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Shed Hunting | The Pros and Cons of Finding “Dead Heads”

What You Should Do When You Find “Dead Heads” | Shed Hunting C.S.I.

 

Shed hunting provides you with an amazing opportunity to spend some time outdoors during the late winter months and really begin to take inventory of your deer herd.  Shed antlers can tell a story about the dynamics of the deer herd on the properties you hunt, and if you are willing to put in the time and put on the miles, there is a high probability that the time you spend shed hunting will often open your eyes to the “big picture” in terms of how and when white-tailed deer utilize different areas of the properties you hunt. Each year it seems every shed hunter comes across the unfortunate find of a dead deer while shed hunting. This encounter can go south in a hurry upon finding a “dead head”, the term used to describe a dead buck body. While this is a negative…there are some positive takeaways you should be aware of.

White Gold | Finding Dead Deer While Shed Hunting “Ep.2” 

Shed Hunting 101

Shed hunting can be compared to an Easter egg hunt for deer hunters.  We put out best foot forward and hit the woods in search of hidden treasures.  We don’t know what or even if we will find anything at all, but we lace up our boots and take to the woods with high hopes. If you love to hunt white-tailed deer, then there is clearly a level of enjoyment had when you put your hands on a shed antler.  No matter if it’s big or small, there is really something special about making a game plan and using the best information available to try and a locate a literal needle in a haystack.  However, aside from the enjoyment of adding to your antler collection, shed hunting can provide you with a wealth of information that can really help you be more successful in not only hunting white-tailed deer on your properties but managing for those deer as well.

  • Age and Survival

Probably the most obvious piece of information that you can learn from shed hunting is the age and survival of various bucks on your farm.  With the advent of trail cameras, deer hunters can keep a watchful eye on the deer on their farms.  This has enabled deer hunters to develop and almost personal connection with the deer on their farms, which allows them to quickly identify the antlers of most of the deer they have on camera.

If you are able to immediately identify the shed antlers as belonging to a buck you have pictures of, you automatically know that the buck in question made it through the deer season.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the deer will make it through the winter (harsh winters can kill) but it will at least give you piece of mind that the buck is still roaming the countryside and not at the taxidermy shop.

Though it is not suggested that you determine the age of a buck just based upon their shed antlers, you can closely estimate the age of the buck with multiple years of sheds supplemented with trail camera photos. This same history with multiple bucks provides you with information that will allow you to help determine the age structure of the bucks on your properties and can help you to compile your hit-list for next year.  Occasionally, you can even come across a new buck that has moved in from another area and decided to set up shop on your property.  Finding a shed antler that you do not recognize is often very exciting and can suggest immediate intel for next year’s hunting.

  • Areas of Use and Timing

Aside from some basic information related to age and survival, shed hunting can help to give you a better understand of your property and how deer and other wildlife utilize your farm.  Shed hunting can be a great time to evaluate everything from your entrance and exit strategy to the placement of your tree stands.

Shed hunting often requires that you hone in on very specific areas of your property, such as bedding areas, areas of dense cover, sunny south slopes, food sources, and transition areas.  Cover for deer can include areas that have had timber stand improvement conducted on them and are providing thermal cover and late winter browse and southwest facing slopes and hillsides. Food sources are always a go to for shed hunters. Food plots, crop field edges, or major trail ways to and from are not only likely places bucks drop their payload but are easy to check.  Spending some time out shed hunting in these areas can often give you some insight as to when and how white-tailed deer utilize these areas.  This can be especially true if there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground or if you find yourself shed hunting in wet, muddy conditions.  In these conditions, tracks and areas of high deer use are very evident and can often lead you to reconsider your overall hunting strategy and provide you with additional information to help you to be more effective when hunting deer in the fall.

Finding Dead Deer and “Dead Heads”

Finding dead deer, especially a buck, is something none of us ever want to have happen.  However, the unfortunate reality is that if you spend enough time out in the field shed hunting, finding dead deer is almost unavoidable.  Finding dead deer on your property, especially if it is a hit list buck can really put a knot in your stomach.  We would all much rather see those antlers in the back of the truck, than on the ground in a heap of bones and hair.  All that being said, if and when you do find yourself in this situation, it often provides a great opportunity to flip the switch from deer hunter to deer biologist!

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Whitetail C.S.I.

When it comes to finding dead deer, the first step in “closing the case” is to do your best to determine the cause of death.  This is especially true if this happens to be a deer that you have a history with, as most of us start to build a certain relationship with these animals and for our own piece of mind need to know who or what dealt them their final blow.

The first step is to always know or check your state’s regulations regarding dead deer and dead heads. Contact your local conservation officer to determine the next steps. This is in order to help determine the cause of death concerning problems often encountered in these scenarios. The state’s concerns mainly relate to poaching and diseases. They will also often either let you take home the head or give you a permit to do so after coming out to the location.

After this determine if you, in fact, know that animal and begin to nail down the time of death.  Now, this may seem a little complicated but in reality, it isn’t.  You just need to ask yourself a few questions, such as “when was the last time you saw the animal or had trail camera pictures of the animal on the hoof?”  “Have you seen the animal during the hunting season?”  These are all great questions to start with to begin to determine the time death.  It is important to try to pinpoint whether the animal died as a result of bullet or broadhead or if they died by some other means such as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) or perhaps a collision with an automobile.

Pay close attention to the location where you find the animal.  If you find the dead deer near or directly adjacent to a water source, and if the antlers still seem to show signs of velvet or “sharp antlers” then there is a high probability that the deer may have expired from one of several deer diseases such as  EHD.  If the antlers show no signs of velvet and the animal is found in very thick cover, then it is likely that they sustained an injury of some kind from a human (hunting/vehicle) or predator and were seeking an area of seclusion to rest. Having closure is important and doing your best to determine the cause of death can really help to bring the case to a close and ensure you are not experiencing a bigger problem on the property!

 

The Positives of Finding Dead Deer

As deer hunters, we have to be willing to look at the bright side when things don’t go our way, and this certainly holds true when it comes to finding dead deer.  Believe it or not, there are several positive takeaways that can come from finding dead deer when shed hunting.

  • Closure

It has already been mentioned that closure is important for us deer hunters.  This is especially true when it comes to finding dead deer, especially if it is a situation where you have had an encounter with the animal while hunting.  No matter how hard we try, if you hunt white-tailed deer long enough you will have a wounding loss.  No matter how steady of a rest you have, and no matter how close of a shot, at some point, something will happen and we will make a poor shot on an animal.  It is just a fact of life.  So, finding a dead deer, especially if it is a deer that you perhaps thought you missed or shot and couldn’t recover can often bring a sense of relief and closure to the situation.  Although it may not have turned out exactly how you wanted it to, at the end of the day you can put a bow on the story of that deer and have an interesting story to tell the next time you show off the rack.

  • Age Information

It has already been mentioned that finding shed antlers can help paint a clearer picture as to the age structure of the bucks on your properties, however, there is only so much that you can learn from an antler.  In the world of aging white-tailed deer, the teeth reign supreme.  Though finding dead deer when shed hunting is an unfortunate situation, you have to be willing to take advantage of the circumstances and use the opportunity to collect vital age information.  In addition to collecting and scoring the antlers, be sure to collect the jaw bones as well.  There is no better way to age a white-tailed deer than by examining their teeth, and by aging the animal you can not only determine if your “on the hoof” estimate was close, but you can also pair this information up with your remaining hit list bucks and determine if they are likely older or younger than you previously thought.  This information can help you further refine your hit list for next year.

  • Preferred Cover

Shed hunting often requires that we venture into areas that we would otherwise leave unpressured.  Many deer hunters will identify these sanctuary areas that provide excellent cover for deer on the properties that they hunt and leave them be until shed hunting season rolls around.  An injured white-tailed deer will typically venture into an area of thick cover where they feel safe and secure.  If you are shed hunting these areas and happen to stumble upon a dead head, then you can feel confident to know that the area is, in fact, a critical area of cover for the deer on your property, and you can use this information to further refine your property management and hunting strategies in the future.

  • Score

Often, especially during the summer bachelor group period, you can have pictures of bucks standing side by side where you can directly compare their size. Any guesses you had on rack size and score from trail camera intel and observation periods can now be evaluated. This is a huge piece of information, especially when compared with age from the jawbone.

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Conclusion

Finding dead deer is going to happen, but if you are willing to look at the bright side, and spend a little time investigating the circumstances and collecting some basic information, you can really turn a lemon into lemonade.  Good luck this shed season, and we hope you find your fair share of white gold this spring!

Quick Note: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease?

Understanding the deer herd dynamics on your farm is critical for developing your hit list each and every year.  Unfortunately, deer diseases can sometimes play a role in determining how your hit list will shake out from year to year.  EHD is a disease that originates from insects that live in exposed mud flats along ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.  During extensively dry periods, EHD outbreaks can occur and can sometimes greatly reduce the deer population in a localized area.

Though most dead deer are found during the hunting season or while shed hunting, during an outbreak of EHD dead deer is often found throughout the summer months as well.  If you live in an area that has experienced weather conditions that would be conducive for an EHD outbreak, it would be beneficial for you to spend some time monitoring the water sources on your properties during and just after summer.  If you begin to find dead deer, especially bucks you may need to spend extra time monitoring trail cameras and determining what your hit list for the year may look like.  An outbreak of EHD can sometimes take years to recover from, and can certainly change your harvest strategy for the upcoming deer season.

