Pre-Season Whitetail Checklist
Focus on these as fall months fast approach
While enjoying the beautiful days of summer bonfires, lake excursions, and hotdog roasting, it’s sometimes hard to see that chasing whitetails through the brilliant fall woods is just a few short months away. But it is. Focusing now on a few key things will really help in preparation for a good whitetail season, and keep costly mistakes that could have been prevented to a minimum or eliminated altogether. Although the list could be long, I’ve narrowed it down to five actions to take right now to maximize your success in the fall.
1. Taking Inventory. Now is the time to see what kind of bucks are growing in your hunting areas. Note, these bucks will shift and move as season approaches, and may disappear altogether as summer patterns shift and bachelor buck groups breakup. However, knowing what is generally out there will help you make decisions throughout the season and year over year as you try to track certain bucks. By using glassing and trail cameras, it is possible to identify certain bucks, their core summer and fall patterns, and then hunt them accordingly based on this seasonal information. So, start glassing now and put trail cameras out to gather this intel and log it based on where and when this information was gathered.
Trail camera strategy can be placed in two categories: short-term and long-term intel gathering. Short term is when you place a camera in a specific location and don’t plan on leaving it there more than a few days or weeks. Early in the year field edges are best for this, as you can check and move them with little intrusion. Just pay attention to the wind and check or move them midday. This will allow you to get information from a wide range of locations without having to take a loan to invest in trail cameras and SD cards. When checking often, do not put them in areas that you have to intrude into, as deer are many times bedded close to fields or food sources during the summer and early fall.
Long-term trail camera placement should be thought of as the “crockpot” method. These
need to simmer and stew throughout the year, for months at a time. They could be put close to, or in bedding areas, but you don’t want to disturb these areas while hunting if possible. Have a plan of when and how you will retrieve these if you will during season, like during a rainstorm or high winds where you can easily slip in and out. Another option for these high impact areas is a cellular camera. This way you know what is going on, in say a bedding area, without any intrusion and can hunt accordingly if pictures tell you to do so. For example, your bedding area camera tells you a good buck is cruising for does in daylight so you sneak in downwind to a stand on the edge of this.
2. Establish Routes & Routines. If you haven’t already, now is the time to set stands and establish your routes to and from these locations. If you can, prepare your trees or ground blind areas by trimming, setting stands, and also marking and trimming your approaches to and from them. This will require some work and sweat in the summer months, but is well worth the effort. Identify which locations are best for early season, lull, pre-rut, and rut hunting. Think about where deer will most likely be as you enter and exit, and then plan accordingly for these spots.
Make sure you determine which locations are best for morning or evening as well, as not all are good for both. As you do this, you can also figure out good locations for deeper set trail cameras that can be checked as you come and go to hunt these areas.
3. The Power of Attraction. By this time hopefully you’ve been developing attractive elements in your arsenal. If you haven’t, you can still start now. Two of those I want to address are food plots and mock scrapes. There are plenty of mixes for food plots that can be planted in August and September if you haven’t at this point, as these can be a crucial weapon to keeping deer on your property and establishing travel routes and ambushes. Make sure your ambush points are planned thoughtfully so that they do not interfere with deer patterns and put the least pressure on your plot. This way you can hunt it repeatedly without having a negative effect on deer movement.