Have you started your food plot regiment yet? If not here’s how you can create a food plot on a minimum budget.
Have you started preparing for fall hunting season yet? Here’s how you can create a poor man’s food plot on a small budget.
Yes, it’s time already to begin your summer preparation for the fall whitetail season. Food plots, trail camera surveys and mineral sites are just a few items on the list that will lead to a higher success rate when hunting this fall.
It seems no matter how hard I try to stay ahead of the game there’s always something I should have done already to prepare for next season. Deer hunting can definitely be a year-round process even if you don’t work in the industry for a living.
In this webisode we’ll show you how we are preparing our ‘poor man’s’ plot by spraying the weeds and privet to create more room for our food plot to grow and to cut down on the invasive species.
If you haven’t already you can subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with what we’re doing during the off season as well as watch videos from turkey season.
We finished spraying the weeds and privet with a weed killer we bought from our local hardware store. You might also be wondering why I am wearing goggles. Especially when it’s windy, the spray can irritate your eyes, so be sure to be equipped with the proper safety precautions.
Additionally, ticks are bad this time of year. Make sure to spray down with bug spray to prevent ticks and tick bites as this could later hamper your hunting season.
Be sure to stay tuned as we check back in a couple of weeks to begin tilling and planting for the summer and/or fall.
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Late season scouting is essential for getting ready for next season.
These 3 late season scouting tactics will get you ready for next season.
As deer season nears to a close several hunters are packing it in for the winter months. They might try harvesting one or two more does for the freezer or try for that elusive giant that seems to be skirting daylight hours. Whatever the case may be, there are late season scouting tactics that could prove helpful for next year’s season.
Seek Out Bedding
A tactic that could make the entire difference in your deer season next year is locating bedding areas. Because much of the flora has lost its spring density deer are more limited to where they can bed – unless you created several bedding areas by hinge cutting in the off season. However, knowing where these bedding areas are could be dynamite for the rut, especially doe bedding areas. Additionally, this knowledge of bedding areas will provide a head start for locating buck movement during the late season next year.
Know the Food
Depending on the crop year depends on where whitetails congregate throughout the season. If orchards are present on your land then that might be the early season food of choice. If you planted clover then deer might prefer that throughout the summer and early fall. There are so many options it really takes knowing what your deer herd prefers. Also identifying what’s naturally growing on your hunting parcel will you give an idea of what deer eat on a day-to-day basis.
This year in southern Virginia we had a large white oak acorn crop. Deer, especially mature bucks, did not need to move as much because the acorns were literally feet from their bed. The hard part was figuring out which bed they were in. The catch 22 was that a neighboring property timbered several acres three years ago, and just this year the secondary succession was perfect for deer bedding. Needless to say it was quite the chess match.
However, if you don’t have a bumper acorn crop where are the deer focusing their feeding movements? Is it a cut corn field? Could it be alfalfa or brassica? It could be any or all of these. What’s pertinent is that you find what the deer are feeding on in your region. Up until this point this season, deer still are not feeding on the brassica which they have enjoyed in the past three years. It might just take another month or so before they shift to this. Unfortunately, it might be a month too late. Know what your deer feed on when, and it could be the difference of harvesting or not harvesting a mature buck this winter.
Find the Travel Routes
Late season can be tough because many deer become nocturnal and wait in staging areas until it gets dark. Find these staging areas, hang a stand, make sure the wind is in your favor and wait. I’ve witnessed deer hold up right inside a wood line until dark. I’m sure many of you have witnessed this as well. The reason is because deer have been pressured by hunters all year and are more wary of predators.
Simultaneously, you can begin looking at these funnels and pinch points for clues to next year’s season. Observe where these deer are moving and ask yourself, “why are the deer being funneled this way?” Is there a terrain feature? Is it the wind? Are there drainages that are impossible for the deer to cross? Search these out and take advantage of where it forces the deer. Sometimes in the winter it can be easier to identify these funnels, drainages and crossings because the leaves have fallen and line of sight is clearer.
Whatever your goals are for late season hunting, make sure to take every advantage to scout for the next year as well.It could be the difference.
Late season can be tough hunting. Cold temps and nocturnal bucks to name a few. These 3 keys will help you be successful in the deer woods.
These 3 keys to late season success will give you a great chance at harvesting a mature buck.
By Nathan Unger
For many hunters the rut is what they plan their annual vacation around. There is nothing wrong with that. The deer are moving, chasing, seeking and rutting and can make for an eventful hunt in the tree stand. However, one of my favorite times to hunt is from the last week in November until the end of the season.
