Now that we’re getting into late summer, people are starting to think about fall and the upcoming hunting season. It’s never too early to start, and the more you do now, the better off you’ll be when opening day arrives.
1. Hang treestands and set blinds. One trick I’ve learned over the years is to spend time looking for places to hang a treestand—without the treestand. If you’re lugging all your gear around, you’ll settle for something that looks good enough. Take a stroll with almost nothing on your back and just some flagging tape. This way you can move through the woods and find the perfect tree and setup. Once you find it, mark that spot and then bring in the treestand.
It’s also advantageous to get your blinds out early so the deer get used to them. One mistake I see many people make is they forget to leave some of the windows down in front, the way it will like when you're hunting. This lets deer get used to the black hole. If they only see the black hole while you’re hunting, they’ll realize something is different and be more wary of your blind.
2. Mount trail cameras. None of us can be everywhere all the time. Life gets in the way, and as much as we all want to scout every evening, many times that’s not possible. This is why I love putting trail cameras out all over the place. I can be at home playing with my son Jax while watching big bucks roll in to my camera setups. It’s important to take the direction of the sun into account when placing your cameras. Do not place them directly at the sun as it comes up in the morning or sets. Try and get it a little off so your photos are not looking into direct sunlight. Also find places where deer come by naturally. Many states don’t allow baiting so I am always looking for fence gaps and natural trail intersections. Sometimes, I will even put out curiosity scents to get them to stop in front of our camera. If it is legal, having a feeder in front of your camera will do wonders to help you get an idea of what deer are on your property and where.
3. Set the scene. My little buck paradise is complete with waterholes, rub posts and licking branches with mock scrapes. This setup, which I create in front of nearly every blind or stand location, has worked wonders. While I like to use a 150-gallon tank filled with water, you could even use a kiddie pool to attract deer to your stand. The trick is getting water to your location, so I found large bladders that can be placed in the bed of a truck or on a UTV and filled with water. Simply connect a hose to the bladder, and you can fill tanks nearly anywhere. Next to each tank, I put a cedar post for the deer to rub on with a licking branch out of the top. Bucks love to mark their territory, and it’s amazing to see how many bucks and deer will come to this setup. Even if you have water on the property, the deer will prefer your makeshift, secluded watering hole, giving you the perfect setup!
4. Shoot the gun and ammo that you plan to use. It’s very important to practice with the gear you plan to use. This includes your gun, ammo, shooting sticks and everything else you plan to take in the field. Learn the ballistics of your gun and your max range. You don’t want to be debating with a big buck or bull in your scope unsure if it’s too far or not. Know exactly how you and your gun perform, and stay within your comfort zone.
5. Plant fall food plots. Even if things were a little too busy this spring to get food plots in, you still have time! Now is a great time to plant fall food plots; it can even be done by hand if you don’t have the big equipment. I often plant a blend of turnips and grasses that do very well during my hunting season.