Deer Feeders

Deer Feeders 101 | Deer Feeding Tips, Concerns, and Strategies

Tips, Concerns, Results, and Strategies Deer Feeders 101

Deer feeders create an interest for deer hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and animal lovers alike. Whether it’s simply a wildlife feeder in the back yard, in the wood lot next door, or a vital piece of your deer management plan, chances are you will encounter the want/need to own a deer feeder at some point or another. Surprisingly, deer feeders come in a variety of sizes, designs, and uses. From the general wildlife feeder to a critical supplemental feeding program, deer feeders can certainly pull their weight no matter the use. Given such use, it’s respectable to put together a string of helpful information, tips, strategies, and uses. Welcome to deer feeders 101.

Deer Feeder: A tool used to supply feed, usually in the form of grain (corn) or a specially blended deer/wildlife feed for nutrition, to deer or wildlife in supplemental feed programs.

Why Feed Deer?

More often than not a deer feeder’s use occurs on the most basic level you can imagine. Simple and consistent corn feeding throughout the winter months appears to “help” deer and other wildlife through cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. In fact, feeding deer in the winter is a big concern for deer, deer managers, and many states. This is why it is included front and center in this article.

Intervention in the form of a couple hundred pounds of “deer corn” can spell disaster for deer.  This is why states all across the northern stretches of the country restrict or outlaw the use of bait and feeding of deer. Some of this concern undoubtedly stems from the possible negative outcomes of gathering large numbers of deer in one place…diseases being the concern. Have you heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? That’s one of the big ones! However, another more likely concern that often goes unknown to the person supplying the feed is called acidosis. Acidosis occurs when ruminants (deer) consume large quantities of carbohydrates that are low in fiber, also known as corn toxicity. A deer’s diet during the winter consists of high fiber woody browse, not low fiber carbohydrates. With a sudden intake of grain, an increase and change in the microbial population in the rumen causes a fatal increase of lactic acid. Dehydration as a result of the buildup of lactic acid can be fatal in 24-72 hours.

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Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game. Five of the twelve deer found dead due to winter feeding in N.H.

However, concern over acidosis is waved throughout the Midwest and in areas where deer are already consuming corn. The corn maze of states in the Midwest such as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa have so much corn readily available (either standing or left behind from the combine) during the winter months that the deer’s rumen and microbial population is adjusted for feeding. This also is true for properties and programs where supplemental feed is already taking place.

The well-being of the wildlife and deer should always be taken into consideration first before your wants and needs of either supplementing nutrition or for simply observational purposes.

The Results of Supplemental Feeding

For the more advanced deer managers and deer hunters, supplemental feeding always looms in the back of the mind. The number one reason for interest in supplemental feeding is always centered around the obsession of antlers…at least for the most part. It is widely known now that age, nutrition, and genetics (in that order) are the important factors that determine antlers and a buck’s score. Age and nutrition in particular are what we as deer managers can actively manage. Age is simply managing your trigger finger and the ability to age deer on the hoof accurately, leaving nutrition as a 365 day a year obsession.

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Habitat, food plots, and supplemental feeding are all management efforts we as deer managers can continually improve it seems. For the point of this article we will focus on supplemental feeding.

The big question is “can a supplemental feeding program increase the size and score of the bucks on my property?”. The answer is yes it can. If you ask the question you can be sure a deer biologist or two have as well, and they have found the answers through research.

“A study in Texas found that bucks fed a 16% crude protein diet grew antlers that scored 20 inches higher Boone and Crockett, than did bucks fed 8% crude protein (Hamel et al. 1989)” – MSU Deer Lab.

Deer Feed Requirements

16% crude protein is the agreed upon percentage of protein intake that maximizes antler growth, however, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Often time feed containing 18-20% protein can help balance protein intake that is significantly lower in the other portions of the deer’s diet, when natural browse and protein levels of food plots/crops might dip below 16%. It also important to note that the protein requirements of deer depend on age. Mature adults do not need the higher protein requirements that fawns or young bucks need when developing. MSU Deer Lab.

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Other than protein, minerals are also a thought pertaining to deer feed. In general, macro-minerals and micro-minerals are fulfilled by vegetation or eating the soil in natural licks. However, when it comes to deer management, it is always best to be safe. Identifying limiting factors of a property such as cover, water, or food is easy. When it comes to minerals a generally safe approach is ensuring the deer feed of choice contains the basics. These are mainly calcium and phosphorous.

Deer Feeder Advantages and Design

Knowing that a supplemental feeding program supplies benefits to the herd, and knowing what deer feed should consist of, the focus can now be turned to the feeder itself. A deer feeder offers several advantages over simply placing feed on the ground. Why? By knowing what goes into deer feeder designs, you discover their advantages. Access to feed and protection of feed are the most obvious advantages. The original thought towards a feeding program is usually brought on by a hard winter, or by the need to create an attraction for your trail camera/hunting site. The next thought is in the process you are currently in…research! You are trying to find out exactly what deer feed to use, if supplemental feeding programs work, or you are looking for deer feeder designs. That last one…deer feeder designs is because you are thinking of building your own. Why not, right? Seeing as how this is deer feeders 101, we have arrived at the same conclusion…sure, why not? Here is what makes a great deer feeder design…or a checklist if you will, to what a feeder needs in order to be successful.

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  • Waterproof – Nothing is worse than soggy, spoiled, and molded feed.
  • Locking Lid – A locking lid gives you the satisfaction that the feed is not only waterproof but its safe from nuaisance animals.
  • Durable – it has to survive rough weather and some of the biggest raccoons that appear more bear-like than a raccoon.
  • Dispenser – A deer feeder needs a dispenser of some sort. This comes in the form of a port, a broadcaster (spinner), or a port/agitator.
  • Large Quantities – Feeders with large quantities equate to less time filling. This is less time on your part but also less pressure associated with the feeder.

Sure you can build one or go ahead and come the conclusion that buying a sturdy feeder will last longer and will inevitably be more successful. We offer a 200lb Gravity Feeder, and by design, it features everything it needs…simplified to be a very successful deer feeder.


Muddy 200 LB. Gravity Feeder | Muddy Outdoors Product

(Video) MGF200 Gravity Feeder is unlike any gravity deer feeder on the market. It features an adjustable spring-loaded dispenser and agitator. This feature keeps the feed broke up and dispensing while animals feed. The feed is lockable, and the lid is user friendly but cannot slide off like other feeders. If you are looking for a new gravity deer feeder, check out Muddy Outdoors.

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

PRODUCT FEATURES

  • Waterproof
  • Locking Lid
  • Spring-Loaded Dispenser and Agitator
  • Dispenser Easily Adjusts

PRODUCT SPECS

  • CONSTRUCTION: Steel
  • HEIGHT: 61” Fill Height, 42” Feed Height
  • CAPACITY: 200 Lbs./ 33 Gallons;
  • WEIGHT: 44 Lbs

Deer Feeder Strategies and Tips

If applicable, and if legal, these tips can be taken into consideration to either spike the efficiency of the feeder or the scenario of hunting over the feeder. Either way, these feeding tips excel the situation beyond a feeder sitting in a field! The diagram below helps paint the scene for your imagination.

 Deer Feeder Placement

Obviously, if you are in the research phase of either building or buying a deer feeder chances are you have a spot already picked out on your hunting property. What makes a “good spot” for a feeder? To start, high traffic areas are a must. However, you also have to factor in accessibility of a truck, ATV, or side-by-side that can reach the feeder. It is also important to think about what else should be paired with a feeder such as water, other food sources, security, proximity to bedding, and in states where it’s legal, your stand or blind. Another critical thought should be thrown in concerning human pressure. If the feeder is out in the open such as a large crop field or can be seen by someone driving on a road the anxiety of deer at the feeder will be high (not to mention potential poaching or theft problems). Keeping the feeder back in secluded, low anxiety areas can increase feeding and feeder success. Considering these factors can get a bit overwhelming so here is a list in order of how you should think about deer feeder placement.

  1. High traffic area
  2. Accessible via truck/ATV
  3. Human pressure/seclusion
  4. Ask yourself the question: “Does it work with my hunting strategy?”
  5. Proximity to other food sources
  6. Proximity to water
  7. Proximity to bedding

 

 

The diagram above is a common, or a slightly above average Midwest hunting property (the terrain and amount of timber is a blessing). As you can see, feeder site #1 utilizes all of the checklists and even goes above and beyond by integrating a bit of hunting strategy. Water, food sources, a plot screen, bedding areas, and access are all present allowing the site to be optimized for deer usage and traffic. You will also notice another feeder site…this is where hunting strategy really takes off.

Deer Feeders and Hunting Strategies

Even if your state does not allow hunting over bait you can still create the attraction and central hubs for deer socialization. These usually take the form of food plots and crop fields, but by adding other factors like water, feeders, scrapes, and minerals you can create an even more popular destination that imprints in the mind of the deer herd. This impression stays with a deer even well after the bait is removed. Hunting strategy in relation to deer feeders should focus on this aspect, again regardless of whether or not bait is legal to hunt over or not.