Mature bucks revert back to their feeding patterns that provide hunters a great opportunity for a harvest. Here are some keys to successfully bagging a bruiser buck during frigid temps and food shortages.
Whitetails need food just as much as humans and other animals require sustenance in order to survive. Depending on where you are hunting deer may need more food. For example deer in Kansas may require more food during the snowy, winter months than, say, deer in Florida.Snow and cold temperatures are going to get deer moving and searching for high caloric food in order to maintain body heat and energy. It is true that mature bucks become nocturnal more so than they are in the rut. This could be from hunting pressure, less energy or just preservation of body heat. However, they have to feed periodically in order to survive.
If you are going to pattern a late season buck you need trail cameras. If you can pinpoint his movements in and out of his bedding area your chances increase drastically. The deer may only move 10 minutes before shooting light ends, so the use of trail cameras will help you locate his movements with minimum pressure on his home range. We pinpointed this deer with trail cameras throughout the unseasonably hot temperatures of the 2015 season. But on the first day of a cold snap, Unger capitalized on a food source as this buck was on his way back to bed.
I cannot stress enough how important the right clothing for late season hunting can be. It could be the difference between staying out for several hours or calling it quits at dusk because of the lack of feeling in your toes. Trust me, been there, done that. I make sure I have ample clothing, but not too much where it prohibits circulation. I also take along hand and feet warmers which have changed the length of time I’m able to stay in the woods during winter.
One last note I wanted to make. If you define success differently these tactics can still be useful. If you are simply trying to fill the freezer food sources and trail cameras remain important tools for the job. However you define success be sure to get out and hunt. The season is almost over!
These locations will be dynamite this fall. Be sure to get intel now for these deer stand locations.
By Nathan Unger
Each summer, as hunters, we’re often faced with the conundrum of where to place our deer stands for the coming deer season. Deer stand locations are important because it could be the difference between harvesting that big whitetail you’ve been dreaming about all summer long.
Hunters have to ask themselves a few questions before they set up stands:
Should I place a stand where I’m seeing summer bachelor group bucks?
Male whitetail home ranges can vary drastically once their velvet comes off and their testosterone level increases. Bucks will move from food-to-bedding patterns in the summer to looking for and chasing does in the fall.
These deer stand locations will account for some of these changes in home ranges, and will ultimately lead to success will a little bit of buck luck.
Find the food
The first location that will be good for the entire season is on the edge of a food source that is downwind of a bedding area where it funnels into that food source. This could include a food plot or a crop field.
If your state has an early bow season this could still be highly successful under the correct weather and pressure conditions in the early season as bucks are still easily patterned. Likewise, if the bedding area is a doe bedroom those bucks will be cruising all around during the rut and into December and January.
This is probably my favorite set-up because it’s good all year long.
The key? Early season scouting before dark or with trail cameras to see where the deer are entering the food sources to help narrow down which tree to precisely put a stand in.
While some of this terminology may be more familiar in the western states they can still be applied in south where I do most of my hunting.
There have been several times that I have bumped deer because I thought there was no way they would be located on a certain hillside or in a certain ravine, but over the years it seems as if they prefer certain terrain to better smell approaching predators.
Funnels are a specific point where several paths intersect that deer prefer to travel because of terrain features or obstacles.
The key? Make sure your stand is on the downwind side of these funnels and that you’ve done your research on where that buck is traveling from.
A lot of times that mature buck will make a ‘J-hook’ to sniff out the area before entering a certain location. Oftentimes this is specific to bedding, however deer don’t always follow the rules.
These can be successful during the rut primarily as bucks are chasing does and can be careless from time to time especially if the wind is in your favor.
These unique, topographical ledges are exactly what they sound like. Imagine a hillside being the backboard of a bench and the seat being an off-shoot of that hill. These off-shoots are some of mature bucks favorite bedding areas because they can see anything coming from below them and smell anything coming from above them.
Numerous times have I gotten too close to these areas and bumped deer because they caught my scent. Setting up a stand on the downwind side of the entrance to these benches will be great sites to place a stand.
The diagram above highlights food sources, “F”, bedding areas are marked with a purple circle,”X” marks stand locations and the purple lines are streams running through the property. The three X’s that are immediately adjacent to the red borders are the funnels specific to this property where the terrain or stream forces deer into this specific location.
