By Alex Comstock
For the hardcore deer hunter, does deer season truly ever end? Of course there's the time of the year where it's illegal to climb up into a stand with your bow in hand, but that doesn't stop us from doing deer hunting activities non stop throughout the year. Today, I kind of wanted to take a look at what we put ourselves through during a calendar year as whitetail nuts, and have a little fun with it. So here's the yearly calendar for us hardcore deer hunters.
I always find January to be an interesting time of the year among hardcore deer hunters. In the first half of the month, some people are taking time to relax, spend time with their families, and simply decompress from a long deer season. In other states, some hunters are trying to beat the buzzer with a late harvest. The grind is still going on for some. As we approach the back half of the month, there are some people (me) who are in full winter scouting and shed hunting mode. At the same time, in some states around the midwest (such as Ohio) people are still after it. It's a little bit crazy how some people are hunting antlers, while others are still out there climbing into stands and actually hunting.
February is a time of the year where more and more bucks begin to drop antlers. This is when I start to get into the bulk of my shed hunting. I don't do a whole ton of scouting yet, because most areas I'm in are still covered by feet of snow. In other areas though, this is the time of year to start getting after it with scouting. Locating bedding areas, transition areas, scrapes, rubs, everything that you can find, now is the time to get after it. February is also a great time of the year to get under a blanket at night and watch hours worth of your favorite hunting show. It still gets dark early, giving you plenty of time to catch up on a little hunting TV.
March means one thing to me. Miles and miles of walking. In the month of March, I find it very beneficial to put as many miles on the boots as possible. Whether you're shed hunting, scouting, or searching for new hunting ground, this is prime time to get boots on the ground. With most areas now having most of the snow melted, revealing sign from the previous fall, you'll want to get out and scout as much as possible before it greens up in April. Spring scouting is often overlooked when it comes to deer hunting, but it could ultimately end up making the difference in your level of success once fall rolls around. If you own property, or have permission on private land, this is a great time to replenish your mineral sites as well for spring.
April is for more scouting, and chasing turkeys. I'd be willing to bet most whitetail hunters like to turkey hunt as well. It gives us something to do in the spring, and for me, it brings back that fun of hunting that I crave with chasing whitetails. There's also a lot of opportunity for scouting in April, especially before green up. It's kind of your last chance to easily see sign from last fall to help put a plan together for the coming season. This is also the time of the year I'm hanging my rut stands if I already know where I want to be putting them.
The month of May is another interesting one in the world of hardcore deer hunting. Bucks are just starting to grow antlers, the woods are becoming green again, deer are shifting home ranges, and crops are just started to be planted or are coming up. During May, I spend a lot of my time staring at maps. I'm trying to figure out things about properties I hunt that I haven't noticed before, or identify new hunting property to try and get permission on. Turkey hunting is still going on in most areas, and this is a time I like to start getting everything prepared for the work about to ensue over the summer.
June is when my summertime work starts going full fledged. I run a lot of trail cameras, so now is the time of year to start getting those up. In a best case scenario, if I can get cameras up in mid June, I won't check them till the latter part of July. June is also when I start shooting my bow A TON. Hopefully you practice all throughout the year, but this is when I'll spend long amounts of time shooting, and at long distances. The summer can be a grind, but it's also one of my favorite times of the year. Long sweaty days, mosquitoes, and all.
When I think of July, one thing comes to mind - big velvet bucks. I absolutely love this time of year. July is when I start to check my first trail cameras of the summer and figure out what bucks I'll be hunting the coming fall. It's also when I start to drive the backroads searching for velvet bucks. Part of my summertime strategy is in addition to places I already have to hunt, I like to try and find bucks that I want to hunt in the early season in places I don't already hunt and try to get permission to hunt that buck. As I start to identify areas I'll be hunting early in the year, i.e. September, this is the time of year to be moving or hanging stands as well. Summer scouting is very important, and the month of July plays a big factor.
August is like the night before the big dance. I start getting jitters and anxious for the big event. Deer season is right around the corner, and in most cases, everyone is getting everything ready for fall. A lot of time is spent behind glass in August, watching velvet bucks, and honing in on patterns for my early season hunting. If you hunt a state that is say an October 1st opener, August might be used more for tweaking stands, and just trying to get an overall idea of what bucks are in the area. For someone like me who hunts a state that opens in early September, I'm trying to pinpoint mature buck movement, so I can strike the following month.
For some of us, September is the start of the best time of year. We can finally climb back into our treestands, experience sunrises and sunsets from twenty feet in the air, breath in a cool night and finally be deer hunting again. For others, September signifies that preparation month, while anxiously awaiting October. This is when you start seeing people with harvest photos on social media, and the craziness begins. If you are a hardcore whitetail hunter, odds are you're finding somewhere to hunt during the month of September.
There's a lot happening in the month of October. Early in the month, bucks are just starting to break out from their bachelor groups, and you may get a good week of early season hunting in before deer start to change their daily routine. As we get into the middle of the month, we experience the "October Lull". Whatever you believe, there definitely is a shift in how deer act. Mature bucks are more apt to be found back in the cover, eating on acorns, and not moving far from their bed. Later in the month, we start to experience the pre-rut as bucks are getting more and more frisky seemingly by the day. Some of the best days of hunting throughout the whole entire year can occur in the last couple days of October.
November is the month that's usually highlighted on the calendar. The rut is commonly referred to as the Super Bowl of deer hunting, as it's the only time of year bucks are acting the way they are. Bucks can be much more unpredictable, but it can be quite fun as well. For most of November, I'm using rut tactics such as hunting bedding areas, travel corridors between doe bedding areas, pinch points, etc. Depending on weather and location, towards the end of November, deer can be starting to think about winter, and getting back on food sources. Buck's may still try and harass a few does, so throughout the month, if you hunt where the does are, the bucks are likely to show up.
December signifies the start of the end of deer season. Late season hunting, cold temperatures, buzzer beater harvests, and goals achieved or missed goes down this month. Depending on where you hunt, and what you have access to, December can produce some of the years best or worst hunting. Food is normally king, especially if the weather gets nasty. As the month of December fades, it also signifies the start of the off-season and all of the work that goes into hunting throughout the year. Because let's be honest, deer season doesn't ever really end, does it?