From the diagram, you can see two feeder/bait sites. By creating two “social hotspots” pivoting on food sources you can create hunting opportunities for two scenarios. The wind dictates hunting…period. Bow hunters live and die by this simple observation and strategy. By installing and running two feeder sites, one for north winds and one for south winds, you create hunting opportunities regardless of the prevailing wind. This reiterates the fact that there is much to think about before a deer feeder is placed and filled!

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Deer Feeder Site Necessities

What is the ideal set up for a feeder site? Think about the obvious needs. With deer coming in continuously the feeder makes the ideal site for trail cameras. Beyond cameras, it also is an ideal site to create the idea of “social hotspots”. Mineral blocks and scrapes are also items that can add to the attraction and usage of the feeder sites. When it comes to trail camera usage check out the blog below on Trail Camera Tips. It gives insight into the setup, settings, and tips for each scenario such as a camera over feed.

A couple more tips for feeding deer out of a feeder include two tips that can greatly help the success you achieve with a site. When filling/re-filling feeders, spread a bit of feed around the feeder…especially when you are introducing a feeder for the first time on a hunting property. Also be cautious of the scent, not for pressure but for nuisance animals. Take hand sanitizer or a field spray with you to spray your hands before going from the feeder to your trail camera. Feed scent on a trail camera could create enough interest for a raccoon to destroy the camera in search of more food!

Conclusion

Is a supplemental feed program beneficial for your deer and hunting? Yes. Can a deer feeder integrate and enhance your hunting strategy? Yes. Should you use a deer feeder on your hunting property? It depends… If you have the need or want for more attraction, can keep up with the demands of running a feeder, and have checked your state’s regulations on feeding deer then the answer is yes! Keep an eye out for more content on deer feeders and hunting strategy on the Get Muddy Blog.

Was this article on deer feeders 101 helpful? Leave a reply! Whether it’s a simple question or comment we would appreciate the feedback!

shed hunting

Increase Your Shed Hunting Success with Supplemental Feeders

How Supplemental Feeders Can Help With Shed Hunting

We’re sure you’re aware of it at this point, but shed hunting season is definitely here again. You’ve likely been getting text messages or social media updates from friends or coworkers who have found a couple shed antlers already. You’re also probably itching to get out in the woods and start looking yourself. Shed hunting can make for a really great day in the woods, but it’s always a little better when you actually find something. If you have snuck out a few times already but haven’t found anything, your luck is about to change by using these shed hunting tips. Using supplemental feeders, where legal, is a great way to provide a calorie boost for deer in your area, but it’s also a great way to concentrate your shed antler hunt. The best time for finding sheds is rapidly approaching across the country, so it’s time to consider this strategy if you’re not already.

Best Time for Shed Hunting

As we mentioned, this is just about prime time for shed hunting. People across the country have been heading afield and returning with brag-worthy deer sheds for a couple weeks now, but the action is about to really step up in most places. When to start shed hunting can be a tricky question to answer since it varies so much, but most people believe that February is the best month to find them. Technically, you could find them from December through March, but February is right in the average, sweet spot time frame for ideal shed hunting times. These trips also work well as far as post season scouting goes.

When To Shed Hunt

 

If you start shed hunting too aggressively and too early in the season, there is the possibility of spooking deer to other properties where they could shed their antlers instead. But if you wait too long to look, on the other hand, squirrels and mice will chew them up before you find them. If you primarily look on public land, other shed hunters could also beat you to it.  When to shed hunt is a balancing act and it always has its risks. One way to mitigate these risks is to only check out feeding areas early in the deer shed season and to be extremely stealthy while doing it. Deer will likely be bedded away from food sources, so you should be able to sneak in and check for sheds without disturbing them too much. As prime time comes, you can start pushing your search into bedding areas lightly, as most bucks should have shed their antlers at that point.

 

Best Places to Shed Hunt

Whitetails spend most of their time either resting in a bedding area or feeding in a feeding area. It makes sense then that you have the best chance at finding a shed antler in one of these two areas. Sometimes you can get lucky by finding one alongside a trail, but usually that only happens if a buck glances an antler off of a branch in the process.

 

But if you don’t have a winter food source available on your land, this can be a bit of a problem. That should be a goal to address this summer by producing some late-season food plots for the deer. But for now, there’s a way to feed and attract the deer to your property, and that’s where supplemental feeders for deer come in. Muddy Outdoors® has a 200 pound gravity deer feeder that will feed deer securely on your land. It has a waterproof lid with a locking mechanism and the spring-loaded pan system helps distribute supplemental feed only if an animal disturbs it.

 

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

 

 

Supplemental feeders are attractive to deer because they offer a high-quality food source at a time when natural browse may be the only thing available to them. In addition, you get to choose what type of feed to use, whether you stick to simple cracked corn or high-protein feed specific for deer.

 

This concentration of deer feeding increases the chance that a buck would shed his antlers in the general vicinity. As he feeds off the pan system, he also might bump his antlers, separating them from his head in the process. While the Muddy Outdoors® feeder is not designed to be an antler trap, the support bars can act like one. In addition, you can hang a trail camera near the supplemental feeder and keep a watchful eye on the deer that come to it. When you notice the majority of bucks missing their head gear, you’ll know exactly when you should start really shed hunting hard and pushing into bedding areas.

 

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Caution with Supplemental Feeding

While the option above seems like a golden solution to your shed hunting woes, there are some cautions you should take before doing it. First, feeding deer may or may not be legal where you hunt. Check your state’s hunting regulations or call a game warden to see whether you can or cannot feed them. The concern that some agencies have is that it can concentrate deer activity into such a small area and increases the chances of deer making nose to nose contact. This might not sound like a big deal, but it can increase the chance of spreading transmissible diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or others in prone areas.

 

Deer are curious animals in that their digestive system gets really good at digesting certain foods as the seasons change. For example, since woody browse is often the only food source in winter for many deer, their guts get really good at extracting everything it can from a mostly fibrous, low-nutrient food. When they rapidly switch over to eating mostly corn from a feeder, however, it can create confusion in the guts. The microorganisms aren’t there to really digest the corn, causing it to flow right through the system without giving any benefits. This essentially starves them. That being said, deer are adapted to different conditions across the country. Midwest whitetails near an abundance of corn fields will still probably eat enough corn that it won’t harm them to suddenly experience a feeder. But it’s a different story for big woods bucks that never see a kernel of corn. The key is to slowly introduce supplemental feeding so they don’t have the opportunity to essentially starve themselves. If you haven’t fed deer before and especially if you live in a primarily forested area, start introducing very small amounts in your feeder at first (e.g., 10 to 20 pounds) each week. If you slowly increase the amount you feed them each week, they should have time to develop their gut flora enough to digest the corn. Of course, time and cost are both considerations with supplemental feeding for deer. It takes time to fill a feeder each week, and the cost of keeping it stocked can be on the pricey side.

 

Is Supplemental Feeding Right for You?

This shed hunting season, consider whether supplemental feeding could be used on your property. For those it works for, it can be a really useful tool to pick up some extra deer antlers, and it can be a great way to concentrate those monster whitetail sheds you’ve been looking for.

 

Shed Hunting

Using Trail Cameras to Figure Out When to Start Shed Hunting

Increasing Your Odds at Shed Hunting with Trail Cameras

Deer hunting season has ended but another season is just starting. This season has tremendous interest right now, making it a sport all of its own. We are talking about shed hunting and its season is starting right now.

 

Whitetail deer sheds command huge paydays for those that find large and unique racks and are willing to part with them. More so, shed hunting has moved from a hobby, or an accidental encounter to the weekend hunter, to a necessity as more landowners take deer management seriously on their properties. Sheds also make for a nice trophy on the wall of that buck you have chased all season and expended time and resources for, even if you were unable to harvest him. Sheds also provide a record of what bucks have made it through and some information on what this season may potentially yield.

 

The Biology behind Antler Shedding

 

To understand antler shedding, we have to start with some groundwork on what buck antlers are. Antlers are composed of bone-like tissue that starts developing in early spring. The growth phase of antler development, which goes from early summer until fall, is where a buck’s antlers are covered in a soft membrane referred to as velvet. This velvet is a layer of nutrient rich blood vessels that supplies the resources needed to build the antler mass. The nutrients, such as amino acids, minerals, proteins and others, are what many hunters and landowners try to supplement throughout the summer to promote this growth and thus yield bigger antlers.

 

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Antlers will growth rapidly for two to four months. As fall approaches, due to photoperiods, the levels of testosterone start to increase. The increase in testosterone constricts the blood vessels around the antlers and eventually causes it to die. Remaining velvet falls off or more typically is rubbed off as a buck begins to prepare for the rut. What are left are the hardened antlers we are so interested in during deer season. Antlers stay with a buck until about the middle of winter then they drop off. This antler growth process is repeated each year for the buck’s entire life.

 

The antler shedding (casting) part of this cycle brings us to the biology behind shedding. The process, both the growth and casting of antlers, is controlled by photoperiods and testosterone. However, there are many factors that lead to either early antler drop or late drop such as injury and social stress. Often times these factors do not hold a significant role, which is why the shedding process happens generally the same time of year each year. The main for this again is the amount of light, or photoperiod, available at a given point in the year. During antler growth, testosterone levels rise (antler growth) towards a peak (loss of velvet) and eventually decline into as winter sets in, which signals the physiological response of antler shedding. To complete the cycle, daylight starts to increase as spring and early summer arrives and bucks begin their new antler growth.

