Tree Stand

Clover Food Plot and Tree Stand Placement Tips

Hunting Clover Plots | Tree Stand Strategies

Spring is in the air and chasing white-tailed deer is likely the last thing on your mind, however, the spring months offer those who have a passion for deer hunting an opportunity to fine-tune the placement and positions of their deer stands.  Deer hunting is a sport that requires a “trial and error” approach in order to be successful.  Just about the time you think you have checked all the boxes, and you have your tree stand placed perfectly, and you have done your due diligence to address all of the variables, something unforeseen arises and it is back to the drawing board.  Though it may seem frustrating, the constant grind that comes with punching a tag only helps to make success even sweeter and often teaches us a thing or two that we can apply to future hunts.

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Tree stand placement is often a product of two things, the type of area you are hunting (funnel, bedding area, food source, etc.) and the available cover that you have to place a tree stand.  These are certainly the “big bucket” concepts that most white-tailed deer hunters tend to adhere to, however, not taking the time to truly analyze the circumstances can often lead to mistakes being made.  Often, tree stand placement along with other aspects of your overall hunting strategy can be fine-tuned if you are willing to take the time to dive a little deeper into the “when” and “where”.

Tree Stand Placement Tips

Spring is food plot season, and as such, clover food plots are usually the first thing on hunter’s minds. For good reason! Clover plots, if placed and hunted correctly can serve as perfected kill plots. Take this tree stand placement and clover plot tips into consideration.

Not Every Set Is Created Equal

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Would ever you wear football pads to a baseball game?  Hopefully, the answer is no!  The point is that both football and baseball are competitive sports that are very similar.  They both involve a team, they both occur on a field, and they both utilize a ball.  Though they are similar, they couldn’t be any more different.  The same can be said for each of your tree stand sets.  Though you are hunting white-tailed deer from each location and set, each location and set are different in its own way.  If you make the mistake of treating each of your tree stands as if they are exactly like the other, then chances are you are missing opportunities to fine tune your tree stand placement and add to add a few more tally marks to your harvest totals at the end of the year.

The Devil is in the Details

Sometimes, identifying the differences between tree stand sets can be tough.  For example, if you have tree stands placed in a wooded draw on one side of the property, and a tree stand placed in a wooded draw on the other side of the property, you might argue that there is nothing that separates the two from each other, and in some cases you would likely be correct.  That said, the devil is often in the details so before you make your assumptions that all tree stands sets placed in similar cover types are the same, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.

Timing

The old saying “timing is everything” is certainly true when it comes to how you place and when you hunt your tree stand.  Certain sets may see very little activity during the early part of the season, but turn on during the rut or late season.  Likewise, you may have certain areas of your property that deer do not specifically use all the time, however, will pass through during certain periods of the year.  It is scenarios such as these that separate the wooded draw on the east side of the farm from the wooded draw on the west.

Cover

Placing a tree stand is one thing, and hunting from it is certainly another.  Understanding the timing in regards to when certain tree stands sets will likely have the most activity and when food plots are attractive can help you understand what your needs will be in terms of concealment.  For example, if you are hunting a travel lane food plot such as a funnel or wooded draw staging area, that is exposed between crop or CRP, then the overhead cover is likely at a premium.  Additionally, of you have an area like this that you tend to spend more time in after leaf drop, then you may want to keep the saw in the pack and resist the urge to cut too many branches out of the way.  It is important to have a shooting lane, however, concealment is equally so.

tree-stand-placement-clover-food-plot_pic3On the other hand, if you find yourself hunting an early season set when the trees are still in full canopy, then you can likely get away with far more trimming and even a little more movement while in the stand than you could later in the year.  Though many white-tailed deer hunters will say that they consider these points while placing their tree stands, it is important to spend some time to really consider them.  If you slow down and spend some time truly evaluate your surroundings and understand the “big picture”, you just be surprised at how your original location will slide to the back seat and something new will jump out in front.

Placement over Clover Plots

Deer hunting over a green browse plot such as a clover plot is truly a special thing.  There is just something about seeing a white-tailed deer cast against the lush, green vegetation of a clover plot that can get the blood pumping in the chest of any deer hunter.  Clover plots provide an excellent opportunity to not only see a lot of deer during the early part of the deer season but to also catch a big mature buck prior to the rut.  Green browse such as clovers provide white-tailed deer with an unbelievable source of nutrition, and with little effort on the part of the hunter, can produce an immense amount of biomass, most clovers reaching from 2,000- 3,000 lbs per acre, to help feed a large number of deer on any given farm.

Hunting over a food source such as a clover plot may seem fairly straightforward, however, when it comes to tree stand placement over these areas it can be a little trickier than you might it might appear.

Is it Early Season Hunting?

Hunting over a clover plot is typically early to mid-season activity.  These areas can still produce white-tailed deer activity at all times of the year, however, once the season turns colder deer will begin to seek out forages that are more suitable for the conditions.  It is important to keep in mind the conditions that you will be faced with when hunting during the early season as you begin to identify potential tree stand locations.  As was mentioned previously, the foliage during the early to middle part of the season tends to be fuller.  This is both a positive and a negative.  It is a positive in that you should have plenty of covers to help you stay hidden and concealed, however, keep your shooting lanes clear and open can sometimes be very problematic and require attention many times throughout the offseason.  The spring months are an excellent time to get out and begin considering tree stand locations and evaluating your shooting lanes.

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Entry and Exit

One of the positive aspects of hunting a food plot that consists of forages like clover is that while mornings and evenings are likely the most active feeding times, white-tailed deer can and will literally utilize these areas at almost any point during the day.  This unpredictability can also be a negative, as it can put extra emphasis on your entry and exit strategy.  It is always important to have a way in and a way out of your stand that will keep you quiet and concealed.  With a food plot such as a clover plot, this certainly the case, and then some.  White-tailed deer will not only utilize these areas at any given point during the day but often will bed close by if suitable cover exists.  It can be very challenging to make your way into these areas without bumping deer if you have neglected to do your legwork up front.  Additionally, if and when you find yourself enjoying an evening hunt over a clover plot, be prepared to stay until last light.  White-tailed deer, especially if they are unpressured, will tend to spend the majority of the evening in these plots, which can make it exceptionally difficult to exit without being seen.  This helps to further emphasize the importance of an entry and exit strategy when hunting over your clover plot.

Scent Control

When placing a tree stand, a good rule of thumb is to not be any higher than you absolutely need to be.  The height of tree stand is often a result of the location, the time of year it will be hunting and the concealment that is available.  During the early season months, temperatures will often still be on the warm side.  These humid conditions can greatly increase even the slightest odor, and can quickly cause you to be pinpointed.  Early season food plots such as clover plots are areas where you may consider increasing the height of your set if that is an option.  Increasing the height of your tree stand will help you with your scent control efforts, in addition to increasing your visibility.  Just remember that there is no second chance for safety first, so always use a harness no matter if you are hunting from 10’ or 25’, a fall from a tree stand is serious so treat it as such.

Edge Effect

When it comes to deer hunting over clover plots, there is no question about where the deer prefer to be, and that is often the center of the plot.  This is often the result of a couple of factors, the first being what is known as the “edge effect”.  The edge effect is a term that applies the edges of a food plot or crop field being less productive than they middle or center of the plot.  This is typically caused by either a fertility issue or as a result of the nearby trees either shading out the clover or simply outcompeting the clover for nutrients.  The key factor here is that this, ensuring that you have your tree stand set within shooting distance of the major entry and/or exit point of the plot is important.  Often, white-tailed deer will head straight for the most productive area of the clover plot, and if you are not ready to strike quickly, you may have to result to simply watching deer rather than shooting one.

If you take a few these tips into consideration it will likely help you to not only recognize factors variables related to tree stand placement that perhaps you had not in the past, but they will certainly help you to be more successful in the white-tailed deer woods this fall.

