Winter Scouting and Preparation
For most hunters, unless we are chasing small game, there is a lull between the end of whitetail deer season and the beginning of turkey season.
Being trapped inside during the winter months, commonly referred to as cabin fever, can definitely drive an outdoorsmen insane.The lack of outdoor activities is at an all-time low during these months and the colder weather usually makes any outdoor activity less enjoyable. On the other hand, there are many activities you can do that will contribute to your hunting and land management success in the upcoming months. Now is the time to start.
Some of the best hunters I have had the privilege of conversing with have had one thing in common: they never stop preparing.
Now is the time of year when deer trails are easily decipherable, due to the lack of foliage. Rubs on trees can easily be spotted from a greater distance than during the summer and are easier to see because they are fresher. Also, scrapes are still visible on the forest floor and have yet to be covered over by the spring green-up. The drop in a buck’s testosterone will be a driving factor that causes them to shed their antlers in a few weeks. Once again, due to the lack of foliage on the forest floor, the antlers can be found much more easily than during the spring and summer. Ideally, you would find the cast antlers before rodents locate them and gnaw the cast bone for their phosphorus and calcium.
January and February are some of the best months to move around tree stands, make minor repairs to farming and food plot equipment, and begin creating a game plan for your management efforts in the spring. By utilizing this time to get a game plan created, you are saving yourself time and money. Plus the cooler weather makes management techniques such as hinge cutting, or cutting new walking paths and trimming shooting lanes much more tolerable. Soil tests can also be conducted, giving you plenty of time to get the results back and choose an applicable seed blend before planting season arrives. For the hunters who lease or hunt land that is granted by permission only, now is the time to knock on doors. The fact that you are locking down a place to hunt deer in the fall, during January and February, shows the landowner that you are responsible and take your hobby serious, more so than the hunter who asks for permission the night before opening day.
Trail cameras aren’t just for deer, therefore they should be used year around in order to assist you in gauging your management efforts. This allows you to spend time outdoors, especially with kids. Even if they are too young to hunt, they can tag along while you check a camera. The information you gain during this time of year will help you figure out what your deer herd needs and what you can do to fix it. For example, if deer are scarce on your property during the winter months, that is an indication that something is lacking. It may be a food source, bedding habitat, or a number of other things. Regardless, now is the best time to figure it out and begin correcting the problem. While our winters aren’t rough enough to cause weather-related causalities, providing the local deer with a food source will only benefit them, even if it is only temporary for trail camera photos. These photos also reveal what deer survived the season. The buck pictured is one of a 2.5 year old that I let walk in November. As you can see on the photo date stamp, I was excited to see that he made it through the season and I hope to see him the near future.
While this can be an incredibly dull time of the year, it can also be used to get ahead on planning, preparing, and managing your property. Wildlife and habitat management is much more than just hunting. This is the time to start anew and kick-start your best hunting season ever.
Andrew Walters is an Edgecombe County native and spends much of his time pursuing wild game and fishing across eastern North Carolina with his family and his fiancé, Noelle. His passion for the outdoors was the driving force that led him to North Carolina State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Science in 2014. He was the President of the NCSU Quality Deer Management Association club and continues to be an avid member of QDMA. After graduating, he earned his real estate license and joined the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms team in Greenville, NC. He is a freelance outdoor writer and has had a number of featured articles in the Wildlife in NC magazine, as well as, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers. Andrew is also a major contributor to the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms weekly blog, the Management Minute. His extensive knowledge of wildlife management coupled with his ability to identify plant and tree species provides him the unique ability to help clients not only identify, but manage their property to maximum potential. Andrew’s enthusiasm and knowledge enables him to properly navigate the channels necessary in “finding your favorite place” outdoors, as well as, developing a wildlife management plan specifically tailored for your piece of ground. Contact Andrew today to find out how he can help you find and manage your next dream property.
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