 

When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

 

Traditionally, shed hunting season starts in February and wraps up around the end of March. Certainly, sheds can be found throughout the year and usually can be picked up during spring gobbler season if the rodents have not consumed them all yet. However, the main focus of shed hunting is in these two months.

 

While testosterone is the main factor controlling antler drop, there are several factors that can have an impact on how these testosterone levels can change. The stress put on a buck from environmental conditions such as extreme winter weather and also contributing factors like poor nutrition or injury can all lead to lower levels of testosterone and accordingly expedite the timing of when bucks shed antlers.

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Bucks that shed their antlers earlier than February are typically more mature, dominant bucks. These bucks are apt to shed early because their dominance gets them more involved in the rut earlier and for a longer period of time than younger, less mature bucks. Due to this, they can be left depleted after the rut and stressed to a point where antler loss happens earlier than other bucks in a region.

 

Conversely, late antler drop can be influenced by several different causes. First, unbalanced deer populations can create an atmosphere where some does do not get bred during the peak of the rut. In these highly skewed deer populations, does are being bred during the second rut and beyond. Bucks hold their testosterone levels up in these areas, which leads to them delaying the shedding of their antlers until late March or April. Second, first-year fawns that reach breeding weight their first winter will come into estrous. This usually happens well after the peak rut and is the main driver of the second rut in many places. Again, situations like these will keep bucks high in testosterone longer, delaying the shedding process. Finally, high levels of competition for does can cause late antler shedding. Mature bucks that have to spare more frequently to breed does produce more testosterone, which results in a later loss of antlers.

 

Reasons to be Shed Hunting This Year

 

Besides the fact that finding sheds can be profitable if you are good at it, there are other reasons to be shed hunting this year. First, finding shed antlers can give you some information about the buck that carried them. The most obvious fact is that he is still alive. Sure, a buck that shed those antlers may still have a misfortune in the coming months but making it past hunting season is the biggest challenge. Aside from car collisions and a disease outbreak, the odds are pretty good whatever buck left those antlers will be around come next season.

In contrast, dropped antlers do not always connect to that buck living in the area. Finding a shed clearly shows that a buck has passed through here but depending on food availability, weather conditions and other factors, he may or may not be a resident buck. In areas with high-quality forage and lots of it, bucks stick around. The opposite is true when harsh winters reduce food sources and poor habitats that make bucks more transient. This is where post season scouting for deer is important. Finding a shed can help you focus post season scouting on potential hunting spots for next year.

 

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Second, spending time shed hunting is important for deer management on a property. Those that shed hunt religiously can start to put together the growth trajectory of individual bucks. Finding the same buck’s sheds year after year can piece together what he may look like this coming year. Growth rates will vary each year but by scoring an antler shed, even just one side, and comparing that score to last year’s shed of the same buck can give you an average growth rate. This is an advantage in compiling, albeit early, a hit list for the upcoming season.

 

The Big Question | When to Start Shed Hunting on Your Property?

 

Since we are on the precipice of shed hunting 2017, when can you be sure it is time to venture out and look for sheds on your property? The best way to decide when to go shed hunting is to use trail cameras.

 

Trail cameras provide a means to monitor the timing of antler drop in your area. You can use cameras to pinpoint when most of the bucks have dropped their horns. Also, trail cameras can track a specific buck to find that white gold set that eluded you during hunting season. With trail cameras, you can scout an entire property and even multiple properties quickly and determine when to go shed hunting makes sense.

 

Shed hunting success is all about coverage. The more miles you put on the ground the greatest chance you will stumble across shed antlers. Trail cameras, however, can save you valuable time. When to shed hunt should be based on when the majority of bucks have started dropping. Use your cameras to identify when about 50% of bucks have lost their horns. Your odds of finding sheds will be much greater when you know most bucks have lost their horns.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Surveys vs. Shed Hunting Scouting

 

Similar to why you should be shed hunting, post season trail camera surveys are a way to find out what is the overall status of the deer herd in your area. The most efficient way to accomplish this is by running a trail camera survey.

 

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A post season trail camera survey provides more valuable information than summer trail camera surveys. Results with surveys this time of year can be used for determining population estimates, age structure, sex ratios and herd health after the hunting season. All of which drive what management actions are needed this year.

 

The differences between a post season trail camera survey and using trail cameras for shed hunting are how the cameras are setup.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Survey Setup

 

  • 1 trail camera per 100 acres. Ideal but use your best judgment based on topography and how you have observed deer movements in the past.
  • 1 photo burst with a 5-minute The most important setting when conducting a trail camera survey.
  • Run the survey for approximately 3 weeks before pulling the cameras and proceeding with the analysis. 1 pre-bait week, and 2 weeks of actual data, making sure bait is present at the site during the whole 3 week period.

 

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Trail Camera Setup for Shed Hunting

 

  • Scatter trail cameras in the best places for finding sheds like food sources and bedding areas. Often trail camera density goes over 1/100 acres. This is in order to get more encounters and pictures over the entire property
  • Use a 3-8 photo burst or video setting on your Muddy Pro-Cam 12 to narrow down which bucks are shedding and to identify bucks vs. does once shed.
  • Run survey until the last buck has shed and check trail cameras every few days to determine when to go shed hunting.

 

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Best Places to Hang Trail Cameras for Shed Hunting

 

Positioning trail cameras for shed hunting is very much related to where you would place tree stands for late season hunting. This time of year bucks have reduced their core area with a focus on three main aspects; food, cover and security. Knowing this can narrow down two main areas to concentrate your trail cameras for shed hunting.

 

Food sources are key areas for deer in winter and one of the best places to shed hunt. Even though bucks are moving less and relying on fat reserves, they still seek out places that have late season forage. Food sources like standing corn, beans and winter food plots will all be attracting deer. Deploy trail cameras on main deer trails coming to these spots to capture bucks as they shed their antlers. If there are no remaining agricultural food sources, do not give up. The main part of a deer’s diet in winter is woody browse. Use deer sign like tracks and scat to pick out these areas as potential spots for trail cameras and ultimately shed hunting.

 

The trails leading to food sources are likely coming from bedding areas. If you are trying to determine where to find sheds, start with bedding areas. Bedding areas are providing cover and security in winter. Bucks will spend most of their day in these areas. Southern slopes with thermal cover and easy access to food sources outlined above are perfect locations to place trail cameras and hunting for sheds.

 

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Putting It All Together

 

There are numerous shed hunting tips out there but it really comes down to dedicating yourself to shed hunting. It is a combination of an art and a science. The art is taking your time, covering ground and being able to pick out even the slightest protruding part of an antler on the ground. Where the science comes in is using trail cameras to time the shed hunting season and to isolate the most likely places bucks are hanging out in winter. Combining these two will put more antlers in your pack and support your management decisions this season.

 

When do whitetail deer shed antlers? It is happening right now! There are some people out there that are naturals at shed hunting. If you are like most, however, you need some help when it comes to shed hunting season. It is ok to hike through the woods in the hope that you will find sheds, but a better approach is to have a plan. Using trail cameras to identify when to start shed hunting and areas that bucks are frequenting will vastly improve your odds when it comes to searching for white gold.

Box Blind

Post Season Considerations | Box Blind Placement and Strategies

Box Blind Placement & Strategies

 

As hunters, we are always trying to elevate our game and surround ourselves with the tools and equipment that will increase our chances of success while in the field. When it comes to the post season, time allows us an opportunity to reevaluate the past deer season and make adjustments. These adjustments come in the form of new food plots, habitat improvements, new trail camera strategies, and changing the positions of your tree stands, ground blinds, and box blinds. While every single adjustment is a single piece to the bigger puzzle of a successful deer season, where the rubber meets the road so to speak is the exact placement and strategy behind where you are hunting.

We have come a long way from way from the days of when a deer stand consisted of 2 x 4’s and railroad spikes and a ground blind consisted of a bucket with a few limbs scattered around.  Those methods were effective and still are in the right situations no doubt, however, with the modern technology leading the way, today’s hunting blinds surpass anything that sportsmen of even ten years ago could have imagined.  Today, there is a long list of hunting blinds available for purchase, however, over the last three years, box blinds have continued to grow in popularity among all hunters.  Why might you ask?  The answer is simple, box blinds become a backbone for private land hunters by offering stable, consistent, and comfortable hunting.

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Why Choose a Box Blind?

Having choices is generally a good thing, so with so many hunting blinds to choose from, why should you choose a box blind?

It is All About the Two C’s

Everyone knows that there are many factors that go into being successful in the field.  Patience, persistence, hard work, and dedication are often the four building blocks that lay the foundation for a great hunt.  However, when you get down to brass tacks to lay a solid foundation you need to address the two C’s, comfort and concealment.  The fact is, if you are protected from the elements and are able to stay comfortable even in the harshest of conditions, you can extend your hours in the field.  Having the ability to stay in the field, no matter the conditions provides you with a huge advantage.  As we all know, when the weather gets rough, typically the hunting gets exciting.