The X’s that are not located on a food sources or immediately next to the red border are benches where the deer will sometimes bed or travel in between food sources or bedding areas.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. By no means is this a one-size-fits-all formula, but for the majority it will lead to hunting success this season.
A lot of times we think the more times we go hunting the better chance we have of killing a big buck. That might not always be the case.
Quality sits far outweigh quantity of sits.
As I mature as a hunter and learn new tips and tricks with experience I’ve come to find out that it is not the quantity of sits in a tree stand that leads to success but the quality of sits.
Oftentimes we think that the more hours we put in the better chance we’ll have of shooting a nice mature buck. When in reality this is not always the case.
If a hunter constantly walks into his tree stand on poor weather conditions or when the wind isn’t right or late in the evening after work he or she increases the odds of educating a mature buck. I recently heard somebody say, “if someone walks into your house you’re going to know they are there.” The same goes for these old bruisers as well.
Another reason I don’t feel guilty for sleeping in is because if you’re like me and you have trail cameras and you’re not getting any pictures of mature bucks during legal shooting hours then don’t think he’s randomly just going to show up under your tree stand when you’re hunting. Am I saying it isn’t possible? Not at all. Crazy things happen. What I’m saying is the majority of mature bucks are going to change their pattern especially in the early season when they are in their food-to-bed routines.
Additionally, because of the change in food sources during the early season, if you’re not getting pictures at all of those mature bucks that you were getting during the summer it’s probably because they have switched food sources. The key is finding out what that new favored food source is.
A similar factor that has been dictating deer movement in my home state of Georgia is the lack of rain. We haven’t had rain in over a month at least, and the deer are sticking close to where the water sources are. Be sure to plan your sits around a water source during these times of drought because most of these mature bucks will be bedding during the day, going straight to food and water and directly back to their beds. If you are not hunting somewhere in between chances are you’ll never see him.
What if I only have one week to hunt?
My answer to that would be save it for either the rut or late season when the weather is cooler. Unless you have ample camera data where that mature buck is moving during legal shooting hours I wouldn’t even risk using a weeks vacation in the early season. I understand not everyone can go hunting 30-to-40 times a season, so choose wisely the time of year you can take off. I certainly wish I could go more than I do, but I also realize I’m fortunate enough to go more often than a lot of people can. In which case if you only have one week you have to go.
The experience of deer hunting far outweighs not going at all just because the conditions are not perfect. Maximize weather conditions (i.e. wind, rain, temperature, pressure, etc.) the best you can and enjoy the process. It’s better to be out hunting rather than sitting inside and not hunting at all.
Trail camera surveys are pertinent to your deer hunting success this fall. Here are some ways to maximize your surveys.
By Nathan Unger
Every summer it is important to get an accurate depiction of the amount and the type of deer that are frequenting your piece of property. How do you do that you ask? Trail camera surveys.
Trail camera surveys will help you understand how many does, fawns and bucks are in the area as well as the buck-to-doe ratio for your specific piece of land. However, as the velvet comes off in late summer and testosterone levels increase in bucks their range can tend to shift as they begin to seek out does and different food sources for the fall months.
No matter if the bucks stay or leave, trail camera surveys will give you a good estimate on age structure of bucks as well as individual characteristics of those bucks.
How to begin
The first thing you obviously need are trail cameras. Be sure they have plenty of battery life, and if you are doing a survey on public land it’s probably a good idea to secure it with a lock to prevent it from being stolen.
Take your preferred choice of attractant and spread it out over an area 10 to 14 days prior to beginning your survey to give deer time to get used to the site. Also be sure to start the survey prior to acorns or any fruits fall from their trees, or else your survey will not be as accurate as it could be.
When you begin collecting data be sure your camera isn’t facing the sun or you’ll get several pictures with nothing on them which makes going through hundreds upon thousands of pictures monotonous.
Maximize your data
You then want to set your camera on field mode or food plot mode to take pictures at multiple intervals not just when deer cross, or you will miss several deer that otherwise wouldn’t be in range. For example, have it take a couple pictures 3 to 5 seconds apart then every 5 to 10 minutes. Obviously, if you want more pictures you will set it to take pictures more often.
This will enable you to pattern any bucks moving during the daylight hours or any deer for that matter. It will also allow you to see how many fawns are being dropped in addition to any does that remain pregnant.
Here is a portion of a survey we took after the season.
These surveys will show you characteristics of deer as well as if they are huntable or whether they’re strictly moving during nighttime hours.
