By Bob Humphrey
Sitting in a tree stand for hours on end gives me ample time to study my surroundings. In so doing I see potential problems. The bough of a nearby fir offers just enough cover to shield a deer passing through a small opening in front of me. A dead tree has fallen across a major trail leading by my stand. And I’ve seen a few deer pass in the distance, just out of range. What is it that makes that place more attractive than where I’ve placed my stand? Maybe it’s the “creak” my stand makes every time I shift my weight.
I’m tempted to do a little trimming, and scouting of the immediate vicinity, but won’t for fear of disturbing the area. The season is rapidly drawing to a close and the deer have already been pressured enough. Instead I make a mental note to deal with these things before next season.
For most folks that means late next summer; but by then things will have changed and memories faded. After the season ends we put away the guns and bows and shift our attention to other things, like snowmobiling, ice fishing, watching football or tying flies. That could be a mistake, because there’s no better time than the present to start getting ready for next fall.
1) Scout - Sign will never be fresher than it is right now. Look for the heaviest trails, the greatest accumulation of fresh droppings over the recently fallen leaves and this year’s scrapes and rubs. In many cases deer will use all of the above again next year, but they’ll be much harder to find in early fall. More importantly, you can travel without fear of disturbing the deer. You might, but by the next time you hunt, they’ll have long forgotten about your intrusion.
2) Trim Shooting Lanes - All the things that could block a potential shot are still fresh in your mind, and most similar to the conditions you’ll be hunting in. Things will look a lot different next summer, when the leaves are on.
There are a couple more advantages to altering the area sooner as opposed to later. The trimmings will be a great source of easily obtainable coarse woody browse, which makes up a big part of a deer’s diet right now. You can also use larger branches and trees you cut to build natural fences or obstructions, making deer go where you want them to. And they’ll have a year to adjust to the new trails you create.
3) Inspect and Repair Existing Stands - Inspect all webbing, straps and ropes for wear. Loosen and re-tighten them and replace where necessary. Attend to all those creaks, pops and dings that have developed over the season. Remove all the padded seats and store them away until next season.
4) Set New Stands - Why wait until next season? Your post-season scouting may turn up a few new hotspots, and if you set stands now, the deer will have more time to get used to them.
Again, the biggest advantage of doing all of the above now is that you no longer have to worry about disturbing the area. Instead of slipping in quietly, you can walk in casually, or even ride. Load the ATV up with all the tools you’ll need - hand tools, saws and stands - and ride in. And while you’re at it, you can work on ATV trails as well, making it easier to access that big buck you’re going to bag next fall.