Concealment is the name of the game.  Hunting from a box blind offers the hunter with an unmatched level of concealment as compared to a tree stand or even a pop up blind.  With space and storage to spare, box blinds allow the hunter the freedom to move undetected by game.  As a hunter, when you are confident in your concealment, then you have one less thing to worry about and you can concentrate on making that perfect shot.

A solid box blind creates a reliable hunting position, no matter the weather or time of year a box blind in the right setting is always a position that produces opportunities. Without box blinds, uncomfortable hunting conditions such as below freezing temperatures, high winds, or rain will keep hunters inside. The box blind is the opportunity that you should have available on your hunting property.

A Worthy Investment

Hunting is a very gear intensive activity, and as result, sportsmen have come to have high expectation of their hunting equipment. If you spend your hard earned money on a piece of equipment you want that piece of equipment to last and function for many seasons.  You expect it to withstand the elements, and you ultimately expect it to have a positive impact on your overall hunting experience.  Without question, a well-constructed box blind will check all of those boxes and much more.  The typical lifespan of a well-constructed box blind can be well over 15 years. A deluxe box blind that is feature driven that far exceeds what most box blinds entail can last even longer. What should you look for in a box blind? Check below to see a score sheet to judge a box blinds features before the buy.

 

Box Blinds, Food Sources, and Placement Strategies

One of the best attributes of a box blind is that they can literally be deployed in just about any setting or location.  From wide open range land to heavily wooded ridges, it doesn’t matter, you can use them anywhere.  Although box blinds are very adaptable to a wide range of conditions and situations, exactly where you choose to place your blind can often make all the difference.  There are certainly locations and settings that are more conducive for box blind hunting than others, and understanding how best to use your box blind is certainly an important piece of the puzzle.

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Box Blinds & Food Sources

Without question, one of the most popular locations to set a box blind is within close proximity of a food source.  These may be large Ag fields or small food plot locations. The pull and reliability of food goes hand in hand with box blinds. The pair creates an excellent location for hunting for a variety of reasons.

By in large, Ag fields and food plots have several facets in common.  Both attract a wide array of wildlife throughout the course of the year, however, both Ag fields and food plots come with their own set of challenges when it comes to planning how to hunt these areas.  The smaller the area, the easier it is to utilize a wider range of deer stands or ground blinds, however, as these areas grow in size and shape it can become challenging to find a suitable stand location.

Large food plots and Ag fields are harder to hunt for a couple of key reasons.  The first is simply the lack of stand locations.  Unless there is a draw or other scattered trees throughout the field (which is highly unlikely) you will likely be restricted to hunting the field edges.  In some cases, hunting the field edges can be very effective, especially if you are packing some firepower.  Things change significantly once you put down the rifle or slug gun and pick up your archery equipment as your effective range is cut dramatically, as it can only take a few seconds for your hit list buck to go from in range to out of range.

The second and albeit most common scenario is simply that the game you are after is utilizing the center of the field, and there just isn’t a good opportunity to hunt an “edge set”.  In larger fields, wildlife like white-tailed deer and wild turkeys will often utilize the center of these large food plots and Ag fields for a number of reasons.  For starters, they can see for a great distance, so they tend to feel safer knowing that they can see danger coming, and have time to escape.  Secondly, the center of the field often has more waste grain than the edges.  Field edges are typically less productive and thereby can sometimes have less food available.  The same holds true in a food plot scenario, as forage quality typically increases the closer you get to the center of the plot.

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If you find yourself in this situation, there is a good chance that you are going back to the drawing board in an effort to figure out a way to effectively get to where you need to be in the field, and hopefully, fill a tag.  Clearly, a deer stand is not the answer.  A tripod stand does have its advantages and can be effective in these situations however they are typically more effective when used in close proximity to cover as the structure and cover helps break up the outline and silhouette of the hunter.

Pop-up blinds can work in these settings.  They have proven to be effective time and time again for harvesting game in the open country; however, they do come with a certain set of challenges.  In open landscapes with high winds, using a pop-up blind can be difficult.  Though they are built tough, it can be hard for them to hold up to a high level of sustained wind and as a result, high winds can often restrict your ability to hunt and when your numbers of days available to hunt are limited you need to make every day count.  Probably most important, however, is visibility.  Most pop-up blinds are utilized directly on the ground, and as a result, a little topography or roll in the landscape can make it difficult to see and harvest game.

Box blinds are the absolute perfect solution for hunting in these types of locations.  Box blinds, when used in these types of locations offer you an elevated vantage point which minimizes the impact that any topography may have, and will help you to keep a keen eye on the animals in the field.   Having an elevated shooting position always affords a hunter a much easier shot window with both archery equipment as well as a firearm.  As has already been mentioned, the level of comfort and concealment you get when hunting from a box blind is unmatched.  Having the ability to move without being seen is often a critical part of being successful in the field, and no other hunting blind or stand gives the level of concealment that a box blind can provide.  Probably most important, however, is just how durable these hunting blinds are.  A box blind can handle a wide range of weather conditions, and allow you to stay in the field hunting rather than forcing you to call it a day.

TP1-9-17 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

Box Blind Placement Tips

Having the ability to monitor every inch of the food plot or Ag field allows the hunter to spot any wildlife that happens to slip into the plot or field, regardless of the topography or cover.  With visibility being so important, placing your box blind in an area that will increase your ability to see as much of the area as possible is important.  Although this tip may seem obvious, the fact is there are better places to place your box blind than others and sometimes we as a hunter have pre-conceived notions as to where we will place our hunting blinds and do not do a good enough job reading the area.  When this happens, we end up placing the blind in a suboptimal location, which inevitably costs us an opportunity.

Look for the High Spot

Before you set your box blind, take a good hard look at the area you are planning to hunt.  At first glance, it might all look the same however if you pay it a second or even a third glance there may be slight rolls or high points in the field that could offer an increased vantage point.  Remember the more height you have, the greater your visibility can be.  It is important to remember that the highest point in an area is typically the area that receives the most wind, so be sure to anchor your blind accordingly.

Path Most Traveled

Scouting is always the name of the game, and putting your trail cameras to good use can really pay off when it comes to setting up your pop up blind.  Having an understanding as to how wildlife enters and exit the field, and where the primary trail locations are can be excellent information to have in your back pocket as you begun to set up your box blind. You want to be close to these areas if you can, however, always keep visibility in mind, and try not to sacrifice your visibility if you can help it.  Be aware of bedding and roosting areas as well, and you would want to minimize any disturbance to these areas.

Although it is important to understand where wildlife enters and exit the food plot or Ag field you are hunting, it can be even more important to understand where they tend to spend the majority of their time while in the field.  Generally, these are better locations to establish your box blind set then along a major trail or travel area.

Entry and Exit

Without a doubt, developing your entry and exit strategy before you set your box blind can be one of the biggest steps in the whole process.  Developing your entry and exit strategy requires you to take an over-arching, comprehensive look at the entire set up and determines where the best blind location is, based upon all the factors available to you (visibility, wildlife use, scouting info, etc.).

Hunting in open areas like food plots or Ag fields can be a challenge, mainly because of ability for wildlife to see you coming and going.  Anytime you can take this advantage away from the game you are after it’s a plus.  Often, you can utilize topographical features like drainage ways, draws and even rolls in the field to help you make your entry and exit a little easier and a little more concealed.  If the opportunities to utilize natural features are not there, there are other options such as leaving standing grain or planting vegetative screens.  You might be surprised just how much cover can be afforded to a hunter by leaving just a couple rows of corn.  Likewise, planting a vegetative screen such as Sorghum-Sudan grass or tall native grasses like Big Bluestem can really do wonders to hide a hunter’s movement to and from the blind.

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Always give strong consideration to prevailing wind directions and what the optimal wind conditions may be for your box blind set.  Although your scent will be greatly minimized once you are in the blind, you still need to be able to get to and from the blind without spooking any wildlife life in the area, and if you are planning to use your box blind for species like white-tailed deer or pronghorn then the wind direction will should play a big part in your decision-making process.

Box blinds, like the hunters who use them continue to evolve and become more efficient and effective each and every year.  A box blind can be a sound investment for any hunter who is looking to raise their game to another level and appreciates staying concealed and comfortable each and every time they hit the field.

New 2017 Muddy Box Blind

New for 2017, Muddy introduces the Gunner box blind. The Gunner box blind is the younger brother of the Muddy Bull box blind. From the same genetic pool, the Gunner features all of the bells and whistles of its older brother, the Muddy Bull, just in a smaller package. This offers hunters the same superior quality they have come to expect from the Muddy Bull Blind, now in a smaller and more budget friendly blind! Check it out below!

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Tips on Scouting for Deer in the Post Season

Post Season Scouting for Deer Strategies

 

How many hunters suit back up immediately after the last day of deer season to start scouting for deer? Days after the season there are probably only a handful of hunters who would. A couple weeks after the end of the season and the numbers probably start jumping up. Why? Burnt out, tired, cold, or just needing to simply get the honey do’s done, hunters often start thinking about deer again after a short break. And they should! As the offseason arrives post season deer scouting is what successful hunters know they must do. They are maximizing their time to document deer sign, find bedding areas, and survey what bucks have survived all in an effort to select the best locations for their tree stands for next year.

