I have hunted a piece of land for four years now, and I am still poring over aerial photos leading up to the biggest week of the season.
We can always learn more about the terrain we hunt, even on properties we tend to get comfortable on. In the last eight months, I have pinpointed a few different stand locations and developed different access and exit strategies that I never really thought about before.
It’s part of a reshuffling of the deck for me this season as I try to end a three-year drought of not tagging a buck in Minnesota. Now it is time to see if any of these changes pay off.
I have executed my game plan as well as I could to this point. Essentially, I’ve stayed out of the piece of land where I see the best potential for getting a big buck. That includes to check game cameras. I will gather those photos when I hunt the stands and use them as annual data that can hopefully help me next season.
My goal through mid-October was pretty simple. Don’t screw anything up for late October through Nov. 3 when those bucks stand the best chance of being on their feet more in daylight. I know you can shoot nice bucks in what is considered the October lull, because I have done it. That was on different property, though, where they did not seem to shift their patterns much from where I was hunting. I have had too many fruitless hunts in mid-October on this new property, where it felt like I was doing more harm than good by going in there.
I can’t stay out of the woods completely in September and October, so I have hunted around Alexandria in hopes of filling a bonus tag on a nice doe. No deer yet, but it has been a blast getting out and trying new strategies. I came close on Saturday night to getting my first deer while hunting without a blind from the ground, only to have a couple does slip just out of range.
As for a mature buck, I have not really targeted them to this point. I don’t know if that will make a noticeable difference with more buck sightings, but I had to try something different. Trial and error has made me realize how much I have to pay attention to detail on this land.
One spot in particular has caused me headaches. I know there are deer there, but getting there undetected has taken dissecting every scenario.
I might have finally figured out a solution. It will require me to cross a river, which has higher than normal water levels right now, hours before sunrise, but I have never been more confident in a stand location in these woods.
Somehow, I still lay up at night wondering if I’m overconfident with this location because I’ve been here before. Set stands and thought to myself, ‘This is it. I’ve got them figured out now.’
What I want to do through every failure is learn. Why are deer moving where they are in a particular spot? What are they doing in relation to the wind? How do I get to these spots without bumping deer?
I’ve agonized over aerial photos and run a thousand ideas through my head. Now it’s time to see if that pays off, knowing full well that nothing is guaranteed in the whitetail woods. That’s what makes it exciting, and so rewarding when it comes together.
The right time of year is finally here, and the weather seems to be cooperating. A serious cold front is on its way this week. That times perfectly with the pre-rut phase.
Bucks should be on their feet, and I’m going to be in a stand every chance I get. Good luck to anyone who is doing the same the next couple of weeks.