By Mark Kenyon
For most of us, another deer season is behind us and a new year is ahead. With that being the case, the easy thing to do would be to kick back, watch some football, and hibernate for a few months before thinking about whitetails again. That’s exactly what probably 75% of deer hunters do, but not us. Not you. Not me. If you read Wired To Hunt, I know that you’re not that kind of hunter. You’re a 365 day a year whitetail hunter and that means that this is no time to rest on your laurels. A new season is upon us and the quest for your 2014 buck begins now.
That said, to make sure none of us can use the excuse of “I don’t know what to do this time of year”, I’ve provided 10 ideas for projects you can work now to improve your odds of whitetail success in 2014. As a wise man once said, “do work son”!
1. Clean Your Guns: I am guilty of failing in this task, and the result was me needing to buy a new muzzleloader this past season. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Before stashing your rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader away for the winter, make sure you give it a good cleaning.
2. Baby Your Bow: The same goes for your bow, we spend hundreds of dollars on our whitetail weapons of choice, they deserve to be taken care of. Clean off any mud that’s accumulated, check your string for wear, wax your string, and rub off the beginnings of any rust on screws.
3. Set Trail Cameras for Sheds: Sheds are beginning to fall and will continue to do so all the way into March. If you’re a shed hunter, and I bet many of you are, tracking your local whitetails antler dropping progress via trail camera is a great tactic to employ.
4. Scout Food Sources: Post-Season scouting is a huge part of success, and now is a great time to determine where the top winter food sources are on your properties. You’ll see the story told in the snow. If you already know where the top food sources are, you can also use this time to do some long distance observation to help determine what bucks made it through the season.
5. Check Gear and Store: Now’s the time to run through the check-list of all your hunting gear, see what’s in good shape, what needs repair and what needs replacement. Clean it up and store it safely. Better to do it now, then let it sit around in your garage or barn collecting dust.
6. Set 2014 Goals: If you want to accomplish big things (ie kill big bucks), you need a plan and the first step in any plan is establishing goals. Think long and hard about what you would like to accomplish this year, and physically write out those most important goals. Commit to them, put a plan in a place, and then come back to this list mid-way through the year to see what progress you’ve made.
7. Begin Planning 2014 Trips: Speaking of goals, for me a big goal is to kill a mature buck out of state. To do that, I’m obviously going to need to plan some trips. Those plans begin now, as I begin scouting, getting permission on properties and lining up dates/times for these adventures. Don’t wait til the last minute.
8. Wash and Store Your Camo: Now is also a great time to properly take care of your hunting clothing. Get your hunting camo washed in scent free detergent and adequately dried. Then store it away someplace that it won’t collect mildew, dust or any other undesirable elements.
9. Walk Back To Bedding Areas: Post-season scouting can also be a great opportunity to identify bedding areas, both for does and bucks. Walk tracks in the snow back from food sources and follow them to the beds. Do that and you’re on your way to better understanding your hunting property.
10. Read: Here’s a big one for me this time of year. To become a better whitetail hunter, it is encumbent that you never stop learning. Now is the time to really dive into some new resources. Pick up a few new books, re-read old magazines, check out the archives of your favorite hunting blogs. Whatever you choose, keep on learning!