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Deer Hunting Accessories for Spring Wildlife Habitat Projects

Improve Wildlife Habitat with These Simple Tasks

 

Feature Photo Credit:  Ryan Lisson

Springtime usually means one thing to most hunters: it’s time to hit the woods with a box call and some turkey decoys. That’s great and nobody would blame you for doing that. But there are lots of other ways you can spend time in the spring woods this season – ways that will ultimately pay off over the years with improved wildlife habitat and increased animal abundance and visibility (oh, and hunting opportunities too). That’s right; it’s time to kick off your spring wildlife habitat projects. Just make sure to grab the right deer hunting accessories and tools before you hit the woods so you can get as many of your land management goals checked off the list before your summer projects start. You’ll probably be surprised at just how many animals benefit from your wildlife habitat work too; whitetails, turkeys, grouse, rabbits, bears, and most other animals in between will all have improved habitats (i.e., an increase in available cover and food) for years to come!

 

Deer Hunting Accessories | You’re Only as Good as Your Tools

 

As any good carpenter knows, you can’t produce a great and valuable product without the right tools. The same is true for your wildlife management goals. That doesn’t mean the tools have to be the most expensive ones either. It just means you need the right ones, along with the appropriate know-how, to get it done. For most of these wildlife habitat projects, you will be doing some cutting. Mother Nature often responds to destruction with amazing forms of new and vibrant life. That’s exactly what you’ll key in on.

 

First, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper safety equipment and use all the tools below for the purposes they are supposed to be used. Big Game Tree Stands® has several handheld cutting implements that will be more than sufficient for these wildlife habitat improvements. Unless you’ll be tackling some big trees while hinge cutting, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway, a handheld serrated saw or folding saw will get you through any of them. If there are mature trees that need to be cleared from the area completely, it’s best to get a chainsaw. Some simple handheld loppers or the deluxe ratchet shears are perfect for cutting live stakes off existing shrubs or trees.

 

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You’ll also need a shovel and a few buckets if you plan to transplant anything very successfully. For the food plots, you’ll also need a garden rake to clear the vegetation, and a sprayer and spreader would both be very handy items (though you don’t need them right away). Luckily, you probably have several of these sitting in the garden shed already.

 

Wildlife Habitat Projects You Can Do This Spring

 

As we mentioned, these simple wildlife habitat improvement projects will help expand the wildlife habitat on your private land for multiple species. And none of them are complicated! They just take some time and effort, which is well-spent considering the amazing future hunting opportunities you’ll get in return.

 

Hinge Cutting Wildlife Openings

Hinge cuts are accomplished by simply cutting two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through a tree trunk at waist height and letting it fall down on its own or with a little shove. The goal is to keep some bark attached, which will provide nutrients and water to the downed tree tops. This makes excellent deer browse, which will be the majority of the deer diet next winter. While winter is a great time to get a lot of hinge cuts done, there are a few advantages to spring cuts too. You might have to deal with ticks and mosquitoes, but the trees are a little more pliable in the spring, which should result in more tree trunks staying connected to the bases. If the cuts occur before things really start greening up, it will be a welcomed supply of fresh browse for deer to consume, and they will likely start using it immediately.

 

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Photo Credit: Ryan Lisson

 

While mature forests have some benefits for the game species we’re after, an abundance of it doesn’t provide much. Unless it’s an oak forest raining acorns down each fall, it could likely be improved. If you’re wondering how to keep deer on your property, you might just need a few small hinge cut bedding areas. They are great for making deer habitat in this sense, but these pockets of dense regrowth are also great for grouse and rabbits. Why? First, lots of downed tree tops provide browse and the catkins/buds of birch or alder trees will be eaten by grouse. Second, the increased solar exposure will result in a thick tangle of new growth the following summer to hide from predators and provide additional feeding opportunities. Because deer can get both food and cover in the same spot, these areas are great daytime bedding areas and they quickly become wildlife sanctuaries if you simply stay out. Finally, downed tree trunks provide great drumming logs for ruffed grouse!

 

Clearing New Food Plots 

While you’re out there with some saws making hinge cuts, why not create a new timber food plot? The only difference is that you will completely cut the trees down instead of partially cutting through them. Adding food plots may not always be necessary for wildlife habitat, especially this kind of plot, but it’s a valuable piece of the hunting puzzle. And you get ample amounts of firewood to dry for the next few years as a bonus. For remote timber plots, it’s best to make these small (i.e., under half an acre). Why? One, it’s a lot of work to clear that many trees by hand. Two, these forested spots are often great ambush kill plots, so you want deer to feel comfortable entering them during daylight hours. Place one within a few hundred yards of one of the hinge cut bedding areas and it’s very likely to pull deer in during that time frame. You’ll just want to make sure that the southern and eastern exposure is somewhat open to ensure it gets enough sunlight.

 

Simply start cutting trees down, felling them away from the intended food plot interior. Cut the trunks up into manageable pieces and haul them off to the side to bring back out for fire wood. Pile the slash (unusable limbs and brush) into specific spots around the plot. For example, you don’t want to surround the entire plot with a mess of slash or deer might feel trapped inside the plot. Instead, keep it relatively open on the ends for deer to flow through and pile the brush on the side you intend to place your Warrior DX tree stand. That will discourage them from walking downwind of your ladder stand location. Then rake the remaining debris out of the plot and wait for it to green up. It will respond best if you spray it with a general herbicide like glyphosate after it’s started to grow. Spray it a couple times over the summer and cut any tall vegetation again towards fall. Then spread some fertilizer and lime according to a soil test (you did that, didn’t you?) and plant a mixture of clover, annual cereal grains, and some brassicas. Deer, turkey, and grouse will all spend time in this kind of a plot.

 

Trail Network

While not exclusively considered for spring habitat projects, trails are a great project this time of year because the increased visibility helps you plan your route efficiently. In between your new food plot area and bedding area, set up a wildlife trail network. Even if the woods are fairly open, you should plan on cutting a wildlife trail. In fact, it’s especially important in that case so you can pattern where exactly deer will travel instead of trying to predict where they will go. Can you always guarantee they will use your trail? No. But deer like to take the path of least resistance, just like us. Make that path for them.

 

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Photo Credit: Ryan Lisson

 

Start with some flagging tape to make sure your trail follows the land contours and avoids any obvious terrain obstructions. After connecting the two spots, go back with a saw and start hinging trees to fall perpendicular to the trail so deer aren’t trapped along the trail. You don’t want a highway either. Just make it wide enough to comfortably walk down. Linking all of your wildlife habitat improvements with this kind of trail network can help you pattern deer movement much easier.

 

Staking, Planting, and Transplanting

Another great wildlife habitat activity to do in the spring is plant things to take advantage of the moist soils. If you’ve always been curious about planting shrubs for wildlife, but were put off by the cost, consider live staking. This practice is commonly used in stream restorations, but it is the process of cutting a 12 to 24-inch branch off a shrub and shoving it into the ground to sprout roots and essentially clone the parent plant. Live staking works best on dogwood species (red-osier, gray, silky, etc.) and willow species (black, sandbar, etc.), but can work on others occasionally. Find some parent plants on your property first. Cut a branch with several nodes (buds/branches) and trim the buds off the lower ones. Shove the branch about halfway to three-quarters of the way into the ground so most of the nodes are underground. These will sprout roots, while the aboveground nodes will produce leaves and new branches. This is a great low-cost wildlife habitat project since it only involves your time. While you might be able to make this work in some upland areas, it is better to do along wetland fringes where there is adequate soil moisture.

 

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Photo Credit: Ryan Lisson

 

If you don’t have many wetland edges or you’d like to move some other plants around, you still have a few options. You can fully dig up and transplant shrubs or trees to a new location, or for species that send new plants up from roots (called “suckers”), you can sever them from the parent plant and grow a new one. For example, if you have an area of your property with lots of spruce and pine trees, consider transplanting some of them to other areas of your property that are mostly hardwoods or deciduous shrubs to increase the species diversity and add some cover. Planting pine trees for deer cover seems to be popular, but spruce will often provide better thermal cover and visual screening than pine species. Transplanting works best for smaller bushes and trees for ease of transplanting and improved success rates, so stick to plants shorter than you. While you don’t need a ton of soil along with it, make sure you include at least enough roots to extend out to the drip line (edge of the farthest branches) and dig down about the same distance. To help your hunting efforts the most, plant them in small wildlife habitat “pockets” of 4 to 5 trees/shrubs and alongside trails. Grouse and rabbits like to use these features for cover, so you can bounce around between these pockets of cover and easily walk the trail to get to them.

