Summer Deer Hunting Checklist
If you live and breathe the pursuit of hunting whitetails the summer is obviously not a time to relax! For those of us ate up enough with hunting, the understanding is that deer season is a 365 day a year event. Sure our fortunes as deer hunters are made mostly during November, but we spend the other days, weeks, and months daydreaming about and preparing for deer season. In fact so much thought and prepping is put into deer season that it would be astonishing to see the thoughts and the to-do list drawn out on paper. The thoughts, ideas, chores, and what-ifs in your head should now be organized and prioritized into a deer hunting checklist!
Take notes and check off these to-do’s as you complete them. Whether you are just a couple months from deer season or just week if not days away from it, now is the time to ensure you are ready! Some may be a higher priority than others for you depending on your situation and property, but overall this summer deer hunting checklist should help organize what you need to be done!
After looking through the checklist keep reading for more detailed explanations of why these items made the list!
Offseason Deer Hunting Checklist
- Plant/Manage Food Plots
- Buy License/Read regulations
- Utilize Minerals, Supplements, and Bait (or remove bait before season)
- Check and Run Trail Cameras (full batteries, empty formatted SD cards)
- Gather an Inventory (trail camera survey)
- Scout for the Early Season
- Tree Stand, Tripod Stand, and Box Blind Safety Check
- Safety Harness and Safe-Line check
- Sight in/Practice Bow and Firearm
- Create Detailed and Organized Maps
- Think Through Your Hunting Pack
Summer is food plot season. Planting food for your deer not only provides extra protein for growth but forage to sustain your herd in the cold weather of the late fall and winter. Planting food plots takes several easy steps although it can be time-consuming.
First, test the soil to find the pH or acidity level of the ground you wish to cultivate for your food plot. Finding the acidity will help you decide the next steps such as liming and seed choice. Lime is a base which helps bring balance to unbalanced soils. If your chosen area has had the nutrients washed away on a steep grade or is higher in elevation, then you will want to find the right amount of lime per acre needed to balance the pH to help optimize seed growth. Second, choosing the right seed for the pH is critical. Typically seed manufacturers will have the information on each seed and what pH the plant will grow in best. Taking into consideration what your goals are for a given location you will want to plant accordingly. Having a mix of high protein plants with high carbs and sugar –rich plants can help you create a year-round optimized buffet for your whitetails.
In some cases, access to farm equipment is not possible. Through the power of science, seed manufacturers have been able to develop seed blends perfect for simply throwing on the untilled surface of the earth. Typically, these are perfect for food plots in the woods where small clearings make for perfect ambush locations. To create a food plot in the woods it is important to spray the weeds and rake away any debris like leaves, rocks, and sticks. Seeds must hit the open dirt. Carry a sturdy metal garden rake and have durable work gloves to protect from blisters. Cut the canopy of the trees back as much as possible to maximize sunlight. Lack of sunlight is what kills most food plot efforts.
Create/Organize Your Maps
As we review the surroundings it is a bet practice to review first from the sky. Whether you use Google earth or a physical topographical map it is important to mark on map points of interest to scout. The aerial review provides a fresh perspective and can open new opportunities for stand locations. By paying close attention to the contours of the land you can find hidden travel corridors which guide deer travel such as saddles and benches, hidden field corners and bottlenecks. Marking on map points of interest to scout helps organize your efforts and make the best use of your time. Physical maps like those made from HunTerra Maps are a handy tool to be able to have at home or in the truck
Plan What to Do with Your Trail Cameras
In the interest of time management, it is important to make trail cameras a part of your summer scouting checklist. Ensure each camera is in peak functioning form by checking each before hanging. Check the connections at the batteries for corrosion. Moisture can corrode metal coils and render a camera useless. The last thing you want is to set a camera up in a prime location and not capture any photos due to faulty or damaged wires. Always buy fresh batteries and use cleared and formatted SD cards to optimize performance when scouting for deer in the summer. Double check the straps on used to hold your camera to a tree are not dry rotted and risk dropping your expensive camera. When setting up a camera make sure it is facing North to ensure pictures will not be ruined by glare. Sun glare ruins photos at peak deer activity in the early mornings. Check to make sure all branches are out of the way of the camera that could trigger the motion sensor as a false alarm! Summer is a critical time for inventory, so make sure you are utilizing them as best as possible. Proven summer strategies for trail cameras include mineral sites, trail camera surveys, time-lapse over food sources, and transition areas between bedding areas and food.
Mineral, Supplements, and Bait
Protein and mineral supplements are a storied part of any spring and summer scouting season. In the heat of the summer, it is the best way to capture the photos to take inventory of the deer you really want to chase. Especially in areas where the soil is lacking nutrients, supplemental feeding and mineral sites in states where it is legal may be your best option to help push the growth of your herd during the growing months. Protein supplements are valuable and research tells us that finding a mix with 16-18% protein is optimal. Minerals are also important for bucks and does. During gestation and lactation does have high requirements for calcium and magnesium to supplement their growing fawns. A buck will utilize calcium and phosphorus by storing it in his body to use throughout antler growth. Growing bucks require tremendous amounts of minerals as they are growing their bodies and their headgear! Be sure to take out these bait sites well before deer season if required by law!
As important as food is to the whitetail so too is cover. Mature whitetails, both bucks and does, require safety. Remember, deer are food and they know it all too well. Creating a safe place near food is a recipe for success. The best way to create your own safe place for deer is through the use of a chainsaw and hinge cutting trees. While cutting mature hardwoods is best under the eye of a trained forestry professional, there is plenty one can accomplish with a chainsaw properly cutting small to medium sized trees and scrub brush of little timber value to create a thick jungle of safety for deer. Cut properly, hinge cut trees will still produce browse for deer further increasing the value for deer. When cutting trees and brush it is important to use the following accessories. First, always wear eye protection. Wood chips and dirt flying everywhere from being cut can pose a serious threat to your eyes and face. A full face guard is advised. Second, always have a tool kit with the right equipment to deal with chains that may jump the track. A spare sharpened chain is a valuable asset as well.
Getting your stands ready for the fall is a ritual of the season. Checking stands for safety is of utmost importance. Straps in particular that have exposed to weather for any amount of time in the fall and winter ought to be checked for weakness. A dry rotted strap can easily break putting you into a rather dangerous situation. Inspect the cables on all stands to look for any weaknesses and check the bolts for rust which can ultimately deteriorate the safety of a tree stand.
Resist the urge to sit in your stand to scout during the summer. There is no sense if muddying up your area when you can scout fields from afar. A lot of hunters have lost the art of simply glassing for bachelor groups. The reliance on trail cameras for the majority of their scouting has left this tactic underappreciated. Glassing summer food sources and travel routes from several hundred yards away can be critical when developing an early season hunting strategy. While basic 10×42 binoculars are plenty efficient, having a spotting scope with real magnification power like 20-60x60mm puts you far enough away from the summer action to not risk spooking deer.
REMEMBER: As always in the hot summer months and even towards the beginning of deer season it is important to always check for ticks! Illnesses from ticks are an epidemic and hunters are perhaps at the most risk. Always remember to spray down with deet or pre-wash your clothing in permethrin. Keep all clothing sealed off to prevent ticks from crawling onto you. A full body check after you exit the field is necessary and make sure to hang your clothes out after a hunt to let all the ticks crawl off.
The dog days of summer are no time to relax for the committed deer hunter. This is when the homework happens to create success in the fall. While it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, setting a summer deer hunting checklist can help you organize your time efficiently and leave nothing to chance when the weather turns cold!