The warm summer months are a lazy time for deer. Food is usually plentiful, and the rut is far from any buck's mind. Summer is a time to gain weight for the fall and avoid mosquitoes. Many deer hunters also enjoy an extended summer vacation, forgetting about chasing bucks until the weather begins to cool.
If you're serious about tagging a big deer, though, the summer is a busy time. There's much to do and you don't want to be caught unaware when the season rolls around. Here's a list of 10 important summer tasks that you need to complete well before opening day of hunting season.
If you wait until the last minute you'll likely find that your procrastination has cost you a chance at a good buck.
So spend a little extra time in the field this summer. When deer season rolls around you'll be well ahead of the crowd.
Sight in Your Bow or Rifle
If you wait until the week before the season to sight in your gun or bow, you'll likely have to wait in line at the shooting range. But if you're serious about making a good, clean shot (and we should all be serious about that) then you need to spend plenty of time tuning your bow or rifle before then.
The long summer days are perfect for getting your weapon in working order, and you want to have plenty of practice time in when you hit the woods. Starting early gives you a chance to find the right load or broadhead/arrow combination, and the range will probably be less crowded.
Talk to Farmers
Very few people have a better understanding of what's going on in your hunting area than local farmers. Since they spend much of the summer planting, spraying, and baling hay, farmers usually have a pretty good idea of what the deer are doing.
They may also know where the big bucks are feeding, which is invaluable intel. In addition, most farmers are bombarded by requests to hunt their land in the late summer and early fall. Getting out early and speaking with the local landowners may help you get a foot in the door.
Set up Trail Cameras
Successful hunters know that keeping track of deer movement is important, and summer is a great time for setting up cameras to collect as many photos as possible. Doing so will give you a better idea of deer movement patterns in the area.
More importantly, you'll have an idea of which deer are utilizing your hunting area as part of their home range. You might be able to intercept a buck early in the season but, just as importantly, if you do your homework you'll figure out the deer's home range and will be close by when the rut is in full swing in late autumn.
Check Your Gear
Many hunters completely forget about checking their gear until the hunting season rolls around, and that can spell trouble. You're going to spend precious time and money at the sporting goods store replenishing supplies during the season if you neglect your field equipment in the summer. The summer months are the perfect time to address any issues, and chances are you'll find there's plenty of work to be done.
There's nothing worse than heading to the woods in the fall only to find out your stand is falling apart and a mouse has a made a nest of your safety harness. That's why it's never a bad idea to actually gear up and head out to your favorite hunting spot in August to check all of your equipment. You can even shoot a few targets from your stand to help improve field accuracy. Also, be sure that your rangefinder has new batteries, and that your hunting knife and broadheads are sharpened.
Clear Travel Paths
Overgrown plants create a major obstacle when you're trying to get to your stand quickly and quietly in the fall. Take some time during the summer to clear an access path to your hunting area, and be sure that you have multiple routes available depending upon the wind conditions.
Nothing ruins an early season hunt like tripping and stumbling to your stand as you cross fallen logs and navigate through forests of honeysuckle and multiflora rose. A clear path allows for a quiet approach.
Pattern the Does
There's an old adage that if you want to find the bucks, follow the does. So don't ignore the lady deer as you scout during the summer months.
Does are often more visible, and their travel patterns remain roughly the same throughout much of the year. If you know where the does are spending their time you'll be in position to intercept a buck when the rut hits later in the year.
Growing up on a farm, I can attest to the fact that most hunters show up only when they want permission to hunt or when the season has actually started. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. But if a landowner has given you permission to hunt, it's a good idea to stop by for a visit in the summer.
Perhaps you can offer to lend them a hand around their property. There's always work that needs to be done on large acreage, and showing up early to help out makes the landowner understand that you do appreciate the fact that they allow you to hunt on their property.
Get in Shape
Most deer hunting isn't particularly demanding, but it's important to be sure that you are in shape for the upcoming season. Spend some time walking and working out so that you don't crumple under the strain of dragging a big buck out of a deep drainage later in the year.
If you are bowhunting, be sure that you are physically capable of drawing and holding your bow. A week before the season starts is too late to make up for a lazy summer.
Plant and Maintain Food Plots
One of the primary duties of land managers in the late spring and summer is establishing food plots. There's much work to be done; soil testing, plowing, planting, fertilizing, mowing and spraying should all be completed in advance of the fall hunting season.
Additionally, it's always a good idea to monitor your food plots for any signs of deer activity. Maintaining your food plot during the summer ensures that your deer will have the nutrients they need to grow big antlers.
Collect and Organize Data
The long summer days are perfect for scouting your hunting area, so spend plenty of time in the woods looking for deer signs. In addition, keep your intel organized so you're in the right spot come fall. I place all my photos from the summer in separate folders on my laptop so I can quickly see which deer are frequenting which cameras.
Keep detailed notes about feeding and movement patterns, and write down any info you glean from landowners. Having all this info in one spot makes it easier to develop a game plan and will up your odds of success in the fall.