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Photo Credit: Ryan Lisson

 

Finally, you could also rake and rough up the soil along your existing trails and spread some clover seed around this spring. Nearly all game animals will utilize clover stands at some point in the spring and summer; deer, rabbits, and game birds will eat the leaves, while turkeys and grouse will also use it for bugging habitat. Since they will also travel along existing trails, why not combine the two to make them super effective?

 

Better Wildlife Habitat Starts With You

 

As you can see, habitat management for deer or other wildlife isn’t all that technical or hard to do, but it does take some dedication to do it on a large scale. These habitat management practices are best when tackled with teamwork, so gather up a few family members and friends and spend a weekend getting after it. You’ll have better hunting opportunities next fall and improve your property for the next generation at the same time.

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The Unsung Heros of Hunting| Hunting Accessories

Hunting Accessories | Critical Items You Need While Hunting

Feature Photo Credit: Joe Diestel

There is nothing better than enjoying an April sunrise from the comfort and seclusion of your favorite ground blind or tree, just as spending a November morning nestled in your best deer stand is also a magical experience.  Whether you are chasing spring turkeys or white-tailed deer hunting, taking to the woods in search of wild game requires you to be prepared for any situation.  These hunting accessories are the unsung heroes of the woods, critical to making your hunting experience top notch.

 

 

Talkin’ Turkey | Turkey Hunting Accessories

Spring is well underway and soon it will be time to dust off the shotgun and hit the woods to do some turkey hunting.  Anyone who has chased spring turkeys will quickly tell you that turkey hunting is a gear-intensive activity that can often require one hunter to carry multiple hunting accessories with them on a daily basis.  The reason is simple, you want to be prepared.  Turkey hunting can sometimes be a game of seconds, so when success is on the line you need to ensure that you have what it takes to get the job done.

There is no doubt that hunting from a ground blind is effective when it comes to turkey hunting.  That said, many turkey hunters much prefer to “run and gun” which makes hunting from a pop-up blind difficult to accomplish.  If you fall into this category, you have no doubt found yourself in a situation where the elements have felt as though they are stacked against you.  Springtime often means frequent rain events, and there is nothing worse than finally getting close to a gobbler only to have the rain set in.  When this occurs, you really have two options.  You can either wait him out and get soaked in the process, or you can leave.  Neither sounds all that appealing.  Luckily, you can do something about it!


A pop-up umbrella system is not only effective in the deer stand, but it is also effective in the turkey woods.  The umbrella can quickly attach to your tree and can be set up with little sound and movement required.  The umbrella system in combination with one of our ground seats will be the ultimate small and compact combination that can easily fit into any pack or vest and should always be part of your turkey hunting accessory list!

Deer Hunting Accessories

Whether bow hunting or rifle hunting, the modern day deer stand has features to not only keep you comfortable and concealed but can also help improve your chances of punching a tag on your hit list buck.  Today, deer stands come in all shapes and all sizes.  What once consisted of a few 2 x 4’s, nails and a few railroad spikes now consists of ladder stands, hang-on stands, two-man ladder stands, climbing stands and this list goes on from there.  Today’s deer stand is generally lighter, stronger and more durable than deer stands of even two years ago.  As a group, hunters a generally not given the credit they deserve in terms of innovation and improvements that they continue to make in the field of deer stands and hunting products.

Pack Fillers

Selecting a deer stand in like selecting a car, it’s a personal decision that is based upon your needs and desires.  While the type of deer stand that a hunter might choose may vary, the list of accessories that typically fills their pack will certainly vary from deer hunter to deer hunter.  Who ever said that deer hunting was not and accessory driven activity was mistaken, as today’s deer hunter typically has enough equipment and gear to fill almost any field pack on the market.

Although there are certainly a number of items that a deer hunter can carry in their packs to help them attract a mature buck to their location, often there are the additional “pack fillers” that also add to the overall success of the trip.  These items are the unsung heroes of most deer hunting experiences, and while these items may often be overlooked make no mistake, these items can greatly improve your hunting experience while in the deer stand and can ensure that you are ready to go when the opportunity arises.

An Extra Hand

Unlike buying a house or a new truck, there is only so much storage that a deer stand can offer.  That said, regardless if you are archery hunting or rifle hunting, white-tailed deer hunting generally requires the hunter to have plenty of gear on hand.  Here in lies the problem, as there is only so much room on the deer stand platform.

Whether it is an extra tow rope, a multi-hook accessory holder or a multi-hanger, having the ability to have those critical pieces of deer hunting hardware out and available at arm’s reach is important.  Sometimes we can all use an extra hand, and each of these items can provide you with just that.  The best feature that each of these items can offer the deer hunter is they are light and can be neatly tucked away in any hunting pack.  They take up very little space, but can really save the day when called upon.  If you don’t have at least one of these items in your hunting pack, then you’re missing the boat.

hunting-accessories-you-need_pic3Clearing the Path

Maybe you are hunting a new piece of property, public land or maybe you are just hunting a deer stand that you haven’t hunted in a while, regardless of the circumstances having a limb right in the way of your best shooting lane is a problem.  While a multi-tool can tackle the small stuff, they are typically outmatched for limbs that are much larger than your pinky finger.

Having a reliable pair of pruning shears at your disposal is nothing short of a life saver.  A set of ratcheting shears can enable you to tackle a problematic limb that is large in size while to remaining concealed and quite.  A good set of shears can also be critical in helping you freshen up that old ground blind or ground set, and the best part, they take up about the same amount of room as two decks of playing cards.  Having a folding saw is better than nothing, but having a good set of shears will trump almost any alternative, and should find their way into your deer hunting pack before next season.

Marking the Way Home

Everything looks different in the dark.  No matter if you have hunted the same area a hundred times, or if you are looking at a brand new property, heading to your deer stand before daylight or making your way to the truck after sunset can sometimes be a challenge.  The last thing that any white-tailed deer hunter wants to do, especially if there is a big buck in the area, is go beating through the brush trying to find their way.

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Having a clearly marked trail is an excellent way to ensure that scenario doesn’t occur, and utilizing reflective trail markers or trail marking tacks in certainly one way to accomplish this goal.  These reflectors will shine with even the lowest of light, allowing you to remain silent and move quickly to your location.  In addition to helping you find your way to and from your stand, utilizing these reflectors when blood trailing a deer after daylight can also pay great dividends in determining the path of the animal while also allowing you to easily retrace your steps if you happen to lose the trail.  Best of all, these reflectors take up virtually no room, but can certainly be a lifesaver when in the field.

Before you take out to the deer stand on your next deer hunting adventure, be sure to take inventory of your hunting pack.  If you happen to find that these three items are absent, hit the store and rectify the situation.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

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Ground Seats for Turkey Hunting | Which Fits Your Hunting Style?

Why Ground Seats for Turkey Hunting Matter

 

Who stands while they are hunting turkeys? Unless you are moving or caught off guard by an unexpected gobbler, you are probably sitting most of the time. This is why ground seats for turkey hunting matter. These butt saving hunting accessories come in a variety of styles and vary in function depending on the turkey hunting strategies you may be using this spring.

 

Types of Ground Seats for Turkey Hunting

There are three types of ground seats for turkey hunting out there. These include seat cushions, lounge chairs, and platform seats. Portable hunting seats vary based on function and need while hunting turkeys. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of turkey hunting you are doing and where you may be hunting.

Hunting seat cushions are by far the lightest and most carry friendly ground seats for turkey hunting. They range from simple 1” thick closed cell foam pads to more advanced, thicker padded seats wrapped in camo. Others are designed not only for comfort and portability but also to keep your butt warm on cold spring mornings. Included in this type of turkey hunting seats are those complete hunting seat cushions with an added plush backrest, usually attached with clips and foldable for easy, lightweight transport. Both the cushioned pads and seat cushions with backrests are a good all-around hunting seat for mobility and short sits.

Advantages – Lightweight, inexpensive and very mobile friendly.

Disadvantages – Not comfortable enough for an all-day sit and need replaced every few years or so depending on use.

 

 

Lounge chairs are perfect if you are looking for comfort and do not mind the extra weight. Turkey hunting chairs are some of the most comfortable ground seats available. They offer mesh fabric seats and backs to stay cool, stability while sitting on the ground and just enough height off the ground for turkey hunting. Low profile hunting chairs, like many of the new versions on the market, work best when you plan to sit all day and comfort is a big deal.

