No Offseason

No Offseason
There isn't an "offseason" in deer hunting and management. The moment the season ends, the planning for next year begins. Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) is a great way to create high quality deer cover and food. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

As I look out my window today, winter’s firm grasp is obvious. There is snow falling and cold winter winds are howling. It would be easy to stay in by the heat of a wood fire, with a hot cup of coffee and pound away at the keyboard, but there is work to be done. The season ended not but a few weeks ago in my state of Missouri, and already work is underway by thousands of hunters and land managers to ensure that next season will be better than the last.

For the serious deer hunter and manager, the end of hunting season is the start of preparation for next year. Maybe we take a few “down days,” but no serious whitetail hunter is thinking about pulling all their trail cameras the last day of the season. The moment this season ended, many of us were thinking about how we can “do better” next season.

Now as easy as it is to “pass the buck” onto presumed state agency mismanagement or disease outbreaks; we can only control what we are able to influence directly. Yes, we can vote or go to commission hearings, and we can do our part to keep deer densities in check and minimize disease risk areas, like with EHD and mudflats which are breeding grounds for the Culicoides midge that carries the disease. But really we have to evaluate three main areas: habitat management (food plots), hunting strategies and expectations.

Unfortunately, when many of us think about habitat management it mainly means food plots. Though a huge part of the equation in modern deer management, food plots are supplemental sources of nutrition to the number one source – native habitat. Contrary to popular belief, a deer’s diet throughout the year will primarily be composed of native vegetation, regardless of whether you’re in corn country of the Midwest or pine plantations of the Southeast. From greenbrier to wild grape to seedling oaks, deer are constantly browsing to and from their beds. It just so happens we see them feeding the “most” on food plots and crops because that’s where they are most visible. Manage the habitat and manage a deer’s primary food source.


We are all replaying at least one moment in our heads when a hunt didn’t go as planned this season. Maybe it was bumping a buck while walking to a stand, or maybe he always seemed to skirt your spot just out of range. Regardless of the reason, we as hunters must adapt and adjust. Learn from every hunt and experience – positive or negative – and next season is sure to be better than last.


The hardest of the three by far is expectations. Managing your expectations for your state, property or hunt is likely a challenge that is difficult to overcome. The great Aldo Leopold, Father of Wildlife Management, wrote that managing the wildlife was easy; it was managing the people which made the task challenging. He was spot on. Every year I run into hunters who are disappointed because they didn’t see a “Booner” on their hunts. When I ask if they have ever seen one, the answer is usually “No,” but that is a dead end. Not every piece of whitetail ground has the ability to produce giant bucks. Even the great spots run dry after a while. It takes hard work, patience and often luck to consistently see, let alone shoot, big bucks year after year.


As the season fades, a new journey begins, one that could lead to a great 2015. In fact, a single chainsaw cut or prescribed fire lit could generate the biggest buck of your life next season.

Recommended for You

Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Bass

Baitfish for Bass: Search, Suspend or Sink Crankbaits

Jason Houser - May 21, 2019

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish!

Records

State Records Reported in Maryland, Michigan

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

MLF Pro Tips: Go-To Baits for the Spawn

Major League Fishing pros talk about the first lure they choose when targeting spawning bass.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

See More Stories

More Whitetail

Whitetail

Tactical Planning for White-Tailed Deer

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 31, 2019

Intercept wary whitetails by focusing on areas where bucks are, not where they're not.

Other Hunting

The Ozone Factor: Take Control of Your Scent

T.A. Harrison

Looking for the scent-control edge you need to stay one more step ahead of wary whitetails?...

Whitetail

Early Shed Hunting Tactics

Dan Cole - February 26, 2019

February signifies the start of shed hunting season for many whitetail hunters. Here are some...

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×