By Mark Kenyon
I’m going to make this quick because there’s no time to waste. You’ve got lots to do and time is running out.
Or at least that’s my situation. Regardless of how well I try to prepare throughout the spring/summer, I inevitably end up scrambling at the end of August every year, trying to get final projects done before hunting season. And that timeframe (end of August) is key because that’s when you should be done with your preseason work.
August 31st. Mark it down. That’s when I like to have all of my out-in-the-field projects done and that’s for a couple reasons.
Why August 31?
Opening day in Michigan (and many other states) is October 1st. So first and foremost, August 31st is my stop date because I like to stay completely off my Michigan properties for a minimum of one month before trying to hunt. This gives the local deer at least 30 days to calm down and return to normal behavior and patterns without any human pressure before I head in during those first days of the season. If you have an earlier opening day, you might want to set your deadline even earlier.
On top of that, my August 31st deadline is important because of the the “September Shift“. Sometime around the first week of September, after losing their velvet, many bucks leave their summer homes and relocate to a new fall range. With that being the case, even though I’m doing treestand and food plot work on my farm in August, when these new bucks shift over to my property in September, they’re entering what seems like a completely safe and human-free zone. I want to maintain that illusion for as long and as completely as I possibly can. By doing this properly, I’ll be able to enter the season hopefully with a local mature buck or two who will be feeling completely at ease during daylight during those first few days, and it often presents one of the best cracks at a mature buck I’ll have all year.
On the other hand, if I crash into my properties in mid-September to move stands or check cameras, I’m going to have a disproportionately negative impact compared to similar activity just two or three weeks earlier, both because of the proximity to opening day and because more of my huntable bucks are likely present at that time.
What To Do During The Final Days of Prep?
So given this August 31st self-imposed deadline, I’m rushing to get all of the final tasks on my properties completed in these few remaining days. I’m trimming final shooting lanes, finalizing food plot work, and shifting my trail cameras from summer to fall locations.
Speaking of cameras, in the past I used to sneak in and check trail cameras a time or two during September, but I hardly even do that anymore. There are certainly ways to pull off a stealthy camera check, and in many parts of the country that might be perfectly fine. Unfortunately, the deer on my MI properties are extremely pressure averse – so I’ve found that the benefits of 100% no intrusion in September is usually better than the potential of a helpful camera pull at this time. But that’s just me. Once all of these in-the-field projects are done, I can spend the final month before the season practicing with my bow, studying maps, analyzing past trail camera photos, scouting from the road and putting my early season plan in place.
Of course, this August 31st deadline isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule and it might not be the right date for everyone – but if you’re hunting in an area where deer are particularly sensitive to hunting pressure, I’d encourage you to try for this deadline or even earlier. The longer you stay off your properties the better. So get your work done now and then sit back in September with the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you’re ready for the season and that you’re local deer have no idea what’s coming.