Advantages – All day comfort with back support and they keep you off the ground if you are hunting in wet areas.

Disadvantages – Expensive, are an added weight to carry on top of your decoys and other turkey hunting gear and are hard use directly against a tree when trying to break up your outline.

 

Platform seats are basically a low profile hunting chair without a back. Platforms are a compromise between a lounge chair and a seat cushion when it comes to turkey hunting seats. They are a mesh or fabric seat on top of a frame that puts you a few inches off the ground but they have no back rest. You can use one against a tree and use the tree trunk for your backrest, which helps you to stay concealed better. Platform ground seats for turkey hunting get you off the ground unlike a seat cushion and weigh less than a full out turkey hunting chair but the compromise is they provide no back support.

Advantages – Keeps you off the ground and weighs less than a lounge chair.

Disadvantages – No back support and can be awkward and bulky to carry compared to a hunting seat cushion.

 

Most turkey hunters choose to use a seat cushion but more and more are moving towards lounge chairs because of the comfort and support they provide. Innovative turkey hunting vests typically come with a seat cushion or some form of a fold-out chair built right into the vest itself. Choice when it comes to ground seats for turkey hunting comes down to balancing the advantages and disadvantages among the different turkey hunting seats against your hunting strategies.

 

Two Turkey Hunting Strategies Where Ground Seats Matter

Ground seats for turkey hunting are a must, but deciding on what type depends heavily on your hunting strategies. Two of the more commonly used tactics for hunting gobblers in the spring include the run & gun approach and the sit & wait approach.

 

Run & Gun Turkey Hunting

 

Run and gun turkey hunting is a style for those who are impatient and for when times call for making something happen to get close to a gobbler. For those times when birds are with hens, or later in the day when gobbling activity may slow, a strategy like run & gun allows you to cover ground and find a receptive bird to work. Basically, start by making some calls with a box or slate call to project sound as far as you can. Keep moving until you get a response then once you do, estimate the distance and try to close it even more without spooking him. Resist the urge to over call once you find a gobbler. Often if you close the distance enough, you can setup and let him come to you. Additional calling may spook a call shy bird or one that is less vocal for whatever reason.

 

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When you are run & gun turkey hunting, a seat cushion is by far the best turkey hunting seat to use. It is lightweight and compact enough to stow in your vest or pack and easy enough to throw down quickly when you run into a gobbler.

 

Sit & Wait Turkey Hunting

This low impact approach to hunting turkeys has been an effective technique year after year. Whether birds are gobbling or are silent with hens, eventually if you sit and wait in a good spot for turkeys they will come in. Pressured birds, especially older ones and those on public land, get smart fast. Sometimes they can be vocal all day and other times you may not hear a peep. Times when you have to wait them out or know there are turkeys around but they are not talking require a comfortable seat. To minimize movement and increase your comfort, lounge chairs work best for this style of hunting turkeys. Choose a standard height chair if you are going to be hunting from a ground blind, but most turkey hunters who will be in pursuit on the ground should use a low profile turkey hunting chair. You may have to put up with the extra weight for your hike in and out but since you will be stationary most of the day, its comfort beats out seat cushions and platform seats when it comes to sit & wait turkey hunting.

 

Portable hunting seats matter and can make the difference depending on the type of hunting strategies you are deploying this spring. If you know you will be running and gunning all day then the choice is simple, a seat cushion will be more than enough. However, if you are going to be set up waiting on birds, a lounge chair is going to probably be your best bet. When it comes to ground seats for turkey hunting, remember the type and function of each seat matters as you chase down spring gobblers.

ground blinds

Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds | What Makes A Good Blind?

Considerations for Good Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds

 

The warm spell the country is currently experiencing makes it feel more like April than about a month before the official first day of spring! A false sense of spring is the perfect time to consider what this spring gobbler season may look like. One consideration is will this year be the year to start using ground blinds for turkey hunting?

 

Reasons Why Ground Blinds Make Sense for Turkey Hunting

 

Hunting turkeys from a ground blind are effective because a blind offers many advantages that allow you to get close to birds. Unlike deer hunting where scent control is typically your biggest challenge, movement when turkey hunting is what gets you busted time and time again. A portable turkey blind conceals movement, provides more comfort and opens up more opportunities in spring turkey season.

 

The two best reasons for using a pop-up turkey blind this spring are the concealment and comfort they provide. As opposed to sitting on the ground, hunting turkeys from a blind hides almost all movements you may make during those critical moments when a long beard is approaching. Rarely does a gobbler come in perfect, which means you will need to probably make several last second position adjustments. Hunting blinds conceal movements allowing you to move when birds are close with the confidence they will not spook unlike when hunting on the ground where even the slightest movement can alert a gobbler.

 

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In conjunction with being able to move more when hunting turkeys from a ground blind, a blind also makes for a more comfortable hunting experience. We are all familiar with birds coming in silent so when on the ground you really cannot move much at any time when hunting turkeys. In the blind, however, you are free to reposition your legs and stay comfortable the entire day. Ground blind accessories such as seats and gun rests can be added to increase comfort while hunting, making them ideal when hunting with kids or rookie turkey hunters.

 

Another important aspect of using ground blinds for turkeys is the fact that ground blinds can “make” a hunting area on both private and public land. For example, long beards may be working a particular area but that area may not have sufficient places to set up at. A blind can be used to ambush birds and create a concealed turkey hunting setup, right where the birds are.

 

What Makes a Good Ground Blind for Turkeys?

There are several characteristics that make a good blind for turkeys. These are things you want to look for if you are considering purchasing a ground blind for the first time or are looking to upgrade to a new turkey hunting blind.

 

The best hunting blinds have good windows. Of course, all blinds have some form of windows, without them would make it difficult to hunt otherwise, but good windows relate to the number and type the blind has. Good ground blinds have multiple windows on each side of the blind to give you different angles to shoot incoming birds, especially important when a bird may come in unannounced. Windows that are various sizes and shapes, such as diamond and triangle shape, give you greater ability to shoot from. Larger windows are good for those who are archery hunting from blinds for turkeys and also make it easier for kids to be able to see and shoot from.

 

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Another factor in a good portable turkey blind is weight. No doubt blinds are large and heavy to carry compared to the equipment you need for hunting on the ground but some are lighter and more compact than others. These are the best ground blinds for hunting. With deer hunting, a larger blind is fine because you are typically set up in an area (food source, trail, etc.) and probably do not need to move the blind often. However, turkeys can be in one area today and another tomorrow so having a lighter, more compact blind lets you easily move it several times a day if needed with ease.

 

Additionally, ground blinds that are built tough are a must. Again, you are most likely going to be moving your turkey hunting blind setups at least several times this spring so you want a blind that can take repeated put up and tear down without fault. Look for a blind made of high-quality fabrics that increase their longevity and shed weather well. Also, blinds with rugged zippers make for continued smooth operation and will keep windows and doors working day after day and season after season.

 

Features to Look for in Ground Blinds for Turkey Hunting

 

Along with the factors that make a pop-up turkey blind, there are a few features to look for when buying a blind for turkeys. First and foremost consider the camo pattern. Most blinds feature camo fabric to make them blend into the environment, but the camo can vary and should be considered based on where you are hunting turkeys.

 

  • Eastern birds in the early part of the season will be hunted before leaf out so camo patterns that have more grays and lighter tones are better to blend the blind into the natural environment. As the season progresses into late May, more vegetation and thus more greens in the camo is important.

 

  • Southern birds will have more vegetation present so ground blinds with more greens and vegetation contrasts will prove effective in matching to the habitats your hunting these turkeys in.

 

  • Hunting western turkeys in the spring from a blind should have tans, grays, and greens mixed in the camo pattern to match mountainous terrain coupled with conifer vegetation.

 

Ground blinds are different than clothing in that there are significantly less camo pattern options available, which leave few choices to match your hunting area like discussed above. The solution is to pick one as close to your environment but also add vegetation and debris to it to enhance its concealment specific to your location.

 

To do this, some blinds have added straps along the sides and on top of the blind. These straps are a feature to provide a means to attach vegetation to make it blend in better. So, for example, you may have a leafy camo pattern on your blind in the early spring season in the northeast but you can add branches and other natural structures using the straps to break up the blind better.