 

Although it takes a certain amount of will and excitement to get back into the woods right after a tough deer season, successful or not, in winter conditions, late season scouting for deer will surely improve your odds for next year. Mature bucks that have survived will have one more year of experience under their belts making them that much wiser next deer season, which means your tactics need to evolve as well!

 

Whitetail 101 Episode 19 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

 

Why Scouting for Deer in the Post Season is Worth It

Deer scouting should not only be a late summer and early fall activity. The amount of knowledge you obtain while scouting in the winter is many times more than you can gather in August or the days leading up to archery season. There are three reasons the post season is when to start scouting for deer.

 

The first is the possibility of snow on the ground. In more northern states, snow accelerates the scouting process. You can cover lots of ground and use tracks in the snow to identify deer movement. Deer trails that may be otherwise unnoticed during summer are clearly visible. Sure, main trails are obvious when scouting in summer but smaller, side trails are the ones big boys are using to get around. These offshoots, which are highly visible in winter, are places to mark for possible tree stand locations next fall. In addition, following trails may lead to undiscovered bedding areas that are ideal for stand placements for hunting late season bucks.

 

The second advantage to late season whitetail scouting is bumping deer is not a season ender. Trekking through the woods in the post season has little effect on deer. In contrast, pushing some deer days before the first day of archery can be detrimental to your season. In fact, running into deer while winter scouting can open up some areas to further explore that you may have otherwise passed by.

 

Often finding rubs during deer season is a good sign if you already have tree stands deployed, but scouting rub lines for a new spot during the season is risky. A third advantage to scouting for deer in the post season is being able to explore rub lines in more detail. The good news is the rubs have not gone anywhere since the rut, but there is a possibility that the buck has moved on or been harvested. Finding fresh tracks in the snow along with this year’s and older rub lines is a scouting technique used to pinpoint a holdover buck’s core area. Scout out the area and find some stand locations for next season.

 

Northern vs. Southern Late Season Scouting for Deer

 

Shockingly, there are differences in deer herds in more northern states versus deep southern states. In northern areas with hard winters, deer will herd up in places they may not typically go during deer season. For example, deep snow and frigid temperatures will undoubtedly send deer to dense stands of conifers where there is protection from the winter weather. Finding these spots while scouting is nice but clearly, post season scouting for deer in these areas will yield little potential for tree stands come next deer season.

 

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In more southern states with less severe winters, scouting after the season can provide a clear picture of deer patterns. Pressured bucks are now back to normal activities and finding deer sign is a good indication of where to hang a tree stand for the upcoming deer season.

 

Post Season Scouting Tips for Deer

In order to see deer tracks in the snow or examine a rub line, you have to put boots on the ground. Let’s face it, that is scouting and in the winter it can be challenging. In order to maximize the value in scouting for deer in the post season, here are five post season scouting tips to get a head start on next year’s deer season.

 

  1. Digital Scouting First

    The more time inside the less you will be cold when scouting in winter. With digital aerial images, you can quickly pick out dense cover and changing forest types that may hold deer. Using mapping software, especially for scouting on public lands, will save you time and help to narrow down areas to scout on foot.

 

  1. Start Big and End Small

    Scouting for deer in winter, as we discussed, has its advantages. With snow on the ground, you can cover large swaths of land looking for deer sign. Once you find areas that have potential like those with rubs, tracks, food and cover all adjacent, mark these areas and spend additional time scouting here. Now you have smaller areas to assess and think about for potential spots for stands.

 

  1. Always Scout the Food

    Food sources are the main areas of deer activity in winter and primary locations for tree stands during hunting season. Agricultural fields, oaks and early growth timber are places to find deer in the winter. When scouting food sources in the winter, think about annual patterns and how deer will be using those areas at different times of the season. Concentrate your post season deer scouting along the edges near what deer are eating in the late season. Identify trails coming and going from food sources as places for hanging tree stands to cut them off from bedding areas.

 

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  1. Use Buck Sign

    Buck rubs are easy to pick out while scouting in winter. Single rubs are nice but do not tell you much about patterning a buck. Usually, a single rub is done out of frustrating or because he just felt like it. More important are a series of rubs (a rub line), which are the link to closing in on a buck’s core area. Find old rubs mixed in and you know you are scouting an area with a potential mature buck.

 

  1. Scouting Truck Hotspots

    On public land, try to remember where you have seen the concentrations of trucks parked this past deer season. Hunters are there for a reason and post season deer scouting is a great time to find out why. This is a way to unlock new potential hunting areas or also determine if adjacent hunters may be affecting your tree stand locations.

 

Scouting for deer in the post season can be a game changer. Do you want to know the secret to getting on big bucks year after year? It is post season deer scouting. Patterning deer is much more productive in winter than in early fall. With these post season scouting tips, you can get a jump start on next year’s deer season.

NEW 2017 Muddy Gunner Box Blind

New 2017 Muddy Box Blind | The Gunner

Sit in Comfort with the New Muddy Outdoor Gunner Box Blind

Muddy Outdoors, known for exceptionally high-end and feature driven product lines, has now expanded and revolutionized their line to contain even more options!

New for 2017, Muddy introduces the Gunner box blind. The Gunner box blind is the younger brother of the Muddy Bull box blind. From the same genetic pool, the Gunner features all of the bells and whistles of its older brother, the Muddy Bull, just in a smaller package. This offers hunters the same superior quality they have come to expect from the Muddy Bull Blind, now in a smaller and more budget friendly blind!

The Muddy Gunner features:

  • Floor: Joist and Sheeting
  • Walls: Therma-Tek Panels
  • Roof: Sheeting and Plastic, Heavy-Duty Molded Roof
  • Windows: Residential Quality Glass and All Steel Hardware
  • Blind Dimensions: 4’ Square x 7’ Tall
  • Door: 30”W x 70”T
  • Windows: 33” Wide x 13” Tall

To find out more on the Muddy Gunner box blind go to www.gomuddy.com!

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Late Doe Management | How Filling the Freezer Can Cause Problems

Late Season Doe Management Could Pose Problems When Filling the Freezer

It’s the last week of deer season and you have just had one of the proudest, yet scariest moments of your life. Your significant other recently looked at you and pleaded “when are you going to kill a deer”? A tear shed from your eye…a slight sob came from deep within. Thoughts rushed through your mind…”Is he/she really, no it can’t be, no way, should I even dare ask, do they want me to go hunting?” After mustering up enough courage you let a very meek “do you want me to go hunting this afternoon”? Not a second passes by when your mind suddenly forms a terrifying question…”Are we out of meat?” The realization that late season doe management is needed to fill the freezer isn’t pleasing, especially when filling the freezer could pose problems for your future hunting!

While many hunters might revel in the fact that their significant other has just told them to go hunting, the scary position and possibility of being out of venison isn’t pleasing, in fact, it’s darn right petrifying! While late season hunting during the last weeks and days of deer season offer opportunities to fill the freezer, doing so may, in fact, jeopardize your future hunting success…

Trophy Pursuit: Doe Management from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo

 

Why Late Season Doe Management?

Lets be honest, the whole reason the pressure is on you at this moment is because you have passed countless opportunities at some much-needed steaks and hamburgers still walking around on 4 legs. The reason you passed doe after doe is the hope of a rack not to far behind her.

While this may have been a good tactic during October, and even during the sweet November rut, there are no excuses for December. Hunters can struggle with the internal debate of pulling the trigger on a doe, no matter the time of day, minutes left in the hunt, or the freezer situation. There is something “opportunistic” about a pressure free food plot during the last hour of light, a very real unknown of what could step out of the dark timber on the far side of the plot. This drives you crazy to the point of putting some strain on your venison supply.

Besides and empty freezer haunting what seems like every dinner for the past month, another big weight comes from you inner deer manager and habitat manager. It’s what Trail Cameras Weekly calls the “Pile up effect”. The characteristics and facts of the late season that make it one of the best times to kill a mature buck also force the hunter’s hand in being one of the worst in terms or habitat/property management. Either one, two, or in some instances all three factors come together to force a hunters hand at doe management…or at least plants the thought in their mind. Low hunting pressure, quality thermal habitat/cover/bedding, and the presence of a late season food source are the ingredients for exceptionally “well off” property in the late season. It is also the recipe for the pile up effect.

30, 40, 50 + deer in one 3 acre food plot or cut crop field may be alarming for some hunters, yet others consider it as a daily norm. When deer start to pile into to either a spot of low hunting pressure, a warm/thick bedding area, or a late season food source like standing corn or beans it usually spurs some thought towards doe management. The sheer amount of numbers continually increasing as the temperature drops and snow falls alarms hunters into thinking they have a way too many deer. In many instances, you might! The question will haunt you until the post season ( look out for an upcoming blog about deer surveys). Otherwise, can a conclusion be drawn from simply observing food source or bedding area? Yes and no. While it certainly warrants the taking of a doe or two in many hunters’ minds, there are simply way too many factors to consider of whether or not you should practice doe management. Besides figuring out how many deer you have on your property, the fawn recruitment rate, sex ratio, and taking into account habitat/property characteristics and food availability, there are some problems and benefits of practicing doe management this late into the season.

