This is a tough time of year to be a deer hunter as we are filled with excitement and anticipation but still two months until opening day. But there is plenty to do to prepare for the upcoming season, and the summer is a great time to do your homework and hone your skills to increase your chances of success come fall.
Setting out or checking trail cameras is a great way of taking a survey of the deer on your property or hunting area. Some of the fun of capturing big bucks on camera is watching their antlers grow in the off-season and imagining what they will become. I personally set my cameras out all year, checking the cards, changing the batteries, and sending them back out in March, July, September and throughout the hunting season. It is also interesting to capture other wildlife that you may not have known were in your hunting area.
Deer know their territory like the back of their hand, or hoof, and so often detect sudden changes such as the occurence of human scent and treestands. Summer time treestand placement is a good technique for getting deer used to a stand prior to the season. Existing stands should be checked for safety, including the platform, seat, and steps or winders, and the tree itself. Winter ice and snow or summer thunderstorms can damage or kill trees rendering stands in them unsafe. I once had a tree, with a great stand in it, get struck by lightning and completely destroyed. Stand and all!
It is also a great time to clear trails to and from your stand locations. This will save time, energy, and noise that could alert deer on your way to the stand. Deer, like humans, are inherently lazy when it comes to traveling. They prefer to take the easiest route possible. I often find that after cutting trails through thick brush to get to a stand, that the deer end up using my stand trail for themselves. This has given me the idea of cutting secondary trails, if they don’t already exist, at 20 or 30 yards to encourage deer to take a path that offers better shot angles at predictable yardage.
Early deer seasons that begin in September offer hunters the opportunity to ambush deer while they are still in their summer patterns. Whitetails can be fairly predictable this time of year so summer scouting will allow insight into travel routes, locating bedding areas, time of movement, hottest food sources, etc. Scouting trips are also a great time to get video footage of velvet bucks or young fawns, stages of a deer’s life that you may not get to see during the season.
Daniel has recently began growing food plots on one of the farms he hunts in southwest Virginia. The summer can be a difficult growing season. Temperatures often exceed 90 or even 100 degrees and infrequent rainfall can lead to drought conditions and plot failure. Although you can’t do anything about the weather, monitoring the plots will give you an idea of the amount of food it is providing and how much the deer are using it. Monitoring a successful plot may help you find a honeyhole come fall while failure to monitor an unsuccessful one can result in lost opportunities and days in the stand.
Checking your equipment is an essential part of summer preparations. Ideally you should practice shooting your bow all year, but in reality most of us live far too busy lives to make time for practice when the season is months away. At a minimum, I like to get my bow out and dust it off by August 1st. This gives me a month to practice and get back into shooting form. I also like to take a day or two and head to the range with my deer rifle and muzzleloader. I can check the sights to make sure and still dialed-in as well as prevent my body from developing recoil sensitivity a.k.a. “The Flinch.”
Another great way to stay in shooting form with your firearms is to do a little pest control. Many states have year round seasons on fox, coyote, groundhog, etc. and most farmers appreciate the help in reducing their numbers. You get the trigger time and they get fewer holes in the field and predators that could harm livestock.
These are just a few things that us deer hunters can do to pass the hot summer months waiting for the relief of the fall whitetail season. If you get all your chores done and you still find yourself counting down the days, there is always fishing!