Here are my suggestions:
Take advantage of the nice weather to enjoy all those other outdoor activities that you do. Whether fishing, hiking, golfing, or whatever just get out and have fun. Hunting is on my mind 365 days a year, but I make it a point to do other things during the summer. Taking a break is always a good way to rejuvenate the battery for the fast approaching fall. The important thing though is to always keep your eyes open. Trout fishing small streams is a great way to discover new hunting spots, there is usually some bedding near any water source. I have actually found a couple of good public land spots accessible only by boat or canoe while on summer fishing outings.
Visit Friends and Relatives
Summertime is the season for grill parties and family reunions. Since friends and relatives are way more likely to give or find you hunting areas than strangers, this is a great opportunity. Touch base with that long lost great aunt from across the state, or Kansas, or Colorado. You never know who she knows or how she might be able to open the doors to fantastic property somewhere. I have gotten permission to hunt some great places from long lost friends from college, cousins I hadn’t seen in a decade, and from friends of friends I met while in Europe. The point is to take the opportunity during the off season to network, make contact, and get the word out that your passion is bowhunting whitetails. New permission can come from anywhere, but friends and family are the best source. And should you land some great new permission you still have time for a couple days of serious scouting. When this happens this is an exception to my rule to stay away from my hunting spots during the dog days.
Shoot and Run
This is critical. Try to do something every day that will make you a better and more prepared hunter. June, July, and August are the archery months. Take advantage of the long days and shoot for an hour three or four nights a week. Training your muscles and automating your shooting style are what it’s all about. Through consistent repetitive training you can get to the point where you don’t have to think to shoot. This will make all the difference at the moment of truth. Also, shoot at distances that are far beyond normal hunting distance. I usually practice at thirty to seventy yards. This makes my average fifteen yard shot at whitetails seem like a slam dunk, and when you can shoot decently at long range your confidence naturally increases up close.
Sticking with preparation, summer is the time to get your body in total shape. Get your ass off the sofa, and run, lift, and workout. The fitter you are the better you will be. This is a maxim for life that applies directly to bowhunting. On some of my hunts a typical day might include a mile or two long pre daylight walk with a full pack and bow, followed by sitting in the cold for hours, with maybe some midday scouting, followed by another sit and the long walk back out of the woods. Hunt like that for a couple days, and you will be thanking yourself for running all summer, and every bit of strength training. The only thing in hunting that you have absolute control over is your body, take care of it, and make it as strong as you can. You will be glad you did.
Organize and Plan
Summer is time to plan your fall. The first thing to do is get your gear in order. Don’t wait until the last minute to pick up anything new you might need. Buy and stock up on any equipment you may need in the summer, and make sure everything on your bow is perfect. Planning is also critical. During the summer I do all my internet research of hunting areas by scouring topo photos, working on my hunting notebooks and establishing a potential hunting plan for the season. The plan includes a rough outline of all my trees and areas for particular portions of the season. I have early season trees, mid season trees, rut trees, post rut trees, and trees that are special situations. For instance there are a few big oaks that I occasionally hunt that are right out in the middle of big fields. These trees only get hunted in years that they are surrounded by an ocean of corn. Some of these are a bit farther away and summer is time to either drive by and take a look, or call the farmer and ask what he has planted. Checking on crop rotation and acorn production are also important during the summer. Nothing quite balances the hunting field like a good acorn crop. But, keep any intrusions into the woods to a minimum. Go check your oaks and get out of the woods as expediently as possible. By mid August you should be fully ready and have a solid plan for the upcoming season.
Make your Woman Happy
This is an intangible aspect of hunting that is probably more important than the others I just mentioned. Go spend as much time with your wife and girlfriend as you can, and if you have kids spend time with them too. Talk to your woman and make sure she knows just how important hunting is to you, and that you will need extra time to hunt in the fall. Really! Talk about this to your better half and don’t assume that she just understands. Make some tradeoffs if you have to. Keeping your girl happy in the off season will make hunting season better for you.
One More Thing
Forget about your trail cameras for a while. Trail cams are a nice toy, but a lot of guys like them way too much, and hurt their own hunting because of it. A trail cam picture of a big buck is nice, but a picture with your hands wrapped around its antlers is better. Make sure you’re not mucking up your hunting with cameras. The idea in the summer is to figure out what’s around. I recommend putting a camera in an out of the way feeding area, and definitely not at one of your best hunting spots, for a week or two and then removing them from the woods. This should give you an idea of the deer in your hunting area without messing up your hunting later. Too much time in the woods is counterproductive in this case.
Now go out and enjoy the dog days. Have a great summer. And then reap the rewards come fall.
– Chris Eberhart