For most people the summer months are a time to relax and have downtime. For whitetail hunters, it is the exact opposite. For those who eat, sleep, and breathe whitetails the summer is one of the most crucial times of the season. These are the days we spend preparing for those November sits. With that being said during the summer all of the thoughts, what ifs, tasks, and ideas come to life. Utilize these months to make sure you are ready for when that time comes and your face to face with that mature buck.
Summer Checklist for Deer Preseason
Clean & Sharpen Your Knife
Sure, it’s the first thing on our list because we’re passionate about knives, but as hunters, we’ve occasionally forgotten to maintain our blades and paid the price by trying to dress a deer with a less-than-sharp blade. Even the best hunting knives need regular maintenance. It should go without saying that you should clean your knives regularly, but if you’ve been slacking in the offseason, take some time this preseason to clean your blade. Then, check your blade’s sharpness and determine whether it needs a minor touch-up with a honing steel or the full whetstone sharpening treatment.
Set Up & Use Trail Cameras
A trail camera is your best friend & most important tool when it comes to scouting. Let the camera be your eyes and stay out of the woods until season as much as possible. With today's technology utilizing cell cameras is a great way to monitor your hunting area. This keeps you out of the woods until season by getting your pictures sent straight to your phone. Before hanging your camera to the tree check your batteries, SD cards, connection, straps, sun glare, branches, and any error codes that may occur. Hang your cameras on food sources, water, mock scrapes or community scrapes, bedding areas, transitioning points from bedding to food, if your state allows it, feeders and mineral sights.
Establish & Study Food Plots
Before you start planting your plots take the time to understand how deer move, and use resources. A whitetail deer home range is about one square mile, which comes out to be about 640 acres. The home range will depend on three key things, food, water, and bedding. This is where planting the right food plot comes into play. Whitetails are an animal that likes to have diversity in their diet. So take a look around the property you are planting your food plot around. Is there a lot of corn? Beans? Acorns? Clover? For most of us we cannot compete with the famers 1000 acre corn field or bean field. With that being said, giving the deer something different in your plot like Antler King Slam Dunk will provide deer with a variety of seeds that will grow multiple sources of food. Now that you’ve done your homework of surrounding food sources let’s look at the steps to build your food plot.
- Start with a soil test - Determine if the pH levels of the soil are suited for the seed you are planting.
- Killing weeds and existing vegetation - By using a herbicide, kill off the existing vegetation.
- Till the Plot - After about 7-14 days till your plot or if small enough rake your plot. If needed, spay again to get any resprouting weeds.
- Smooth the Soil - Take a cultipack or rake to smooth your seed bed. If you do not have access to those you can use a chain link to drag around your plot.
- Planting - The best time to plant seeds is right before a light rain so watching the weather is crucial. If planting a small plot a hand-cranked spreader is your best friend. Make sure you have the right measurements for the acreage you are planting.
- Covering the seed - After you are done planting cultipack, or drag your soil again to cover up your seed and watch your plot come to life.
Plan Stand Positioning & Set Up Your Stands
Summer is the best time to check those existing stands and blind sights along with hanging new stands. Safety is the most important thing when it comes to hunting. For those existing stands be sure to check your straps and cables that have been exposed to the weather throughout the years. For hanging new stands always have yourself tied to the tree using a linesman rope or harness while climbing the tree hanging your ladder and stand.
Scout & Glass Terrain
DO NOT sit in your stand to scout during the summer months. By sitting in your stand during the summer you are messing up the area you worked so hard to prepare for the season. By using a good pair of binoculars or spotting scope you can watch your hunting area from afar. During the summer bucks are in their bachelor groups and are often out in fields in the afternoons feeding. By glassing summer food sources and transition routes you can start to game plan your early season strategy. You are studying the deer movements and developing that bucks pattern you are wanting to go after once the season rolls around.
Prepare Your Bow
If you're serious about making a good, clean ethical shot (which we all should be serious about) then you need to spend plenty of time shooting your bow, and if you're a gun hunter sighting in your rifle. Summer is the time to make sure your bow is tuned and sighted in. Just like everything else in this world, practice makes perfect. You cannot just pick up your bow the morning of the season and hit the woods. You need to make sure your equipment is functioning properly. This means shooting your bow and practicing for that one moment we wait all year long for. By practicing shooting your bow you create confidence and in this game of cat and mouse confidence is everything when it comes down to that final moment. Deer will rarely ever offer a shot like you practice, standing flat-footed on a perfectly level surface at 20-70 yards, while you’re aiming at a target standing perfectly in place. It is beneficial to practice how you are going to hunt. Taking shots off your deck can help simulate shooting from a tree stand. If you also hunt from a ground blind practice those shots sitting down. With that being said place those targets at different angles to practice those quartering away or quartering to shots. Also place those targets at different distances you will rarely get that perfect 20, 30, 40, or 50-yard shot, so practice shooting those odd distances 22, 38, 43, 57, etc yards. When that moment happens our heart rates are often through the roof as “buck fever” sets in. A great way to duplicate this is before you shoot drop down and do some push-ups, or run a couple sprints to get that heart rate going and control that breathing so when the time comes you can execute on that buck you’ve been after all season long.