By Alex Comstock
If you're a hardcore deer hunter, odds are deer season doesn't ever truly end. Preparation is ongoing throughout the year. This applies to the summer months as well, and everybody prepares differently. To some people, summer is an imperative time of the year, and for others not as much.
Last year, I discovered the TV show "The Breaking Point" on CarbonTV, and immediately became intrigued. It's one of the few shows that I thoroughly enjoy, and the guys that make it are some of the hardest working whitetail hunters I've seen. As I followed them this season on social media, I noticed a pretty high level of success, and I was curious on how they prepare for deer season during the summer. With that, I reached out to Brennen Nading who is a part of the crew, and asked him a few questions in regards to his preparations for whitetail season.
Q: At a high level, how important are the summer months when it comes to your success in the fall?
Brennen: To me personally, the summer months rank rather low on the totem pole as far as preparing for the upcoming season. I spend a lot of time in the field each year whether it be scouting, shed hunting, or actually hunting. During the summer, I actually try to avoid going on the farms that I hunt in the fall. Summer is a vulnerable time and I feel that it is extremely important that you stay off the radar and let the deer on your farms feel safe and secure without pressure.
Q: What kind of scouting are you doing throughout the summer? Does anything change from month to month leading up to the season?
Brennen: Most of my scouting is done during the season when the sign is "here and now." I also do a great deal of scouting in February and March after the deer have shed their antlers. I use shed hunting as a great excuse to get in the bedding areas and really try to piece together the puzzle of what individual deer are doing and try to depict why they are doing it. As far as hanging stands goes, it is rare if I don't have all adjustments made and straps fastened by the end of April. I prefer to do it this way for a few different reasons.
1. I just got done scouting the area for sheds, and during this time I have noted all the sign left behind from the previous fall before it greens up in the spring.
2. I don't like the heat of summer, there's nothing worse than hanging stands when it's 90 degrees and there's no wind.
3. I like to be prepared, and hate intrusion during the summer/early fall.
Q: I know you hunt multiple states each season. With that being said, how does your preparation and scouting change in the summer, if so at all, between the states that you hunt?
Brennen: Each place that we hunt demands a different approach, but each has similar principles. With that said, the best piece of advice I can give for hunting private ground is to stay out and not pressure it. As far as our "out of state" approach, we don't generally make any scouting trips until August hits. On these trips we typically put a lot of miles on the vehicles trying to find out what food sources are holding good bucks. In many cases, "good" bucks aren't visible from the road and this is when we really utilize trail cameras. We will place trail cameras on heavy trails coming to and from the food sources where we are seeing the best deer activity. If nothing good shows up within a couple weeks, we will pull the camera and move on.
Q: From the looks of it, you had quite the season last year. How were you able to have so much success harvesting multiple bucks in multiple states?
Brennen: I had an incredible fall last year, one that I'm not sure I will ever beat. Early season success in North Dakota was like any other deer we have ever killed out there, credited to an all around team effort. Many miles were put on the vehicles scouting new areas, including a couple of August trips. I just happened to be the lucky man in the tree the night I killed. I would base my Iowa success on the knowledge I've picked up over the past few seasons hunting that particular farm. I would also credit it to low pressure, and playing the wind every chance possible. If the wind was wrong, we would go elsewhere, or even not go at all. Kansas success was in the hands of my buddy Cody Kuck at Heartland Pride Outfitters. The guy works his tail off to put his clients on big deer, and he did just that for me, I almost felt guilty just showing up and hunting. Thanks again for that, Cody!
Q: Is there anything that you would consider a game changer when it comes to summer preparations? This could be a product, a learned lesson, or anything that you think is vital to your success.
Brennen: I try and put out mineral for the deer in late February/early March each year.
Side note: I don't do this with the intent of attracting deer from the neighboring farms. Let's be honest, everyone and their brother puts mineral out for the deer. I do it to help the herd after a hard winter, and I also do it with the intentions of taking inventory of what is around when late summer gets here.
I will then go back in May and replenish the sites. I return one more time in early July to put out mineral one last time, and this is the time when I will hang my trail cameras on the mineral to get inventory of what deer are in the area. I don't typically mess with cameras until July for the simple fact that bucks aren't typically recognizable until that point anyway. Along with my mineral cameras, I will also set other cameras in early July, all of which include easy access and low interference. I very rarely will set a camera in the timber. I place them on edges, food plots, and corners most commonly. I will even set them on community scrapes in the late summer to get a head count of the bucks. After being placed in early July, I will check them once a month. And when possible, I will not even get off the quad to pull cards, I don't like my boots hitting the ground if they don't have to.
Q: Are there any common mistakes you feel a lot of people make while preparing in the summer? How might somebody avoid making this certain mistake?
Brennen: I would say the number one mistake people make nowadays is checking their trail cameras too often. It is addicting, I get it. But why risk bumping deer when SD cards are big enough to hold tens of thousands of pictures? To me, it is a no brainer to put fresh batteries in the cameras when you put them out, a 16gb SD card, and let the camera go to work.
Q: If you could only give one piece of advice to somebody when it comes to summer preparation for whitetails, what would that be?
Brennen: Shoot your bow, everyday. Summer is a busy time for everyone, but it is a priority to shoot my bow. Even if it's only a couple of arrows, you have to come to full draw, and feel that anchor point on a daily basis for it to become second nature. You can do all the preparation in the world to get an opportunity at a big buck, but none of it will matter if you aren't ready to make the shot.
*If you want to see more from Brennen or the team from "The Breaking Point" you can watch the first three seasons on CarbonTV here.
*Also, be on the lookout, as their new season drops August 23rd, and will be available to watch on a number of different digital networks, including Facebook, WaypointTV, CarbonTV, WildTV, YouTube, and Vimeo.