 

Finally, with hunting turkeys in spring, the weather can be unpredictable. Spring winds and rains can come at any day. The nice part of a portable turkey blind is that they keep you protected from the weather but you need good stakes, and plenty of them, with your blind to make sure you can secure it from high winds and weather. Blinds with “cheap” stakes can have your blind blown over and damaged in these spring weather conditions.

 

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If you have not hunted turkeys from ground blinds before or are looking to upgrade your existing blind, there are several good reasons to buy one now. Look for certain characteristics that make for a good turkey hunting blind along with extra features that will improve your spring gobbler season this year.

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How Shed Antlers Can Help You Next Year

The Search for Shed Antlers and the Stories They Tell

 

It’s that time of the year again. Shed hunting season may have made its arrival unnoticed to some, but it hasn’t escaped our attention. Far from it. When you’re a deer hunter in February and you’re already looking forward to opening day of archery season, it’s usually the perfect shot in the arm to limp us along and fuel our passion. Looking for shed antlers can be a very time-consuming and frustrating hobby, but it can also be an extremely fun and addicting one. Fortunately, shed hunting has other benefits beyond the possible promise of finding a nice shed antler for your collection in the living room. You can also learn a lot about the woods and become a better hunter in the process. We’ll look at a few ways you can improve in the shed hunting 2017 season.

 

But first, what is it about shed antlers that captivate us so much? After all, they’re really just bones at the end of the day. There seems to be something special about their shape and texture that capture our imagination. It blows our minds that something so beautiful could be formed randomly on the head of an animal through the deer antler cycle and then be simply discarded one day. Maybe it’s because they can be so hard to find sometimes; rodents and other people love them. Their scarcity makes them valuable to us. Private landowners who have had a history with a certain buck over a few years tend to get really obsessive over finding the matching set every year. It’s no wonder why they love to collect them. Yet those who primarily use public hunting land and have never seen a buck or have any history of the property are just as happy finding a shed. No matter what your circumstances, finding shed antlers is a lot of fun.

How Does Looking for Shed Antlers Help You?

But there’s more to shed hunting trips than actually finding antlers. A day in the field or woods is always a chance to learn something new. It doesn’t matter if you’re a brand new hunter or a seasoned veteran; there are always new things to learn. Here are a few ways that shed hunting can make you a better hunter before next year swings back around again.

 

First and foremost, hunting for shed antlers is basically just another way to do some post-season scouting. Without the fear of bumping deer, you can wander wherever your heart desires. Do you have an area you usually stay out of so you don’t bother the deer there? That spot is now fair game to look for shed antlers right now. The winter conditions also make it possible to explore some typically unreachable areas, such as swamps and bogs, which usually end up being great winter cover for whitetails. During your hike, take note of any prominent areas you’d like to keep in mind for next hunting season. For example, you might find a remote clearing the deer like to congregate in that you never knew was there. Or if you notice lots of deer trails converging on a single field access, you might want to hang your Guardian XL ladder stand there next summer. It’s big enough to easily handle two people, which is great for taking your child along.

 

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Second, shed hunting can be a lot of work. On heavily pressured public lands, you might walk for hundreds of acres and never find a pair of whitetail deer antlers. The odds can be increased on private land where you can control the habitat and who accesses it at what times, but it’s still a lot of walking. This is good because it challenges your body to keep up with the rigors of navigating the woods. We have a tendency once deer season closes to relax at home instead of continuing to explore the forest. This makes it harder to get going again the next year when hunting season begins. If you continue that trend for several years, you’ll be in much worse shape than you should be. This is one way to reverse that trend.

 

Finally, spending time in the woods is the best way to become a better outdoors person. The more time you spend in it, the more you will learn about wild animals and their habits and habitats. When you learn more about your prey animal, it’s easier to hunt them because you know what they need and where they like to live out their lives. Finding deer sign and knowing how to interpret it is easier too. This really pays off when you’re carrying your tree stand in to hunt and need to make a quick decision. The Boss Lite is a great fixed position tree stand that you can use on those kinds of hunts.

 

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How to Find Shed Antlers

 

While it’s true that shed hunting can be a lot of work, there are ways you can go about it more intelligently and successfully. Here are a few shed hunting tips for you to have a higher success rate this winter.

 

Before you head to any public property, make sure you know the shed hunting laws in your area. Most public lands allow you to collect shed antlers, but there are a few places that may not, such as scientific and natural areas or wildlife preserves. Luckily, the process of finding a shed is very simple (in theory). You just need to pick an area and walk around with a keen eye to the ground. Don’t forget to look up every once in a while though to scan the woods around you. If you focus on the ground too much, you might walk right by a shed laying only ten feet away.

 

Finding shed antlers consistently is all about timing and location. If you can hit the magical combination of the two, you shouldn’t have any problem finding at least a few antlers. If you miss one of these two, you might get lucky occasionally. But if you miss both, well, at least you’re learning more about the woods and becoming a better hunter, right?

 

Where to Find Deer Sheds

Start your search by focusing on location. Deer stay bedded for most of the day in the winter, which conserves their energy and keeps them from exposing their bodies to the weather. In very tough winter conditions, deer typically seek out bedding areas with thick thermal cover to protect them from icy cold winds. This cover is usually in the form of conifer plantations with plenty of low-growing branches (i.e., spruce is better than pine), dense young forest regeneration, or dense herbaceous areas (e.g., cattail swamps, switchgrass plantings, etc.). If you can find an area like that with a sunny southern exposure, you stand an excellent chance at finding some shed antlers. Field edges are another common bedding area and a great place to look for sheds. In fact, bedding areas are probably one of the best places to find shed antlers, period.

 

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Of course, deer also spend a good chunk of their day feeding, which is why it’s one of the other best places to shed hunt. There likely won’t be many food plots available, unless you keep some uncut standing corn or beans for the deer. More likely, deer will feed on browse to get them through the winter. If there is a young forest regeneration area (i.e., recent clear-cut), there will be loads of young browse species for deer to feast on. Additionally, there will be lots of thick branch tangles to potentially pull antlers loose as they feed.

 

You will occasionally find a shed antler along a trail between a bedding area and feeding area, but there usually needs to be a cause for it. For example, when deer have to jump up and over a log, the landing force can sometimes rattle an antler loose. Pay special attention to obstacles along deer trails for that reason. But use trails more as a method to get from the bedding area to the feeding area and vice versa.

 

When to Shed Hunt

The second prong to the shed hunting approach is timing. Unfortunately, when to go shed hunting is a much trickier variable to peg down because it varies with your area of the country. Shed hunting in Minnesota, for example, will usually take place during a very different time than Georgia. It all depends on the local conditions and the environmental stresses that deer feel, which all influence when they drop their antlers. Across the country, prime shed hunting times will generally start around mid-January and continue through the end of February, though they can be much earlier or later than that. Because of that variability, the best time for shed hunting is whenever you can spare the time. If it overlaps with the ideal timeframe above, that’s even better.

 

The Real Purpose of Antler Hunting

Finding shed antlers definitely takes some hard work and determination. You might get lucky a few times, but more often than not, it just takes a lot of miles walked to find them. But even if you don’t find one, don’t get discouraged by it. The reality is that you won’t find them all that often. They’re kind of rare, remember? As we started the article with, the overall point of shed hunting is not to amass a crazy wall full of sheds. It’s to get outside and learn a new thing or two about the world we miss as hunters once hunting season closes. We can always improve the world we miss as hunters once hunting season closes. We can always improve the way we hunt in some way or another. Shed hunting is the solution you’re looking for.

public land hunting

How to Find Worthwhile Public Hunting Land

Public Hunting Land | Branching Out to New Areas

 

You might be blessed to hunt on private land of one type or another. Maybe it’s been in your family for generations. Maybe you worked your butt off to buy or lease a prime whitetail property with food plots. Or maybe you just know a guy who got you access for a free hunt on some land down the road. Any way you slice it, there are some great advantages to having a piece of property to yourself. But there are also some amazing opportunities and benefits from public hunting land. In fact, they might just stack up to tilt the favor away from private land.