Late Season Doe Management: Problems

Think about what a regular late season hunt consists of. Getting out in the stand or box blind overlooking a brassica plot around let’s say 2 or 3 o clock. Waiting patiently until 4 or 4:30 pm when the first couple of deer start filtering out. Waiting even longer until about 5:15 – 5:30 (or last 30 minutes of legal shooting light) to see what buck might eventually make his way into the plot.  Most hunters would agree that this is a pretty solid itinerary for what normally happens out there.

Now, try and think about when you think might be the most appropriate time to shoot a doe. Many hunters would say early in the afternoon, however, many would also say wait as long as possible to see if a buck shows. The problems occur as both have negatives going for them…

  • Shooting Early: Button Bucks

If pulling the trigger early in the afternoon sounds like the best option then you might just pull the trigger on a button buck. Usually the first deer out in the plot or crop field are fawns. They are also often alone. By this time in the season they are the biggest (in terms of body) they will be during the first hunting season. So you have one deer out in the field at about 4:00, do you shoot. Unless you have a spotting scope in the tree stand or blind,  or a $500+ pair of binoculars you might be shooting a button buck.

  • Shooting Late: Shed Bucks

In some cases, one of your mature hit-list bucks, or a soon to be up and comer might have cast their antlers early. There are many reasons this is caused by (hormones, sex ratios, injuries) but the fact is that there is a buck not sporting his headgear! Now you waited until the last 15 minutes of light, a big bodied deer walks into the plot, but you don’t see a rack so you let her or him walk in and start feeding. Ten minutes later and you only have 5 minutes of legal shooting light. Do you know which big bodied deer is a doe or a cast buck? Often times there is not enough light to be 100% certain that blocky head doesn’t have craters on it or not. Walking up on a big mature doe to only seconds later figure out it’s MR. Big without is “valuables” is sickening, to say the least!

Late Season Doe Management: Benefits

With deer behavior and your hunting strategy relying so much on food sources in the late season, one serious benefit comes from practicing doe management…and it often goes discarded! This benefit goes for the early season as well. Both the late season and the early season create a setting in which food is the name of the game. By not discarding the gut pile, and cutting open a doe’s stomach contents you can find out what deer eat on your property. Finding out directly what deer are eating and concentrating on during this time is more valuable than what your trail cameras are telling you in some instances!

The information and stomach contents broken down into percentages of food sources like the video shows means that you can accurately assess where the deer, and more importantly your hit-list buck, might be spending their time feeding.

One other benefit that doesn’t take much explanation is simply using a dwindling freezer supply as an excuse to put as many hours on the stand as

possible. Providing food your family is the basics and history of hunting…You must hunt for your family to survive! While that might be blowing things out of proportion for the majority of hunters, it is, by all means, a very good excuse to keep hitting the woods!

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The Takeaway: START EARLY!

While there are some benefits to practicing doe management in the late season, there are also some pretty intense negatives. Next year, instead of hearing relentless nagging and the need for meat from your spouse, kill a doe or two early to relieve your dwindling meat supply. By doing this, you can have the rest of the year to concentrate on killing a buck.

However, if your aim is to use a dwindling meat supply as an excuse to hunt as much as possible in the late season, then you by all terms are a very smart hunter indeed. Just be cautious that this benefit can and might indeed cause you problems later down the road. For more videos and articles like this, and more deer hunting videos and weekly hunting content, visit Muddy TV. Also be sure to check in every week for new hunting tips, tactics, and strategies at the Muddy Outdoors Blog.

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Positioning Tree Stands for Late Season Deer Hunting

Transitioning Tree Stands for Different Phases of Deer Season

Archery season is over and by this time many hunters have sighted in their rifles for the annual firearms seasons in most states. If you have not already harvested a buck, you are likely anticipating these remaining days in the woods. Anything from bad luck in your tree stands to a nocturnal trophy on your trail cameras may have lead you to this point. Either way, late season deer hunting is a whole different ball game.

 

This time of year deer have been pressured by other hunters, gone through the peak rut and are dealing with the onset of winter. A trifecta of changes that whitetails deal with and change their patterns because of. Deer hunting strategies, particularly stand placement, have to evolve over the course of the season to follow mature bucks through these changing times. Your stands from archery season are, most likely, not where they should be for late season whitetail hunting.

 

Phases of Deer Season

Seasonal phases of whitetails should influence how you hunt and where you hang your tree stands. These phases can occur rapidly, so understanding them and knowing how to change your stand locations is important. This general background on the phases of deer season will lead us to our objective of setting up late season deer stands and discussing other tips for late season bucks.

 

  • Phase One: Early Season

During the early season, whitetails are focused on food. Tree stands should be concentrated around food plots, agricultural lands and mast producing woodlands. This is also where your trail camera setups should be placed to gather as much knowledge of the local deer herd you will be hunting.

Does and younger bucks will move towards these defined food sources in the last hour or so of daylight. Early season deer hunting stands placed downwind and at a point where you can access them with little to no disturbance are usually good bets for meat hunting. However, more mature bucks are going to be feeding in the early morning hours or after sunset. Here you want stands positioned near staging areas. These areas can be small food sources between bedding areas and the main food source or habitat features like saddles or wood rows where bucks will hang out until entering the food source.

 

Additional Content: Mock Scrapes in the Early Season

 

  • Phase Two: The October Lull

Not long after deer season starts, deer seem to disappear. Full food plots and soybean fields quickly turn to ghost towns. The reasons for this drop in deer activity are debatable. The October lull can still be hunted but understand that deer are changing their patterns in response to food source changes and preparation for the upcoming breeding season.

Successfully hunting the October lull does not necessarily mean a change in tree stand placement but rather a change in hunting strategy. Focus on hunting cold fronts, sitting all day and finding acorn crops. Since the rut is looming, the last thing you want is to over hunt a good area and ruin it for the rest of the year, including rifle season. Avoid hunting tree stands in prime areas and save them for later in the year. Hunt, or move, stands near bedding locations and heavy mast areas for your best chance in this phase.

Additional Content: Hunting the October Lull

 

  • Phase Three: The Pre-Rut

As October comes to an end, the October lull gives way to the onset of the rut. Pre-rut bucks are actively out producing rubs, scrapes and defining territorial boundaries. These signs are useful in how to pick a tree stand location. Setup along active scrape lines and ambush points for bucks working rub lines.

Bucks are active in this phase and daytime sightings are common. They will be clearly staying within their defined home range but out during shooting hours and harvestable with the right tree stand placement.

Additional Content: Hunting the Pre-rut

 

  • Phase Four: The Rut

The time every hunter looks forward to is the rut. Does are coming into estrus, bucks are chasing and the deer movement throughout the day picks ups. This time of year, usually around the first week of November through December (varying depending on your location and a host of other factors), is when you should have tree stands up in major travel corridors. Doe movement in these areas will have bucks following. Rut hunting 101 says stay all day in your stands because the mature buck’s schedule is completely out the window. He can appear alongside a doe or be called in at any time and if you are not in stand it is an opportunity missed.

Additional Content: Rut Hunting 101

 

  • Phase Five: Lockdown

The chase is over and bucks have their pick as most does are now in estrus. Mature bucks will lay with does anywhere from 24-28 hours until breeding is complete. Thus, mature bruisers are likely vacant from an area for a few days, leaving only younger bucks still searching for a mate available to harvest.

Emphasis hunting tree stands near thick cover and other doe bedding areas while hunting the lockdown phase of deer season. Be patience as a buck will eventually come out of lockdown and move again in search of another doe.

Additional Content: Hunting the Lockdown

 

  • Phase Six: Post Rut

Buck activity picks up slightly as mature whitetails seek out the last remaining does that have not been bred.  Stand placement in the post rut hinges on those same areas you hunted during the peak of the rut, such as main travel areas and funnels. Travel thoroughfares are likely spots to catch a mature whitetail pursuing an unbred doe.

Food sources also come back into play when hunting post rut bucks. Deer, in general, are depleted and are looking to regain calories lost over the course of the last month or so. Cold fronts play a role here as the bulk of winter months are looming. Acorns and remaining agricultural fields are good tree stand locations generally but especially as cold fronts approach your hunting location.
Additional Content: Hunting The Post Rut

These phases of deer season are not a complete, definitive guide by any stretch. Each phase is far from having a clearly drawn line or timeframe from which one can decipher the end of one phase and the start of another. However, they do put into perspective the idea of how a whitetail changes during the course of a hunting season and some basic approaches to deer stand placement strategy over the course of the season.\

 

Late Season Deer Hunting

With the rut behind us or perhaps just finishing up, the rest of the hunting season can be lumped into what is called the late season. Sure, some second rut activity may start up here and there but for the most part, rutting is over and bucks and does are back to turning their attention to food sources. Hunting bucks late season often marks the start of rifle hunting in most states. Late season stand placement either means transitioning your tree stands back to early season areas on low-pressure properties or focusing on pressure points near food sources for pressured deer.

Whitetail 101 Episode 17 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

 

With the rut concluding, bucks are back to food sources. The need to replenish reserves for the looming winter are great. The catch is, food has changed since the beginning of deer season (phase one). Somewhat unlimited forage has been cut, picked or killed off by frost by this time in the year. December and the months ahead until spring leaves mature whitetails with fewer options to fill up on. Mast producing areas and winter food plots are prime areas to target for late season deer hunting. Also, areas with remaining standing corn or cover crops like winter wheat or rye can also pull deer out.

