April showers bring May flowers, it’s true. But what most folks don’t know is that April projects can also bring November bucks. It might not have quite the same ring to it, but it’s equally true. If you’re looking to be a successful whitetail hunter, work must be done all year round. Specifically, projects you can accomplish right now can actually help you have a better chance of tagging a buck this coming fall. So, while I know it may be tempting to lean back and enjoy a relaxing spring, I’d encourage you to saddle up and get working. Here are three such ways you can work now towards November success.
Acquire New Hunting Property Access
Whitetail hunting success can often times be directly attributed to the quality and quantity of hunting property you have access to. Honestly you can never have enough hunting properties, as the more areas you can hunt, the more likely you are to find the honey holes for specific times of the year. That said, early spring is the perfect time to work on acquiring new hunting access. At this time of the year most land owners have not been inundated with other hunters asking for permission, so you can usually avoid the competition and be the first to ask. I’ve also found that land owners sometimes feel a little more comfortable giving permission now, as it doesn’t feel like they just met you today, and will have you trudging back behind their house with a gun the next day.
With all that said, use this time to identify a few new spots you’d like to hunt and then go after them. Use aerial photos, plat maps, and other personal observations to determine which properties have high potential for great hunting. I typically try to put together a list of 5-10 different properties, and then use plat maps and other county resources to get property owner names. The next thing you need to do is simply knock on doors. This can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary evil. Look presentable, be polite and explain to land owners what you’d like to do. Many times you’ll get shot down, but you can just as easily get a yes. You’ll never know unless you try. If asking for permission is out of your comfort zone, you can also use this time to look for leasing or purchasing opportunities.
Now that snow is off the ground, it’s a great time to get out and scout. Many hunters make the mistake of waiting until just before hunting season to do their investigating, but this only pressures deer away from your property or into nocturnal behavior. Doing your scouting now allows you to get away with a lot more activity in heavily used deer areas, and also allows you to better see sign from last year. Specifically at this time of year, I’d recommend you look for several items. First off, if you want to kill bucks in November, you need to keep an eye out for sign from last year’s rut.
Rubs from last fall should be easy to identify, and you can also still see many scrapes from the past year. Use this time to also identify popular travel routes, but note that many “highway” trails are used mostly by does and younger bucks. The mature bucks will typically take less traveled paths that are in thicker cover, or parallel to the “highway”. Spring scouting can also help you identify isolated food sources. We all know that deer will be feeding in cut cornfields, but finding the hidden away apple tree can sometimes be the key to finding that big buck during daylight. Scour your properties for these diamonds in the rough, such as apple trees, pear trees, persimmons, isolated oaks and the like.
Once you’ve gotten access to new properties and have done your scouting, it’s time to hang stands. Again, this is a task that a lot of folks like to save for the weekend before hunting season. Don’t be that guy! You want your stands hung up as early as possible, and then leave your hunting property alone. The longer you stay away from your hunting locations, the better chance you have of seeing deer, especially big deer, in the fall.
As important as all of that is, it’s also great to hang stands now because the woods and trees look just as they will in November. In most states trees still have not fully leaved, so you can hang your stands and see exactly how they will look in the fall. This can help you identify what trees will have enough cover to conceal you, and can also help you know what trees need to be trimmed for shooting lanes, etc.
While whitetail hunting season is still many months away, the work must be done now. Your success in November can be directly tied back to what you get done today, so don’t drop the ball. Work on getting access to new properties, do your scouting and hang your stands. In the theme of spring time sayings, remember that the early bird gets the worm. If you can make sure you’re that early bird working on April projects, your November success can become a reality.