 

First, there is literally so much public hunting land out there across our great country that it would be darn difficult to ever hunt it all. Granted, some states are better positioned for it than others, but there’s a lot out there. It’s basically free to use, so you never have to worry about missing a loan payment. Technically, your tax money helps purchase and maintain some of these areas, so why not use them? Many public lands include some truly scenic and amazing areas too. And as nice as it is to manage private land, it can sometimes get a little too routine. You fall into the same procedure every hunt, which doesn’t push you to grow your skills. With public properties, you can switch it up every day and stay fresh all hunting season. Trying new areas challenges you as a hunter, helps build your outdoor skills, and kicks tree stand boredom out the window.

 

But it can definitely be intimidating when you start your search. Luckily, it’s really never been easier for someone to quickly locate several great hunting spots from the comfort of their own home. Sure, some actual boots on the ground will be the only way to really know you want to hunt somewhere. But before all that, nimble up those fingers and start searching for some amazing public hunting land near you.

 

The Search for Public Land

 

The easiest way to start is to simply open up whatever search engine you want and type in “public hunting land in MN” or whatever state you live in. Alternatively search for “state hunting land near me” or “public hunting grounds near me” for a long list of properties. In Minnesota alone, for example, you’ll find county land, state forests, miscellaneous state hunting land, state trust lands, wildlife management areas (WMAs), waterfowl production areas (WPAs), industrial forest lands, national forests, and the list goes on. Usually, your state wildlife agency website will be a good resource for locating public hunting land. But if you’d prefer the old-fashioned way, call up a local office and ask them about public opportunities near you. Most of them will be happy to share, and they may already have a public hunting land map for you. As a last resort, whip out some county plat books and keep your eyes open for any of the property types mentioned above.

Don’t forget to look at surrounding properties and access to the public hunting land. After all, some portions of a particular unit may be land-locked by private property or require a very lengthy walk/ATV ride through a swamp to get to it. This is especially important if you primarily use ladder stands, as some public lands do not allow tree stands to be left on the property overnight. In that case, you’d need to take some fixed position stands or climbers with you that you can set up and take down in a day. The Blackhawk is a great option for strict public lands because it is very light, even when combined with the Quick-Stick climbing system.

 

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After finding a few potential places, it’s time to get some more information about them and develop a short list for hunting. Typically, there will be some kind of web page devoted to most of the common public hunting lands above, which will provide some more details about the terrain, land cover, wildlife present, or access. After weeding out a few more options, it’s time for some desktop scouting.

 

Scouting for Deer…with Your Computer

 

If you don’t already use Google Earth® for hunting, you really need to be. It is such a powerful tool for quickly looking at cover types, saving tree stand locations or trails, and even keeping track of past hunting activity throughout the years. In some cases, you can also search online for “land ownership Google Earth” to find county-specific ownership layers that you can import into the program, which makes the whole process even easier. Anyway, open it up and zoom to the location of the public hunting land you’re interested in. From here, it’s time to pan around and zoom in and out to get a feel for the property. If it passes this test, it’s probably worth investigating in-person.

 

As far as things to look for, think about what you would look for on a scouting trip. Thick cover, bedding areas, food sources, water, travel routes, funnels/pinch points, and tree stand locations are all things you should be able to estimate from this aerial research. If you find that you can’t really tell from the aerial imagery, there is a way to also view historic imagery, which might offer a better view. For example, your current imagery might have been taken in summer and everything appears to only be a different shade of green. But using the historic imagery slider, you can toggle back until you find one that was taken in fall or winter. During those times of the year, the leaves are gone and you can see specific tree species really easily, not to mention bedding areas and funnels in much crisper detail. You can even see deer trails through cattail swamps with these images!

 

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Now here’s where it gets really exciting. You can create polygons of spots you expect to be good bedding areas, save lines for potential access trails, or make points for good tree stand locations. By saving these spots on your custom public land map, you can print it and bring it with you to the woods when you decide to ground truth it. From there, you can easily cross things off the map if they don’t look like you envisioned, or draw additional points and notes to record later back in the program. This makes it such a powerful tool for any deer hunter.

 

Make the best use of this winter by starting your scouting for new public hunting land right now. It’s never a bad thing to have too many properties you can hunt on a given day; unless of course you find perfect tree stand spots for each one. But that’s a pretty good problem to have, don’t you think?

post season scouting

Making the Most of a Post Season Scouting Trip

Post Season Scouting for Whitetails

All the snow lately has probably got you thinking about one thing: how much you miss fall. Not just the amazing weather and sights of fall itself, but deer hunting too. Fortunately, hunting doesn’t have to end when deer hunting season ends (we’re not talking about poaching either). You can continue your pursuit to become a better hunter throughout the year, and there’s no better time than now for a post season scouting trip. If you’ve ever wondered when to start scouting for deer, you can start immediately after the season closes! Most people don’t think about scouting for deer in December or January, because it’s either too cold or they don’t see the benefit of it. But it’s really an ideal time to wander the woods and learn more about the animal you obsess about during the fall. Plus, it’s some good exercise to keep the holiday treats from sticking to your gut too much.

 

Why Post Season Scouting?

Scouting is one of those deer hunting 101 skills, and every hunter should be doing it to maximize their success rate. Similar to pre-season scouting, you can learn a great deal about the woods and whitetails to help you during your next hunt even if you’re scouting after the season ends. When used in combination with scouting before deer season, however, you can double your knowledge. Pre-season deer will have different movement patterns and behaviors than post season deer. So you should ideally combine these experiences to find the average behavior for your hunting area, and know where to target them as they transition throughout the season.

 

Another nice thing about post season scouting is that you really can’t do any harm from spooking deer. During the pre-season, it’s usually good to sneak around without disturbing bedding areas or alerting deer that you’re there. If you run into a bedded buck, you might hurt your chances at hunting him that season. But you don’t need to worry about that for post season deer. If you jump them from their beds, they’ll run away and have 8 to 9 months to recover from it before you would possibly be able to hunt them again. So feel free to tromp wherever you want.

 

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Finally, the post season is a good time to scout because you can find out where the deer have been gathering in the last couple weeks of the season. Especially if there’s snow on the ground, you can easily see where they’ve been feeding, traveling, and bedding in your area. The frozen ground even allows you to inspect some swampy areas where reclusive bucks might hide out during the season. This allows you to set up predictive tree stands next year in the right spots without having to do much more than a quick reconnaissance scouting trip in the fall. The Big Game Tree Stands® Boss Lite fixed position stand is perfect for quickly hanging on one of those trips next fall. This time of year is a good one for clearing new trails or shooting lanes too, since there aren’t any bugs and the temperatures are cool.

 

Planning a Post Season Scouting Trip

You have a few options to plan out your scouting trip. You can either use your time to inspect your usual hunting spots and further pinpoint where the deer activity is. Or you could also try a new hunting area you haven’t been to before, to get a feel for the land and check for deer sign there. If you’ve got lots of time, you could easily check out several areas. Plan on a weekend for thoroughly walking a few hundred acres during one of these trips. You can obviously get by with less than a weekend. But if you find yourself crunched for time, you’re not likely to inspect every deer trail you come across that could lead you to a hidden oasis.

 

Many hunters wonder how to find a good hunting spot on public land, and assume it will takes miles of walking to figure this out. While you do need to walk a bit to confirm things, you should always start your post season scouting with some desktop research before you leave for the woods. You can use any kind of aerial maps for deer hunting purposes as long as you can see satellite imagery and zoom in fairly close. Use them to glance through your hunting area, looking specifically for areas you’d like to target. Identify the food sources and bedding areas you know about, and then locate likely travel routes between them, knowing that mature bucks will often take a very meandering route to stay out of sight. If it’s a completely new area you’re looking at, make your best guess at these spots. Some promising areas to look for include recent clearcuts, agricultural fields, small woodland openings, dense brushy riversides, or thick conifer stands.

 

As far as logistics for one of these post season scouting trips, you should pack light and wear lighter clothing than you think you might need for cold weather. You’ll be very active beating the brush throughout the day, so wearing layers of performance clothing can make a big difference in staying comfortable. You don’t want to sweat, so peel off layers or slow down if you find yourself perspiring too much. You may want to pack along an extra insulation layer or wind-breaking shell jacket in case you get stuck somewhere you don’t intend. If there’s a lot of snow, plan on using gaiters or snowshoes to make the experience more pleasant and keep your feet dry.