 

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Trail cameras are going to be very helpful to identify which food sources bucks are using. The colder temperatures synonymous with late season hunting can push bucks into food sources earlier in the day, earlier than you have seen them all year. With trail camera tips for late season deer hunting, you can effectively mark these timings and position late season deer stands accordingly.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – Food Sources

 

 

  1. Inside corners of food plots or fields are used by mature whitetails to enter and feed in food sources. Setup down wind, preferably in a tree stand on a bottleneck just off of the field.
  2. Habitat hubs are places where two or more ridges, wood strips or creek bottoms converge. If you can find one of these stops on a known buck’s travel cycle (think bedding to food) with your trail cameras you are in business.
  3. Defined edges can be anything from a change in timber types (oak to pines) to a cut field edge along an oak stand. Either way, deer will travel edges, especially around mast producing areas to pop out into food sources.

 

Another late season deer hunting tactic during this “last phase” of deer season is going to be pressure areas. If you are hunting on public land, rifle season is going to see an increase in hunter pressure. Deer, especially bucks, are not going to wander out into open oak flats or fields to feed with hunters roaming around. The pressure will have them forced back into heavy cover areas adjacent to food sources. They will still feed but positioning tree stands will be much more important.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – Pressure Areas

 

  1. Heavy cover will hold bucks that have been pressured out of their normal routines. Transition tree stands to areas that are adjacent to reliable food sources.
  2. Off the grid is a late season deer hunting tactic to find undisturbed bucks away from any late season hunting pressure. Hang a stand deep in the backcountry or on a farm that has not been hunted, along well-used
  3. Alternative food sources are places for stands that can relieve some late season pressure. Instead of sitting over a food plot, look for cut corn fields with some standing rows or groups of hickory or beech that will draw in deer.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – The Right Tree

 

Late season bucks require transitioning your archery stands to late season locations. Those who blindly hunt in stands without understanding tips for late season bucks will have a mediocre hunting season at best. Once you know where to move your stand, a good tree to put it in makes all the difference.

 

Tree stand setup tips should include a tree that is:

 

  • downwind of where you expect to see deer or where they will be coming from.
  • as far as possible off of the hunting area, food, sign, travel areas, etc. as you can comfortable shoot successfully.
  • multiple stemmed for concealment and positioning accessories.
  • large enough in diameter for good stand placement

Trophy Pursuit: Persistence from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tips

 

Changing up your tree stands in the late season for whitetails is only part of being successful. Your strategy also has to adapt as deer are looking winter right in the eye. After you have your stands positioned for the late season, here are a few hunting tips to increase your chances on a mature late-in-the-year buck.

 

  1. Hunt late. Buck activity coupled with the cold temperatures makes it more productive to spend your time hunting the afternoon and evening rather than the early morning.
  2. Practice shooting, again. Range time is great over the summer but remember that late season deer hunting will have you shooting with heavy clothes and gloves on. If you have not already practiced shooting in these situations pre-season, then hit the range again before you sit in your stand with a rifle.
  3. Weather watching. Whitetails will be motivated by storm fronts so keep an eye on the weather and plan hunts around approaching and departing winter storms.
  4. Keep checking trail cameras. Vital information can be observed from late season game cameras. Keep them up and checked regularly to pinpoint where to ambush that hold over buck.
  5. Explore new areas. Late season is a good time to grab a mobile tree stand and explore some new hunting spots. Setup when you come across good sign (trails, scat, old rubs, etc.) and use it as an opportunity to also find a new spot for next year.

 

In the end for those of us still in the woods with an empty tag, late season whitetail hunting is all that remains until we cap yet another hunting season. Successful or not, each hunting seasons has its ups and downs. Pressured, tired bucks require a different approach such as transitioning tree stands and thinking about late season hunting strategies. Late season deer hunting is not for the faint of heart. But, these late season tips can be your ticket to success if you still need to fill a buck tag.

Ground Blind Hunting Tips Photo Credit: Trophy Pursuit

Ground Blind Hunting Tips for the Late Season

 

Ground Blind Hunting Tips For Late Season Hunting

The 9th inning has arrived and while to many hunters that sounds like we are the bearer of bad news, it, in fact, is quite the opposite. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it is your only opportunity at scoring a 9th inning buck. For the past several weeks our blog topics have been diving into preparation for the late season. It now seems to be a fit time to dive straight into the actual hunting tactics. For the last weeks of deer season, a ground blind stands as one of best tools a hunter can possibly use. The characteristics of the late season intertwined with a ground blind’s effectiveness is unrivaled during this time period. Take these ground blind hunting tips for the late season and apply them to your hunting strategy. The time period, the tool, these tips, and the strategy all come together to give you a chance at that 9th inning buck you are so desperately seeking.

With state’s firearms seasons closing, bucks are finally starting to feel the effects of relentless hunting pressure lifting off of properties. This godsend goes hand in hand with the arrival of cold temperatures and the attraction of late season food sources. These ingredients spell out a recipe for one of the best times to kill you hit-list buck, even when it is the 9th inning! The reason for this is not just due in part to the biology and behavior of white-tailed deer, but what tools have been made available that are so extremely effective during these last weeks.

Trail Cameras Tell the Story

In the past weeks, the relentless preparation and work to establish intel on late season food sources have been put entirely on the shoulders of trail cameras. In recent weeks we have provided countless trail camera tips, and trail camera settings for the late season in order to help you discover a “patternable” mature buck on these food sources.

 

 

For all practical purposes, trail cameras have started and are currently telling the story of the late season. With the help of both trail cameras on time-lapse mode, and trail cameras in late season funnels a mature buck cannot go unseen when entering a late season food source. Now, with the season running out of pages so to speak, hunters look for a hunting tool and tactic to finish and close the book on a hit-list buck!

Blinds Finish It

During this time of year blinds, in general, take precedence over tree stands. Whether you favor box blinds, elevated ground blinds, mobile ground blinds, or bale blinds doesn’t matter, the simple fact is that they are the best tool for the job. Why?

Whitetail 101 Episode 17 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

Bill Winke, the host of Midwest Whitetail and Muddy’s Whitetail 101, explains why blinds are the only tool for the job in the late season. The very nature of deer and the late season support this reasoning…

  • It’s Cold –Temperatures dropping beneath 32 degrees packs quite a punch, especially with a 10 mph wind backing it. Blinds offer a hunter a windscreen and ultimately provides a hunter with a buffer from the weather and late season elements.
  • Deer are FED UP with Movement– By now deer are extremely wary of the slightest movements. This can make hunting from a tree stand nearly impossible. Rather, a ground blind or elevated box blind allows you to conceal your movements.
  • Food Source– In this period of deer season, with the deer so heavily focused on food, easily mobile ground blinds can easily be placed and moved in and around the food sources according to patterns and wind directions.

While blinds might be the best tool for the late season, no tool is without a flaw. The simple fact is that you are at the deer’s level. This requires extra precautions from both their sight and sense of smell. Ground blind hunting in the late season requires special attention in the placement according to both the deer and the food source.

Ground Blind Hunting and Placement Tips


Trail Cameras Weekly’s Weston Schrank walk you through how to determine the perfect spot for the blind on your late season food source. It will depend entirely on these 5 features. Take a good look at these features not only when you are setting up the blind, but every time you hunt as they are constantly changing.

 

  • Food Source – Identify and take a good look at the food source and all of the features and characteristics of the area.
  • Bedding Area – Figure out where the closest bedding area is, also consider where a mature buck might bed.
  • Funnels and Runs – You need to identify the main funnel or easiest travel route for the deer utilizing the food source.
  • Wind and Thermals– The wind direction and more importantly thermals are the most important consideration in relation to your blind setup location, the bedding area, and where the deer will be.
  • Hunter Access -Your entrance/exit route must be safe during the day and night, In order to keep the food source pressure free.

 

By looking at a map and scouting the food source and surrounding area, the above 5 features will easily suggest the best location for the blind.

Other Ground Blind Hunting Tips for the Late Season

Remember, late season hunting is nearly always afternoon hunting. It is ideal for the late season as deer work their way out of the bedding areas on very cold days to feed on the food source early to avoid the frigid temps of the early morning. This feeding will occur in daylight for the most part as they simply need more time to feed! This means thermals mid-hunt to the last hour of light will begin to drop off the hills and follow topography like water. The goal is to set the blind up where we can access it without walking across where we expect deer for scent purposes, or allow deer in the bedding area to see us, and also needing to consider our exit in relation to deer feeding in the field. At the same time, you must make sure the wind direction and/or the falling thermals are exiting the field in a way that for the most part deer will not catch your wind.

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By reading these ground blind hunting tips, you should walk away with three key take home points…One, the 9th inning is not the time to give up on deer season. Two, you should be hunting out of a ground blind during the late season. Finally three, there is a lot more to setting up a ground blind that simply placing it for the shot. With ideal blind setups for late season hunting, observations in place, and required prep work from trail cameras and scouting, you will be setting yourself up for success in either this week or the cold weeks to come!