By Mark Kenyon
It’s summer and hunting season is months away, but there are deer hunters right this minute, all across the country, who are already screwing things up.
Yes, it’s true. There are plenty of ways to screw up your hunting season all the way back in June, July and August. So if you’re hoping to enjoy a successful fall, I’d recommend you do your best to avoid starting things off on a bad note. Here are a few of the most common mistakes made before hunting season even begins.
1. Placing Too Much Importance On Summer Scouting:We deer nuts are thinking about deer all year round, especially during the summer months just before hunting season. And that’s a good thing. But many hunters make the mistake of becoming too attached to what they discover during their summer scouting sessions. Summer deer behavior is very different than fall deer behavior and home ranges for bucks can differ dramatically between these two time periods as well. That said, if you’re setting stands this summer – don’t make too many decisions based on fresh summer sign, like beaten down summer trails, or a July trail camera pic, or a recent sighting of a nice buck. Of course, this is different if your hunting season opens in late August or early September, during which summer patterns will still be followed. But for everyone else who starts hunting in late September or October, be warned. Summer scouting is fun, but it’s not always as relevant as we want it to be.
2. Not Scouting In The Summer: Now that said, it would also be a mistake to take my aforementioned advice too far to the extreme. Sure, much of what you’ll learn during summer scouting won’t be applicable during hunting season, but some things are. For example, in the summer you can scout for sign of other hunters from past years, you can identify food sources that will become attractive during the hunting season (like oak trees loaded with green acorns or an apple tree that’s bearing lots of fruit), and of course you can identify the general quality of bucks in an area. As mentioned already, many buck home ranges shift during the fall, but a summer inventory of bucks can still tell you about the quality of deer in the general area. If you’re getting a number of nice mature bucks on trailcam and see other high quality deer feeding in fields in the surrounding couple miles, you can feel pretty confident that this area, even after the autumn home range shift, will still have some potential target deer come hunting season.
3. Checking Trail Cameras Too Often: Speaking of taking inventory of summer deer, if you’re at all like me, you really enjoy those summer trail camera pulls. Going to check a trail camera is like the adult version of a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese, but don’t let that excitement get the best of you. Just like during hunting season, you can put too much pressure on deer, and if you do that, they’ll change their behavior. If you’re checking your trail cameras during the summer too often or in a reckless fashion, you’re likely to push away any quality bucks in the area which will in turn reduce the quality of your scouting/inventory efforts. I try to wait a minimum of two weeks between camera pulls and when I do check those cameras, I try to be as scent free as possible and access the cameras in such a way as to minimize any disturbance to local deer.
4. Not Rechecking Shooting Lanes: If you were on top of your game this year and got new tree stands hung in the late winter or spring, I commend you. That’s a great time of year to be out scouting and hanging stands. But it would be a mistake to assume you’re all done and ready for the season. That is, of course, because trees grow a lot during the summer. If you hung a stand and cleared shooting lanes in March and then don’t return until you’re hunting in October, you could be in for a lousy surprise. I’ve done this and I always regret it. Many times what you’ll arrive to is a nicely hung stand, with a bunch of new branches crowding the shooting lanes you’d cut months earlier. That said, plan a day of checking each of your tree stands again in late summer to ensure that all of your lanes are still open to your liking.
5. Getting Distracted: There’s lots to do in the summer unrelated to hunting and you certainly shouldn’t feel bad about partaking in other hobbies. But don’t completely forget about your fall obsession either. Those guys/gals that totally disregard the above items, and don’t shoot their bows, and don’t plan their trips, and don’t study maps and don’t do the umpteen other things that we deer nuts do during the summer – those guys/gals are the ones scratching their heads most seasons, wondering why they can’t ever see or kill deer like their buddy does or like they see in the magazines. Have some fun this summer, but don’t forget to do your chores too.
6. Poison Ivy: This is the worst mistakes hunters make every summer, or at least it is for me. Watch out for this god-awful plant because it can seriously mess up your day. Or your weekend. Or your face. Or your man parts. Trust me, I know all too well.