 

Otherwise, pack some water and a lunch to keep your energy and hydration up throughout the day. If you haven’t pulled your tree stands down for the season, now is a good time to do it before winter really sets in. If you have lock on stands, make sure you can carry them out with your extra gear. If you mostly have ladder stands, however, you’re going to need to recruit some help to haul them out. Toss a notebook, map, and compass in your bag too so you can record your thoughts and not get lost. It’s also always good to carry along some basic tools, especially if you plan on doing any habitat work. You can easily pack a serrated hand saw or some ratchet shears should you need them.

 

The only caution with post season scouting is to not wait too long. As winter really grabs hold, the temperatures plummet and the snow piles up. Whitetails in many areas tend to migrate to better wintering areas, called deer yards, where there is food nearby and thick cover to protect them from winter winds. Whether they migrate near or far, their patterns will be different. Step into a cedar forest in mid-winter, and it will look like there are hundreds of deer per acre. But the same hot spot will likely be pretty barren during early season deer hunting. The point behind post season scouting is to catch deer patterns while they’re still applicable to hunting season.

 

Where and What to Look For

 

If you’re still wondering exactly how to scout for deer in the winter, you should start with some high percentage spots to make the rest of the trip successful. As we mentioned above, food sources and bedding areas are great places to start your deer scouting. A whitetail’s world this time of year revolves around these two things. If you’re not sure about where these spots might be or don’t know how to find deer in the woods, start wandering some ATV/snowmobile trails until you cut a track. Either way, you should start looking for deer trails entering and leaving the areas above or crossing the trail. After finding some with buck tracks in them, start the tracking process. If you don’t know how to track a deer for a few hundred yards, you really need to try it. You can discover all kinds of interesting things about deer behavior by learning where they go, what they stop to look at, what trees they browse on, etc. Very often, they will take strange routes that lead you to a new area you wouldn’t expect them to bed, which is great information for next year. Patterning big woods bucks can be challenging, given the vast acreage involved and seeming lack of food. But that’s when following a buck’s trail really pays off. Use your journal and map to record notes on what you find and where you find it.

 

The really critical thing you should look for on one of these post season scouting missions is a good-sized travel corridor you could set a tree stand in. The best tree stand placement for most of the deer season will be concealed along a deer trail. If you’ve been puzzled with how to find a good deer hunting spot before, simply keep an eye out for other deer sign and pinch points as you track your deer from food to bed or vice versa. Finding deep woods bucks is easier when you can see their large tracks in the snow. If you see a history of rubs on the trees along a buck trail, it’s likely that this buck or others have used the same route before. If at any point the trail gets narrow against an opening, a fence line, or a brushy point, you might have found a good place for a tree stand. Particularly if there are mature trees with good cover (e.g., big conifers, oaks, maples, etc.), you should record the spot as a place to re-visit next fall with a trail camera. That way, you can analyze what kind of deer movement is still there next year before you hunt it.

 

Miscellaneous Work

While you’re out post season scouting, you should also keep an eye out for other work you could get finished. For example, if you feel confident you have found one of your new deer hunting spots and will put up a tree stand in a the area next fall, grab those ratchet shears and saw and start pruning out an access trail and shooting lanes to save on the work you’ll have to do next year. It will grow in quite a bit throughout the summer, but there shouldn’t be anything heavy in your way to slow you down. That’s good since you want to remain discreet in the fall and make as little a disturbance as possible. Depending on where you hunt, deer can get spooked by fresh cut trees in the fall.

 

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If you’re on private land where you are allowed to cut even more, you may want to consider doing some quick and dirty timber stand improvement to see more deer while hunting. If the property you’re on is lacking in quality winter cover (i.e., consists of mostly mature trees), you may want to consider doing a few quick hinge cuts. Hinge cutting is best done on trees that are 6 to 7 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh). If they are larger than that, you’ll reduce the chance of it hinging properly and make it unsafe to do too. Use your serrated saw to cut halfway through the tree trunk on the opposite side of whichever direction you want it to fall. Gently guide it down as best you can so that it doesn’t break off from the base of the tree. This remaining connection will provide some water and nutrients to the tree top for another year or two, which will keep it alive and producing buds and leaves. Treetops make excellent deer browse in the winter, because the buds and smaller twigs are much softer and more nutritious than coarse, woody growth below. Cutting a tree along a trail produces more food for them as they walk between food and cover, which may even stall them long enough for a shot next fall. But it also helps them this winter by providing some easy-to-reach food and cover. Some good trees to try hinge cutting include maples, basswood, aspens, and beech.

 

Don’t Miss Post Season Scouting

This year, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make next deer season more successful. Post season scouting is a good way to spend a winter day, even if you don’t find the perfect spot to hang a tree stand. Use these deer scouting tips to check out some new areas or learn more about your property. Getting back out in nature for a while to explore the woods is never a waste of time.

game processing

DIY Game Processing Tools to Save Money

This is How to Do Your Own Game Processing

 

We get it. It’s so much easier to just drop a deer off at a butcher to take care of your game processing for you. We’re all strapped for time, especially during deer hunting season. But do you really know you’re getting your own venison back? This is not to discredit the butcher business because there are some great and reputable local deer butchers near everyone. But there are also some individuals who might just toss all the meat processing together with the next guy who gut shot his deer and let it sit for days before bringing it in. If you really care about the meat you actually harvested from the deer, it’s so much better and fulfilling to do your own game processing at home.

 

Plus, it ultimately makes far more sense financially to do it yourself instead of bringing it to someone else. The average price of processing a deer fully (including skinning, butchering, and packaging) is about $75 to $100 per deer. If you save the money you would spend on processing two deer, that’s enough to buy all these game processing tools easily. And if you really think about it, every two deer after that is like a free tree stand. If that doesn’t convince you, what will?

 

Good Game Processing Starts in the Field

 

As with anything, the more care you invest in the front-end of butchering a deer, the better the meat will turn out. A poorly cared for deer will yield some off-tasting venison, and it all starts in the tree stand. Whether you recently tagged a doe for the freezer or you’re chasing a post-rut buck right now, making a good shot is critical to not spoil the meat. A gut-shot deer will often take hours to expire, and some unpleasant things can happen during that time. Stomach content can spread throughout the body cavity, which can then spread further once you field dress them and taint the meat. It’s obvious, but you need to make the best shot you can by practicing and being proficient with whatever weapon you’re using, and being very careful about field dressing a deer. Dragging your deer across the ground can also impact the meat slightly. If possible, place them into a sled or carry the carcass as much as possible.

 

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Another huge consideration is the temperature. If you’re hunting the late season where the temperatures are below freezing, you don’t need to worry. But if it’s an early season hunt or you’re down south, you need to move quickly after shooting. Field dress the animal as quickly as you can and spread the rib cage apart to start cooling the chest cavity. If it’s above 60 degrees, you should skin the deer as soon as possible. The hide really insulates the meat well and can cause some spoilage if not taken care of quickly. Before you do that, you might want to hang the deer on a dial scale to see its field dressed weight.

 

Once you get your deer back home or to your camp, you should skin the deer if you haven’t already. This is made easier with the Magnum Lift System, which allows you to easily hoist even the heaviest deer up to eye level instead of straining your back to bend over. Insert the heavy-duty gambrel into the deer’s hind legs and start lifting it up. Starting at the 3whind legs, slowly remove the hide by peeling and making select cuts where it gets stuck. Skinning a deer that has been recently killed is easy, but one that has aged a few days or been frozen will require a little more effort. The skinning tool makes it a non-issue with powerful teeth that grip the hide.

 

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How to Quarter a Deer

 

Once the carcass is bare, it’s time to start quartering it up into basic pieces. You don’t need a lot of fancy game processing equipment or accessories either; simply gather some knives, a sharpener, a cutting board, and some butcher paper.

 

If the deer is still up on the lift system, start by removing the backstraps and tenderloins. These are the choicest cuts on a deer, by most hunters’ estimates. The tenderloins are located on the inside of the cavity beneath the spine towards the hips. They are 8 to 12 inches long and should pull out with some minor cutting on each edge. The back straps are located along each edge of the spine sitting on top of the ribs. Start your cut down each side of the spine from neck to rump. Then make a cut perpendicular to the spine near the neck to start it. Slowly work your way down the spine, cutting in small increments. Eventually, the muscle will start to pull away on its own with some minor cutting. Continue all the way down to the rump area. These two back straps are very versatile (and delicious) later on.