I understand that two or three trail cameras is what most people can afford especially with all the other hunting equipment needed for a successful hunt. You don’t want to use all of your hunting budget your wife gives you on trail cameras.
If you are doing a survey over a field or plot and only have two or three, try to strategically place the cameras where you think the deer are entering and leaving the plot. You may have one buck show up on the south side of the field that would have never been caught on a camera placed on the north end.
After 14 days or so, if you’re not satisfied with your pictures move a camera to a different location and begin the survey again.
Be sure to refresh the mineral sites depending on how fast the deer eat it. You want the deer to consistently show up for 14 to 21 days to provide you ample data for your survey.
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If you are looking to make mineral stations this summer, here are some ideas to help.
By Nathan Unger
Mineral stations for your whitetail herd is an essential part of deer growth over the summer months. It is vital during the entire year, but especially during the summer as their calcium-rich antlers are beginning to grow, and those velvet nubs are starting to appear.
For several of you, bucks probably already have 6 to 8 inches of velvet antler visible which is why to maximize their growth, mineral stations need to be started now.
What exactly is a mineral station?
I’m glad you asked. For those of you that are not as familiar with mineral stations, it’s an area set up to provide deer with crucial summer nutrients that will commonly contain blends of nutrients, salt, minerals and natural flavors for antler and bone structure growth. It also provides for healthy fawn sizes at birth. Typically an area where deer frequently travel, but is also not too much in the open.
If a buck feels secure when traveling his corridor to the station, he’ll likely frequent it more often. Especially when the deer are on a food-to-bedding routine this time of year.
Another way to maximize the mineral your deer receives is to place the mineral on clay-like soil so that it doesn’t absorb into the soil quickly, and the deer can consume it easier. Additionally, it won’t soak into the soil as easily when it rains during those summer or late spring showers.
What if I don’t know what kind?
No big deal. Many, if not all, of your retail stores are going to carry several different kinds, and you’ll just have to choose what kind you think works well and which kinds fall into under budget. Most mineral ‘blocks’ last a longtime depending on the amount of deer visiting it daily. Sometimes they can last 3-4 months.
Granular or mineral bags should be placed out once a month depending on how much it rains, the amount of deer, etc.
I personally like a mineral called Monster Maker Mineral and Attractant by Non Typical Outdoors specifically designed by Dr. Tommy Daniel, hunter and animal nutritionist.
His implementation provides for the best and immediate absorption of the minerals within Monster Maker.
According to Dr. Daniel, “It does not make sense to have your deer consume mineral only to have it pass through the animal with very little being utilized.”
When do I need to start?
The sooner the better. The faster the deer can begin to absorb the nutrients into their body the healthier they’ll become and the more they can maximize their off-season growth.
Another great reason to for mineral stations is that you can place a trail camera over the site and begin to survey how many deer are on your property and what bucks are making your acreage part of their home range.
This will give you a great start on where you think you will need to place your deer stands as well as how many does, if any, you may need to harvest this season. Likewise, you can also measure the maturity of your bucks as the summer comes to an end and the ‘velvet rut’ arrives.
These stations are great because you can begin to survey the overall health of your deer herd.
*Be sure to follow state and county guidelines because not all states allow for minerals or attractants during all parts of the year.
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Each year predators kill several numbers of fawns and turkey polts. How are you going to help?
Predators are impacting our whitetail herd, and there are several ways you can help.
By Nathan Unger
This is the time of year when you can begin helping whitetail fawns and turkey polts survive. Yes, even now before they begin hitting the ground.
As temperatures drop, coyotes, bobcats, bears and foxes are only a few of the predators that place our game species in danger. Other species include raccoons, skunks, possums, hawks and cougars. Not all of these species are legal to hunt, but those that are, it is our responsibility to maintain predator populations just like other wild game.
Foothold traps such as the one above, trappers frequently use for coyotes and other small game animals such as fox and bobcat.
Not only are fawns’ lives at stake, but turkeys as well. Not only are live young and adult turkeys at risk, but also turkey nests that typically contain several eggs.
Not only is this problematic for our deer herds and turkey flocks, but as cougars migrate east this will add an entire new dimension to the phrase ‘top of the food chain.’
Foxes play a damaging role to turkeys as well. They can also be damaging to game birds like quail and pheasants and small game like rabbits.
Foothold traps work well like this one in the picture above. Baits for predators depends on the preference of the trapper. They range from different kinds of fish to fox urine typically used for trapping coyotes.
