By Cody Altizer
In my last post on Wired To Hunt I wrote about my plans and projects heading into the 2013 off season. Sticking with that theme and building off that post, in this week’s article I am going to share with you my 2013 hunting goals. Without constant reminders of these goals, the long hours behind a chainsaw and the farmers tans during the summer wouldn’t be worth all the hard work and sweat (just kidding, who doesn’t love a good farmer’s tan?). So let’s take a look at my goals for the upcoming year and while we do, take some time to think through what your own goals might be.
Harvest a Mature Buck with My Bow
Harvesting a mature buck (3.5+ years old or older) is always the primary goal going into each and every single hunting season, and for the last 8 years I have failed on this goal. Simply put, it’s getting ridiculous. Now is the time when I could chime in with every excuse in the book as to why I haven’t been successful killing a mature buck with my bow. They usually go something like this: I hunt in the mountains, and it’s hard to kill big bucks with a bow in the mountains. I hunt in giant chunks of timber, and it’s hard to kill big bucks in giant chunks of timber. I hunt in big woods mountains, and it’s hard to kill a big buck in big woods, mountainous terrain.
It’s time to stop making excuses and it’s time to get it done. This past year, had I taken my bow with me on the majority of hunts, like I had done the previous 5 years, I would have sent an arrow through Maverick at 23 yards on November 14. But I didn’t. I had a muzzleloader and I passed on him. This year there are no excuses. I will kill a mature buck with a bow on my home piece of property or I will exhaust myself trying. It’s bow or bust in 2013.
Harvest a 4 Year Old Buck
Okay, I lied. While I will hunt with my bow 95% of the time this fall, I would be lying in advance if I told you I was going to hunt with my bow exclusively. That just wouldn’t be a smart. I consider myself a bowhunter, but I’m a deer hunter first and foremost. If I can target a 4 year old buck and hone in on his habits and find a weakness, I won’t be disappointed at all if I kill him with a gun. I will say this, though, I will spend all of October and the better half of November before I give in to the temptation. I know myself too well, and I’d kick myself in the shin if I was too proud to put up my bow for a chance at a 4 year old 150” buck with a rifle. All 3 year olds are off limits with a gun, though. (Pats self on back).
Improve the Overall Health of the Habitat
This is actually a year round goal, as I’m sure many of you know, but it’s a goal that is ever evolving, in that I don’t think I’ll achieve it, and that’s a good thing. I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the habitat that the critters that live on my property call home. There are several ways to do this. For starters, regularly harvesting adult does not only provides several benefits to deer hunting opportunities, but it also provides increased browsing opportunities to deer and other wildlife and takes browse pressure off native vegetation that could use a head start during the growing season.
I’ve also been doing a lot of hinge cuts so far this winter, and have more planned in the immediate future. Man, let me tell you, this stuff is addicting! I’ve always gotten a weird sort of high running a chainsaw, but running one and improving wildlife habitat at the same time is an all new kind of rush. I plan on doing an entire post on hinge cuts here in the near future, but in short, hinge cuts brings tons of deer food to ground level without killing the tree. In turn, the still alive tree sprouts new growth in the spring which also doubles as a food source and increased cover. The downed tops increase fawning cover and are ideal nesting locations for turkey nests. Plus, by felling larger trees, this in turn allows sunlight to penetrate the forest floor to allow for a literal explosion of native vegetation favored by deer, turkeys, bears, squirrels, song birds, and people. Yes, people. I mean, really, who doesn’t like black berries?
Capture More Mature Bucks on Trail Camera during Daytime Hours
Wow, what a long winded list of goals, right? Anyway, one of my goals was to get a mature buck on trail camera during daylight hours during the hunting season. I had never done it, so it seemed like a good goal, and it would be the direct result of human pressure, so I would know why, or why I did not achieve the goal. Thankfully, I achieved that goal and captured 3 different bucks on their feet during the daylight. Unthankfully, every single one of the daytime photos was captured less than 30 yards from 3 of my stand sites. Such is life, I guess.
Anyway, keeping human pressure to an absolute minimum is something I take very seriously on my hunting property. In fact, I probably take it too far in a lot of cases, but I strongly believe that every little thing you can do to NOT tip off a buck helps, and I believe even stronger that mature bucks don’t tolerate human pressure very well at all. Capturing mature bucks on their feet during the daylight tells me one thing, and that is that they feel comfortable, safe, and secure being exposed during the daylight on my property. That’s a very good feeling.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I am a very goal oriented person, and I hold strong to the notion that having goals and seeing them through can help make you more successful in any arena in life. I certainly hope that’s true, because I’ve always liked being a successful deer hunter more than an unsuccessful one.
So how about you? Have you gotten to thinking through your goals for 2013 yet? Feel free to share in the comments section!
– Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com