 

Next, move onto the front legs. Use a sharp set of meat processing knives and cut under the armpit area towards the spine, following the rib cage. They are only connected via muscle tissue, so they will come off easily. Use a hack saw to remove the lower leg. Place each front leg on a table lined with some butcher paper. Then work on the neck meat by basically unwrapping it from the spine.

 

Now it’s time to remove the rear legs. Basically fold them backward and start cutting the meat until you expose the ball and socket hip joint. Pop it out of place and continue cutting the meat until it separates from the pelvis. Again, saw the lower leg off. At this point, you could also remove the ribs from a fresh deer and pick away here and there. But it’s mostly ready for final processing.

 

The Nitty Gritty of Game Processing

 

Now you should be able to take the quartered pieces and start turning it into real cuts of meat for eating. The easiest way to do this is to refer to a good deer processing chart, which will show you where to get each cut of meat from the deer. For each cut, take the time you need to really trim the silver skin membrane and sinew from every piece, which will really enhance the quality of the meat. Basically, you will get a few roasts from the hind legs and potentially the front shoulder or neck. You can leave the back straps whole to roast or smoke, or cut them into thick steaks for grilling. You’ll get a lot of steaks from the hind quarters too. Most of the remaining meat can be ground for hamburger, sausage, or jerky. This might seem a little picky, but you really can’t mess anything up. If you accidentally cut up a roast, you’ll have more steaks and will learn for next time. If you really like sausage, you could grind every scrap on the carcass using simple home meat processing equipment. As long as you’ll eat it, it’s a good deer processing option.

 

There’s really no wrong way to do your own game processing as long as you keep quality meat at the front of your mind and spend a little extra time on it. The satisfaction of eating a meal you killed and processed yourself is well worth the effort involved.

post-rut-stand-locations | Big Game Treestands

Post Rut Whitetails | Switching Up Stand Locations

Post Rut Deer Hunting | Stand Locations

No question the rut is an exciting time to be in the deer stand.  There is not a better time to put a big mature whitetail on the ground than during the months of late October and early November.  Although many whitetail hunters will experience the thrill of punching tag on a November whitetail, the rut is anything but a guarantee.  So what do you do when things don’t play out the way you had hoped, and you find yourself staring the end of the rut directly in the face?  The answer is simple; you gear up for post rut whitetails!

There are those who say that whitetail hunting simply doesn’t get any better than during sweet November, however, there are a growing number of whitetail hunters that are beginning to see the advantages of hunting mature whitetail bucks during the post-rut, and on into the late season.  Many appreciate the new set of challenges that come with hunting and harvesting a post-rut whitetail buck, while others really enjoy hunting whitetail deer during the frigid, late season cold when there is a several inches of fresh white snow on the ground.  One thing is for certain, hunting post rut and/or late season whitetail deer is certainly different than chasing them during the rut.

So What’s the Difference?

One of the most exciting aspects of hunting a mature whitetail buck is simply seeing how their patterns and focus change over the course of the fall.  From the early season where bucks can sometimes tend to still be in their bachelor groups, keying in on early season forages all the way through the rut and into the post rut.  For many that are what makes whitetail deer so exciting to chase, you have to stay abreast of what the deer are doing and adjust your hunting strategies accordingly.

So, to effectively hunt and harvest a post-rut whitetail buck you need to first understand what is going on in the world of the deer during this time.  First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that the process of going through the rut is very hard on both bucks and does (albeit a little harder on the buck) and both handle the adversity in a little different way, moving into the post rut.  During the post rut, does tend to become solitary, though sometimes last year’s fawn will still be close by, by the time the rut rolls around they have generally run last year fawns off and are solely focused on breeding.  Once bred, the doe will begin to build up her body as best she can in preparation for the winter and to ensure that she is in optimal condition comes spring.

Bucks, on the other hand, will continue to roam the countryside in search of the last remaining doe in estrous that they can find.  Occasionally, does that come into estrous late can sometimes spark what has become known as the “second rut”.  This can be an excellent time to catch a big mature buck on his feet, cruising for does even long after the end of the official rut.  Opportunities like the “second rut” can sometimes come and go quickly, so it is important to keep running your trail cameras throughout the rut and on into the postseason.  This information can give you some insight as to whether you have a hot doe in the area, which can help you determine if you current stand locations are still appropriate or if you need to begin making the change into a post rut/late season hunting strategy.

Second rut aside, during the post-rut whitetail bucks are simply worn down.  They have spent the last four weeks or so roaming the countryside in search of does.  They have expended a vast amount of energy on rutting, fighting, and breeding with very little time spent on resting and foraging.  As the rut ends and the post-rut begins, the buck will still show some interest in sparring and fighting.  Calling techniques such as light rattle and some grunting can still be effective, though you want to be sure to keep in light and infrequent.  As the post rut transition, whitetail deer, and especially bucks will begin to focus on rebuilding their body reserves that have been depleted during the rut.  As a result, hunting food sources can be absolutely stellar during the post rut and on into the late season.

Post Rut Stand Locations

There varying opinions on post rut stand locations, however; there are two areas that have proven to be very effective for putting post rut bucks on the ground year after year after year.  So if you are planning to hit the woods in search of a post rut buck, here are some areas that you may consider moving your Big Game tree stands to.

post-rut-stand-locations | Big Game Treestands

Major Trails, Close to Bedding Areas

When you are talking about a post rut buck, you are talking about an animal that is not going to have a whole lot of energy to spare.  As a matter of fact, a post rut buck is going to look for every opportunity they can to find a secure bedding area that is typically close to a food source such a grain fields or turnip plot.  If you think about it, it only makes sense that in order for a deer to build up a severely depleted reserve of protein and carbohydrates, they would try to be a close as they can safely be to the food source, in order to limit the amount of energy burned in travel from bedding to food.

Though post rut bucks will tend to be very reclusive, they typically will not be too sneaky in terms of using secondary trials to get from point A to point B.  They will choose the path of least resistance in order to conserve energy and rebuild their reserves.  One of the best stand locations that you can have to try to hunt and harvest a post-rut whitetail is along a major trail that is very close to cover or bedding.  These sets can produce excellent results, especially later during the post rut as the weather begins to deteriorate.  These sets, while productive do come with their set of challenges namely the entry and exit for the hunter.  Often, for these sets to be successful the hunter will need to get as close as possible to the buck bedding area.  This can often prove to be very difficult so ensuring that you have effective entry and exit route that you can use relatively noise free is critical.  Likewise, only entering these areas with the proper wind is key to success.  Once you bump a post rut buck, it can sometimes be difficult to locate them again.

Food, Food, and More Food

You have probably sensed that this topic was coming throughout the majority of this article, but the importance of high energy foods to a post-rut whitetail cannot be overstated.  It is something that they absolutely need for survival and is something that they will actively be seeking out once the rut has come to an end.

While the end of the rut will drive whitetails to seek out nutritious forages like corn and soybeans as well as turnips and radishes, the harsh weather conditions of the late season can also drive these deer to key in on these late season food sources.

Hunting food plots or grain fields are excellent options for post rut whitetails, both with archery and firearm equipment.  If you are hunting the wide open expanses of a grain field, where you can see for a great distance, a tower blind or tripod stand can be just what the doctor ordered.  These stands can keep you comfortable and concealed while giving you the ability to see and shoot from a great distance.

If you are planning to take after a post-rut whitetail with archery equipment or you just want to get up close and personal, then a solid hang-on or ladder stand placed close to the main trail into or out of the food plot can be deadly on post rut whitetails.

The number one take home point is that it is important to remember is that a deer’s behavior changes throughout the year. You cannot expect to be successful hunting the same stand that you hunt during the early part of the year during the post rut.  Sure, we all have those go-to spots that produce year after year regardless of the time of year it is, but the need to constantly move your stand locations based on the time of year can often be the missing factor for many hunters, and being reluctant to do so can often result in eat tag soup rather than backstrap.  If you hit the woods in pursuit of post rut whitetails, keep these stand locations in mind and with a little luck, you will punch a tag on a late season bruiser.