This doesn’t encompass the entire amount of information on trapping, but it’s a start and what’s important is to start somewhere. Begin taking one predator at a time. You might also start out with cage traps are user friendly and reliable.
It’s that time of the year again when bucks begin to drop there antlers and hunting season kicks back in! Not with a bow or a rifle but with your eyes, friends and maybe even a dog! Yes, it’s shed hunting season and not the kind that houses your lawn mower in the backyard. The kind where you cover miles of ground maybe just to find one or two pieces of bone. The reality is you can increase the possibility of finding more sheds in a smaller amount of time if you focus on these high percentage areas instead of aimlessly wondering through the woods. Here are a few to get you started!
1.) Bedding Areas
This is probably the location that even the amateur shed hunter is familiar with because you want to, with any location, find where bucks are spending most of their time. Bucks are traveling the minimum they have to in order to survive the harsh conditions of winter. Many times they’re going straight from their bed room to a food source. This is why if you can find the bedding area then there is a pretty good chance you will find antlers if they have already dropped. This leads me to our next location.
2.) Food Sources
This is arguably the second best place to search when looking for sheds because this is where bucks are going to frequent. Why? Because a buck has to eat to survive. Often times you will be able to see white bone sticking up among the food unless of course it has snowed you’ll probably have to walk the food plot. This is when training your dog comes in handy. Between the two of you (and a dog’s nose probably counts as two) you will be able to cover a lot more ground in a shorter time span.
3.) Deer Highways
This is quintessential just as much as the other two because how do bucks get between a bedding area and food source? Via the highways they travel. This is a great place to look because bucks will rub against trees or shrubs while they are traveling which can jar the antlers loose, or even when they duck below limbs it might be ample movement to lose the left or right side. You should especially be on the look out for rough terrain such as a gully, ravine or stream crossing. Anything that might force the deer to add extra movement could be just enough for that bone to come loose!
4.) Fence Crossings
Last but certainly not least are fence crossings. Anytime a deer attempts to jump over a fence or duck below a fence is perfect for finding sheds. The jump can jar sheds lose as well as barbed wire that catches the antlers when a deer tries to go underneath. If the deer have lost their antlers towards the end of winter, and you know where a fence is, there’s a high percentage chance you will find some bone. As long as the squirrels or neighbors haven’t beaten you to it!
As deer season comes to an end it’s easy to sit back turn the television on and watch a show by the crackling fire, kind of like I am right now. However, there are still tasks to be finished and things you can start to prepare for next season!
1.) Collect Your Deer Stands
It’s very easy to call it quits and leave your deer stands out until next season. I encourage you not to for several reasons! First, you want your stands to remain as safe as possible for next year, and rain, snow, wind and heat will destroy your straps quickly if they are not stored properly in the off season. Secondly, you do not want to have to go purchase another seat cushion for your stands next year after squirrels and other rodents destroy them. Additionally, you may find that deer are moving or taking a different route when hunting season arrives, and by taking your deer stand down you are one step away from placing that stand in a successful spot!
2.) Manage Your Trail Cameras
Another simple but effective item to focus on is managing your trail cameras. This will help you find where the deer are moving in the late season and where they might be bedding down which will help you get the shot you need next season when that mature buck is being elusive. For those of you that turkey hunt, trail cameras can still be effective. Turkeys are such smart birds that you’ll need every advantage possible to locate them on those days when they’re not gobbling. Last, but not least, you want to make sure you have fresh batteries so that you don’t miss anything while your camera is out in the woods.
3.) Begin Looking At Food Plot Mix
As winter will eventually turn to spring you want to have the perfect food plot mix for your location. It’s never too early to start looking! Plus, turkey season is around the corner and early spring food plots will be perfect to shoot a big gobbler. A combination of clovers is what I love to use for spring turkeys! You can also be looking at what you might plant next fall or winter for deer season as well whether its rye, brassica, oats, corn or whatever your food plot mix of choice is!
4.) Check Your Hunting Gear
One thing that never seems to fail is when I begin the next hunting season there is always something that’s messed up, ripped or broken and I find myself last minute scrambling to find what I need at a local hunting store. This will save a lot of headache come hunting season if you take care of it in the off season. Likewise, you can clean your guns, restock ammo, sight in your gun, purchase new arrows, broadheads, and fletchings. The list goes on and on of what you can do to prepare yourself for whichever season is right around the corner for you!