Anticipating Autumn: Early Deer Season Preparation

Anticipating Autumn: Early Deer Season Preparation
Putting an exclusion cage in a food plot will help you see how much forage is being eaten.

I started whitetail hunting when I was the tender age of five. And I began my fishing career a year or so earlier. So to say I've been a lifelong addict of both woods and water is hardly exaggerating things.

Depending on the time of year, the degree of my interest in one versus the other varies, same as yours. Sure, I'm "mostly" a whitetail guy, but when the trout are rising well to dry flies or the white bass are schooling under birds, I can be drawn to the water without much hesitation. It's all part of being an all-around sportsman, I suppose. And it's part of what keeps things interesting. But it also can cause us to lose track of where we are in our preparations for fall.

With summer rounding into view, we find ourselves pulled in more directions than usual. The time to hunt turkeys, mushrooms and shed antlers has passed, so many will be grabbing their fishing gear and heading for the nearest lake, creek or bay. It might not be summer on the calendar, but with an early stretch of hot weather hitting much of the U.S., a lot of outdoorsmen are about to get their first taste of angling for the year.

But let's not forget there are still plenty of things to be doing on the hunting side. Granted, it's a long time until even the earliest whitetail seasons open, but it's certainly not too early to be getting ready. The most obvious parts of that preparation involve habitat management and off-season shooting.

If your warm-season food plots are up and growing (and nearly all of them are, especially with this early spring), you might want to check to be sure they're progressing as they should. April showers bring more than just May flowers — they also bring weed problems to a lot of food plots. So ask yourself if you need to consider some weed control measures. And if you didn't put at least one exclusion cage in each plot before the growing season began, go ahead and do that. Comparing the growth inside and outside a cage is the most reliable way to figure out how much of the forage you're growing is actually being eaten.

Even if your food plots are doing perfectly well on their own, for sure you'll want to get going with that off-season shooting. For most of us, that means archery. It might seem a very long time until bow season starts, but it really isn't. Before you know it, you'll be climbing into that first tree stand or ground blind of the season . . . and you don't want to find yourself wishing you'd shot more.

Or more realistically. I try to do a good bit of my off-season bow shooting from various positions, including kneeling on the ground or seated on a chair. Not every shot opportunity is textbook, so you want to have tried a range of postures and angles before the moment of truth arrives. It's a confidence builder and could show you subtle adjustments that are necessary for making the big shot when it happens. I even like to wear my early-season hunting garments during such practice.

And if you're one of those folks who travel to Iowa to hunt, or simply want to some day, go online this week and get your  permit application in. The deadline is June 3, and applications are made online. Few whitetail states have lotteries for their permits, but with limited tags available by zone, Iowa is one of them.

My outfitter buddy Aaron Volkmar, who owns Tails of the Hunt in famed Zone 4, notes that even if you're not looking to hunt Iowa this season, if you think you might in the future, you can go ahead and buy a preference point instead of putting in for a permit. The same June 3 deadline applies for that. It takes several preference points to get drawn in some of Iowa's best trophy areas, especially for bow season, so buying a point now could be a wise move.

So as you look for that favorite barbecue recipe and get the boat ready to put in the water this weekend, stop for a moment and ponder the question of whether or not you also need to be getting your deer season in order. Fall just isn't that far off.

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