Lessons Learned from 2015 – Deer Hunting
Deer season 2015 has come and gone. How was your season? Was it a success? It seemed like it went by extremely quick. If you are like me, your probably a little bummed out but excited for the upcoming months of what is coming the next year. It seems like every year I get more and more excited about hunting Whitetail. I went from two trail cameras to 8 this season. I am consistently reading about whitetail and learning as much as I can. This blog consists of my highs and lows. I will close this blog up with lessons from this year.
I feel like this was a great year for most Michigan hunters. Most of my hunting buddies shot really nice bucks. Some may not have shot any but most seen quality Michigan bucks. I was in that category. Because of this, I am really excited about the future of next year’s deer season in this awesome state. After a great season, it’s hard not to reflect and try to put the pieces together to make next season better with more opportunity.
Although I didn’t shoot an antlered deer, I can’t complain about this year’s season. I definitely didn’t deserve to have the season I had. I didn’t know where I was going to be living and was in Frankfort, Michigan most of the summer. I didn’t get out scouting much and didn’t have too many great spots set up. I used a lot of history from years past to develop my game plan. I ended up staying out of my good spots from years past till the rut started. I didn’t want to spread my scent all over my good hunting areas. To make things more complicated, my parents bought a new cottage that had thousands of acres around it that needed scouting. That took up a week of my late October deer hunting.
When it did get going, it was game on. I had seen more 2.5-year-old bucks then I had ever seen before. I also think I had seen a couple 3.5-year-olds but they were in the thick stuff. The most exciting hunts of the year were when I passed on a nice 7-point on my parents property. You can read about that here:
My favorite trip of the year consisted of 2 nice buck sightings. One that had bedded by me for 5.5 hours and the other was chasing a doe. More of that can be seen here:
I hunted hard most of the season and started to lose steam around the middle of December. I had some doe tags to fill and my combo. I was starting to feel like I was going to have tag soup. God decided to give me a break towards the end of the muzzleloading season and I was able to put meat in the freezer on a super old weekend. That story can be seen here:
With that being said, there were a few lows in the season that I didn’t really talk. For the first time ever I hunted in shorts. The rut and the opening weekend of the gun season were in the 60 – the 80’s. Then we had a warm December as well. I definitely made sure I was in the stand during the cold fronts and noticed great success during those fronts. During the heat waves, it was tough and you almost could predict the poor hunting. The past 4 years I have been studying the weather and deer movement. The cold fronts have consistently proven better deer movement for myself. The worse the weather was in December the better the deer hunting. That is how persistence paid off for me and I was able to fill the freezer.
More of that story can be seen here:
The final days of muzzle loading I had the low of lows. As mentioned, I had been hunting hard. I had some great encounters but nothing I could ethically pull the trigger. On my final 20 minutes of ML season, I had a nice, tall buck come out from behind me. I put the scope on the buck and pulled the trigger. The gun went off but there was no kick. My muzzle loader failed on me again. I had my issues in the past and thought I had solved my problem. After that failure, it was obviously not solved. I have done some major research on the issue and think I had too much bore butter on the threads. I still have a lot of work to do to figure that out.
This year I put in a lot of time in the woods once the rut started. While in the woods I am always trying to learn from my experiences. Learning from experience helps make a better hunter and also creates a better life for yourself. Below are some lessons that I either learned this season or concentrated on from another season to better.
This year I continued to practice patience sitting in my prime stands during cold fronts moving through. I also would wait until the conditions were perfect to sit in a stand for the first time that I thought was in prime whitetail habitat. Those conditions were cold fronts coming through the state. I have been practicing this for 3 years thanks to the teachings of Jeff Sturgis from Whitetail Solutions. In the past 3 years, I have noticed my buck encounters have increased. I am positive this is the number one reason for my success over the year.
The worse weather in December, the better
Usually, in December, I have pretty bad luck. For the most part, I think December is a waste of time hunting. I have usually burned all my spots out because I have hunted them 5-10 times. On our property where I have a lot of control I have seen the same young deer family most of the time no matter what the conditions were. I did notice them showing up earlier on the colder days. In my state land spots, I noticed a big difference in deer movement on the coldest days. They were few and far because of the extremely warm December. If I was not so desperate to fill a tag I probably would have hunted a lot less in December and went fishing instead.
Watch your trail
This year I noticed how much of a scent trail I was leaving walking near my stand. Deer, including fawns, were walking over my trail entering my stand location and started sniffing my trail. Now I practice some extreme scent control. I take a shower before every hunt. I only wear clothes that have been washed in scent free soap. I also dress once I get to my hunting location. I am careful about rubbing up against anything approaching my stand. I still noticed a ton of deer walking over my trail and sniffing around. I never had a deer bust my trail this season but I imagine that the older deer that smelled me after I left avoided the area. Next season I want to eliminate my scent trails as best as I can.
The more I research and scout the more I realize how important knowing where the bedding areas are. Shooting deer consistently requires more than just finding a few trails and setting up a stand. I think if you consistently want to kill deer you need to know where the bedding areas are. This is also important to know while walking to your stand. Usually, when I scout I look for trails, rubs, scrapes and any other sign. I also pay attention to funnels and food. I usually have an idea of where deer may be bedding but I am not 100% sure. 2016 I am switching up my scouting strategies. I am going to look for bedding more than anything. This is important to know so you can set up accordingly. This is not something I know too much of so I am going to learn as much as I can for next season.
Scouting right after the season is over is usually something I don’t pay much attention to. I have been out a few times this year and the snow has given away more sign than anything I have ever seen before. In my up north spots, I was completely blown away by how many deer were in the area. Spots that I didn’t think had many deer had trails all over. Bedding areas were easily identified. It has also helped me identify why certain situations happened this year and why things didn’t work out.
Last season I scouted new spot in October, which was too late. Then when I found bedding
areas I quickly made decisions without putting much thought into it. On Halloween day, I had a mature buck walk right by a tree I originally wanted to put a stand. Because of me rushing I ended up sitting in a different area causing me to miss out on shooting either an 8 or a 12 point. If I would have scouted the spot earlier I would have sat in the tree I wanted to and maybe shot that buck.
This year I have really been paying attention to other hunters and trying to learn from them. Below are a few hunters that I have been following via social media and podcast who helped me understand mature bucks and strategies to have a better season. If you want to have a good chance at killing big deer, I suggest you start following the guys below.
Jeff Sturgis – Whitetail Habitat Solutions
I have been reading Jeffs blogs for a few years now. Jeff talks about anything that has to do with hunting mature Whitetails. This guy really knows his stuff and explains it really well in his blogs. Jeff also has a line of books out. I highly suggest you check his stuff out.
Wired to Hunt – Mark Kenyon
If you have never listened to a Wired to Hunt Podcast you need to start. W2H bring in guest speakers who live and breath deer hunting. I have learned a lot this season about different situations I might be in the future and hopefully will capitalize. The podcast can be listened to on Itunes or Stitcher for androids.
That’s a wrap for my 2015. I hope you guys enjoyed this year’s whitetail blogs as much as I enjoyed sharing. Thank you for following along. If you learned an important lesson while out deer hunting please share it with us. Also, if you shot a deer we would love to see it. If you have some time I could really appreciate you rating this blog at the top of my WordPress.
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