It’s official. My 2015 deer season has finally come to a close. The post season blues will no doubt begin to set in. All year I look forward to archery season, but once it arrives I’d like to be able slow down time and make those days and weeks last just a little longer. Whether it’s watching the forest unfold as the sun rises on a cold, brisk morning or returning to camp in the evening to share stories of the day’s events over a good glass of bourbon, I embrace every aspect of the season. With the end of my season, I’ll quickly turn my attention to the off season and making shed traps, shed hunting and developing habitat enhancements needed at the farm.
As it is now officially 2016, I’ve begun to reflect on this past season. The hope is to find a few things to improve upon next season, helping me continue growing as a hunter.
Let’s face it; even if the season was awful, I was still able to spend time in the outdoors, which alone is cause for celebration. This year I was able to spend a total of 21 days on stand. This is a lot of time for me, considering I have to travel a few hours to get to our farm. This summer I also set a goal for myself to try patterning a target buck for the first time. I did pattern a nice 8 point. He was bumped by another hunter on the day I was planning to hunt his bedding area; however, I was successful in locating this particular buck’s bedding area and identifying the wind he’d use to access this bedding on the correct day. I just didn’t seal the deal by allowing a friend to hunt the area instead (hoping for deer god points for this). I was able to fill my doe tag though and put some meat in the freezer.
This past spring a new clover food plot was planted on the farm, which would provide the only consistent food source in the area through October and November. Typically the corn comes off on our farm in late September and those fields that have been harvested are sewn with winter wheat and clover for a spring harvest and hay cut. Under normal circumstances these fields lay dormant until the spring thaw. However, this was not the case this year. With a warmer and more wet fall than usual, all fields sewn for the spring sprouted by late October providing the deer herd an abundance of food in three additional locations. The distinct trails leading to the planned clover food plot, along with well defined staging areas, were now seeing much less activity than usual. The additional food sources impacted the overall deer herd’s fall travel patterns we had grown accustom to historically. This resulted in significantly less deer movement than in years past as food was overly abundant in multiple locations around the farm throughout the season.
Simply put, the weather was ugly this season. I’m ok with wet weather or windy weather, but the heat during the beginning of November was less than ideal. Unfortunately I took a week’s vacation during the first week of November where temperatures here in Pennsylvania reached the 70’s. Needless to say, deer movement came to a screeching halt and buck sightings were few until the weather broke the last week of the season. This made for some long hours in the stand without any deer sightings and at one point I went three days without seeing a single deer.
With this season clearly in the rearview mirror, my hope is that I’m a better hunter because of this season’s experiences. Most of my negative experiences this year were weather related and I certainly can’t control the weather. On bad weather days, I simply should have stayed out of the stand. I know quality hunts are better than the quantity of hunts, and I need to do a better job of following this rule in the future. I’d be lying if I said I kept my cool through all of this season’s challenges. At moments I did allow the combination of slow days on stand and the warm temperatures get the better of my emotions. In many cases, success in the whitetail woods is a matter of a positive outlook, especially on those long sets with no action. Your fortunes can change in a matter of seconds during the season and a lapse in focus can be what stands between you and your moment of truth from the stand.