By Cody Altizer

There’s an old, albeit very popular, saying that states, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  It’s a pretty simple old adage, but it sure does make a lot of sense, especially when it’s applied to hunting mature bucks.  Simply put, it’s extremely difficult to just wake up and waltz into the woods every deer season and consistently put mature animals on the ground.  You need a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to execute.  Also, I heard a little luck goes a long ways too, but that may just be a rumor…

Seriously, though; plan, prepare, and execute is my three step process for hunting and ideally harvesting a mature buck this year.  Since it’s only January and we just recently said goodbye to the 2012 season, we’re currently in the planning stage.  In this post I am going to outline my offseason plans and projects that I will rely on to make me a better hunter this fall.

Food, Food, Food

The majority of my posts here on W2H are centered on food, and, no, it’s not because I’m hungry. I’m talking about food for whitetails.  On my property food is king.  Throughout 2012 I bragged on and on about how well my food plots were doing and how they would help me put down some serious bone during the fall.  Well, they didn’t.  I was able to harvest an extremely old doe (that story can be found here), but high deer densities coupled with drought left my food plots shriveled up to nothing by the end of October, thus affecting my mature buck sightings during the fall.

How will I fix this for the 2013 season?  Simple, provide more food.  I plan on adding around a little over an acre of addition food plot forage strategically located through the property to increase it’s carrying capacity and provide more hunting opportunities.

Thicker the Better

I know I just wrote an entire segment on how food is king, and it is, but I am also going to thicken the understory on my property with the use of hinge cuts.  This past year was a rude awakening that deer simply do not bed on our property.  Period.  Mornings generally provide the most productive sits on my property, and it was painful to watch deer filter through our property and bed on the neighbor’s property.  Sure, it was cool to see deer, and I’m certainly glad they felt safe moving up on their feet during the daylight, but I want my property to meet all of the whitetail’s needs.

I can’t wait to grab a chainsaw here soon and do some hinge cuts.  Really, I’m almost as excited about this as I am actually hunting.  It’s actually kind of weird.  But I know that the hinge cuts will be extremely beneficial to our property by providing additional bedding cover, fawning areas, and the toppled trees will provide excellent browse during the spring, and later on in the winter.  I’m excited!

Actually Do Some Worthwhile Scouting

I live and hunt on the same 260 acres, and fully realize how fortunate I am to be able to say that.  That being said, I probably haven’t done a full fledged walk about of the 260 acres in some 5 or 6 years.  I’m such a stickler about keeping the pressure as low as possible on my property, that I haven’t done much post season scouting as of late.  In my defense, when you’ve been hunting the same piece of property for 18 years, there’s really not much need to “scout” the same areas over and over again.  Still, the results speak for themselves.  I didn’t put down a whole lot of boot leather this past off season, and this season I didn’t enjoy much success.  Starting in a couple weeks I’m going to comb over my property like I haven’t done for some time hoping to stumble up on a shed, but also looking for a clue or the link that’s missing between me putting an arrow through a mature buck.

Get in Better Shape

This is a no brainer, and something I said I was going to prepare for the 2012 season, but didn’t do a very good job of.  Look, I’m not in the worst shape in the world.  I can still dunk a basketball,  but I need to improve my overall physical well being, which will in turn improve my mental sharpness and ability to focus as well.  Will being physically fit make me a better hunter?  That’s really a tough question to answer.  If I do 100 pushups a day between now and hunting season, will that put a 150” 10 pointer at 20 yards quartering away upwind of my stand at some point?  No.  But being in better shape has a lot of benefits that can help hunters.  By training throughout the offseason, not only are you honing your physical wellness, but you’re becoming mentally stronger as well.  Being in better shape and regular exercising also increases overall blood flow within the body and thus can keep you a little bit warmer and on stand longer on those cold days.

The 2012 season may have just ended, but as scary as it sounds, the 2013 season will be here before we know it.  This year’s plan?  Simple.  Plan, prepare, execute.  The planning starts now!

– Cody Altizer,