By Alex Comstock
If you asked me what my favorite part of deer hunting was, it might not be what you'd think. Believe it or not, preparation is my favorite part. The constant evolution, obsession, and planning that goes into each and every season is what I live for. Part of that time frame is everything that goes into my summer preparation. Summer is a very important time of the year for me, and there is always a lot that has to get done. Here is what my preparation looks like and what you may want to get done each month before deer season sneaks up on you.
I roped May and June together, because depending on where you live, more or less the same can get done during both months. I'll first cover what I will be doing, and then other important tasks that you might want to do as well. So with that, here's what I'll be doing in the next month...
Mineral Sites: I see time and time again people that don't get their mineral sites out until August or September. Though this could still be effective to a certain extent, I am a big believer of getting them established earlier than later. The sooner you can get those mineral sites established, the better chance you'll have of deer becoming more used to frequenting them, and not only will you be benefiting the health of the deer herd to some extent, but you should be able to get more trail camera pictures, and get a more detailed inventory of the bucks in your area.
Maps: I am constantly scouting via aerial images, and am always on the prowl for new hunting ground. But no time of the year is more important to my online scouting efforts than May and June. The main reason for this is that come July, I will actually be out visiting properties I have located throughout the year and asking for permission on them, or if it's public land, I'll be getting trail cameras put out. During the month of June is when I narrow down exactly what properties I want to visit, I get landowner information, and the order in which I want to ask permission. Without getting all of this done, I'll be severely behind for the rest of the summer.
Archery Practice: I'll be honest, I don't shoot my bow year round like a lot of people do. I wish I did, but for me, I normally don't shoot during the months of February, March, and April. I suppose it's only three months off, but June is a great time to knock the rust off, and get back into a groove. This is when I really like to start practicing at long distances of 60-80 yards (much further than I would ever shoot a deer) to help increase my accuracy once I begin hunting, and the shots become much shorter. If you are going to be changing anything up with your archery tackle, this is the time to get it done to give yourself ample time to get it set up. This summer, I'll be switching arrows and changing sights, and I hope to have that done within the next month.
Trail Camera Maintenance: I run anywhere between twenty and thirty trail cameras spread across various tracts of land during the summer and throughout the fall. I normally don't get them out until the beginning of July, when you can start to identify individual bucks, but that doesn't mean I'm not doing anything with them in June. The month of June is critical to me, because this is when I’m going through all my cameras, getting fresh batteries in them, making sure they work, setting up for the mode I want them in, etc. There isn’t quite anything as frustrating as going to set up a trail camera, only to realize it’s broken or dead.
Habitat Improvement: I don’t have access to anywhere that I can make habitat improvements, but if you do, this is a great time to get some things done. Getting your food plots in the ground, doing prescribed fires, hinge cutting, etc. are a few of the things to consider getting done before it gets too late into the summer.
As June fades to July, antlers start growing at a rapid pace, and the anticipation for deer season becomes harder and harder to deny. Here’s what I’ve got going on, and want accomplished during the middle of the summer.
Trail Cameras: The first week of July is when I prefer to get my cameras out. I will put some cameras in feeding areas, such as the corner of a bean field or along the edge of a cornfield, over scrapes or licking branches, and over mineral sites I have already established. Trail cameras are a very important tool for me, and I use them to help identify bucks that I want to hunt come fall and establish an inventory.
Talk To Landowners: Since I will already have my list of landowners that I want to talk to, July is when I get out there and actually put boots on the ground. I usually like to drive by a property first, and make sure it looks like what I thought it would when checking it out on google maps. I want to get permission before August, because the end of summer is when I do a lot of planning on where I’ll be prioritizing my hunting time, and what bucks I want to target.
Continue Shooting Your Bow: This speaks for itself, you should be shooting your bow all summer. July is when I usually like to practice in hunting situations. If you can, shoot from an elevated platform, from a chair if you hunt from a ground blind, and consider practicing with some of your hunting clothing on to make sure there isn’t anything off once you put different clothes or a face mask on.
Glassing: July is when I like to start glassing. This may not be an option for you depending on what type of area you hunt, but for me, it’s an essential part of my preparation. I like to plan my nights glassing doing one of two things. I either am going out to areas I have permission on, or plan on hunting, and am looking for a certain buck I either have pictures of or know of from the previous season. The more I can learn about a buck, and his early season patterns, the better chance I have at harvesting him come September. Other nights, I pretty much just drive around, and look for a mature buck. If I can find one, then I will figure out who I need to ask permission in order to hunt where he’s living. This can present a challenge, as I usually put on a lot of miles doing this, but when you do find a mature buck and can get permission on the property, you already know what you’ll be going after.
July seems to fly by every year. It's always a busy time for life in general, maybe you take a trip for the 4th of July, you have a lot of things to do around the house, and yet you’re still trying to get a lot done in preparation for deer season. Once August hits, I usually am like “Oh Sh** I’ve got to get my stuff together." It doesn’t help that in North Dakota deer season opens up on September 1st, which is one of the earliest opening days in the country, so that makes August my crunch time. For those of you that have an opening day later in September, or an October 1st opening day, I recommend getting a lot of the same things done, and then pulling out of the timber until hunting season rolls in.
Trail Camera Data: There appears to be a theme with trail cameras. In short, they are used throughout the summer. But in August, I start to try and target a few bucks to hunt, and pin down their patterns. Given how early I can hunt, if I can figure out a buck in the summer, I have a decent shot at getting him early in September while he’s still on that summer pattern.
More Glassing: I will literally be out glassing until the day before opener if I can. As it gets closer and closer to season opening up, I pay as much attention as possible to every little detail of a buck if I have the opportunity to watch him feed in an ag field. In a best-case scenario, I can watch a buck multiple times, and figure out what wind directions he enters the field with, if and why he changes where he enters the field, and the list goes on. I haven’t had this work out perfectly yet, but I’ve been close. Being that you’re only one person, if you are trying to keep tabs on multiple properties and bucks, if I’ve glassed a buck enter a field, I’ll get a camera up as well, and try to learn as much about his behavior from that information too.
Treestands: I think I do it a little differently when it comes to how and when I hang my treestands. For any areas that I already know I want to hunt during the rut, those stands are either put up in March/April or I’ll go mobile and hang and hunt come October and November. For my early season setups, I usually like to get those up in August, once I have targeted a buck to go after. I want to learn as much about a buck as possible before getting a stand up, and if need be, I’ll wait until I actually go in to hunt a buck early in the year, and do a hang and hunt then. If and when I do go to hang a stand in August, I do it during the middle of the day, play the wind as if I was hunting, and am as scent free as possible. I want to stealthily get in, hang the stand, and get out, and then not return until I am hunting it.
Equipment Overview: August is usually the time I go over all of my equipment to ensure that everything is in tact correctly. I double check everything from broadheads, to fletching’s on my arrows, to treestands and everything in between.
Final Preparations: When it comes to deer hunting, I’m OCD about everything. As it pertains to my final preparations, I tend to check everything over a hundred times. I want to make sure I have all of my clothes washed in scent free detergent and ready to go. I double check that I have everything I need in my hunting pack for opening day, obviously don’t forget to purchase your tags, and once opening day arrives, be ready. If you have a later opening day, some of these final preparations may be delayed a little while, but in the end, these just need to be done before you hit the stand.
Summer is a crazy time of the year. There is so much that goes into it, and it can be challenging to stay ahead of the game. I know I usually forget about a thing or two, or get behind, but the whole point of summer is to set myself up as well as possible for when my “Superbowl” hits, and that’s deer season.