Deer season in Louisiana can be grueling for bow hunters. Most of us start in late September and early October only to tag out, give up, or burn out sometime in late January or February. After multiple conversations with other bow hunters this year that all started with, “I just don’t know where the deer went”, or “I’m starting to doubt myself”, I’m reminded that a few extra hours spent right now will save us a lot of headache next year. The time when we are just ready to pack up and start thinking about turkeys, spawning bass, or hog eradication is the most valuable time to begin executing our strategy for next year. Deer move in patterns: early season, pre-rut, rut, and post rut to be general. That’s not news. We experience these year after year. The problem is we don’t remember the details. We go into each season as if it is a new beginning, a clean slate full of brand new information, another chance to learn how to do this thing we call bowhunting better than we did last year. You’ll find that we’ve done ourselves a disservice by leaving the past in the past. You can jump next season’s hurdles today by ensuring you recount what occurred in the past!
On my trip to Kentucky earlier in the season I took detailed notes on deer movement, weather conditions like temperature, wind direction, speed and barometric pressure. Also noted was certain trails deer were using, which oak trees had been hammered and rut activity dates and behavior. Why? Because I only get 1 week there a year. Because next year I won’t be so worried if I go a few days without seeing much. Tracking info like this from year to year allows you to see patterns that you wouldn’t have discovered without the data collection. Plus it adds to the detective work, the process of outsmarting and attempting to checkmate that one buck on your hit list. That is what draws so many of us to handicap ourselves with a bow, the challenge! We often forget what last year was like. We forget that we went through a lull, that there was a time that we just weren’t seeing much. This year on the property I hunted in Beauregard parish the rut happened the week before and after the weekend of the rifle opener. I rattled in a good buck the week before and shot a decent 8 point the week after. Note taken! Looking back at last years notes on certain dates I could see that for 2 weeks not a single deer showed itself in that same location. So whats the verdict? Put your attention in a different location or use a different tactic there. The point of the notes is to record data over a period of time to be used in the future to make your decisions more purposeful, and less of a roll of the dice. We learn tons of new things every year… so we think. More than likely some of those “new things” have been experienced before, we simply forgot about them. Taking notes maximizes your efficiency and makes your decisions much less of a guess, and more of an optimal opportunity to achieve your targeted outcome. Whether it be only to see the deer you’re after in daylight, or bring him home in a cooler.
Your notes can be as general as logs of dates you saw good movement with correlating weather conditions or as defined as a timeline of particular buck sightings in person and on camera and the locations of such. Make your notes your own and log the information that will help you the most. Keep your notepad with you so you can log important events during the hunt and then complete your summary once you reach your truck or camp. Doing them the day of the hunt will get you the most accurate depiction of that days events.
Too often we put off scouting to preseason, which results in us putting all our money on the movement and sign we find in the late summer months. This is a recipe for disaster due to the summer feeding pattern being a thing of the past quickly after the season begins. Scouting now will give you the opportunity to 1, do it without sweating a ton, and 2, see and note what the deer are doing on the back end of the season. We often forget what they did in December and January when setting up in the heat of the late summer. Take inventory of the sign you see now and go back to it next year when you are having trouble getting on a buck. Some other obvious benefits to scouting now is the lack of snakes, bugs, you may pick up a shed or two, and trails stick out like a sore thumb with the lack of browse that survived the deer rumen and recent snowfall. Which brings up another point: Identify where the green browse is. Find those woody vines, briars, ivy and other native plants that can survive and thrive in cold weather. Thats’ where you want to be well after the acorns, crops, foodplots and grasses are gone.
Earmark Big Bucks
Like that one page in many of my QDMA magazines I save for later reference, the buck that got away deserves an earmark. Take good notes now of where he was early season or when he showed up mid or late season. Note what he fed on, what bucks he hung out with, when you caught his movement and where. Plan your intrusive activities for next year around that data you collect. (foodplot additions, hanging stands and clearing lanes) If he feels safe now, he will likely feel safe next year too if you are lucky enough to have him on private land. If that’s the case stay out. Get a cell camera, keep him fed, and leave him undisturbed throughout the spring and summer. A happy buck is a dead buck. He will have no reason to leave his core area and he will feel less threatened by coming out in daylight.
Success for next year began yesterday. Take good notes of your attempts, successes, failures, and the environment in which you accomplished both. Each deer is an individual. The sooner you learn to treat them as such, the sooner the one you’re after will be on your wall and on your table. What do I mean by that? Stop applying deer hunting generalities to Louisiana deer that are arguably some of the most wary and uniquely adapted deer in the country. Use what YOU learned about the deer YOU were after this year to hone your skills and pin point your strategy for next year.
– Justin Lanclos Sulphur, LA