Walter Gary called last week from Berry’s Sporting Goods to remind me this is an excellent time to scout for deer and get prepared for next season. That may seem strange since deer season just ended and won’t open again for almost ten months, but preparing now can help you get your deer, and insure it is a quality deer, next year.
The deer have had almost a month to calm down since season ended. They have returned to their normal patterns for this time of year. This weekend would be an excellent time to scout and find fresh signs after the rain in mid-week. If you feel foolish scouting for deer now, carry along a .22 and hunt squirrels while you look for deer signs.
Feeding areas will be different now from what they will be next fall, but bedding areas and travel routes can give you an idea of what the deer will be doing then. They will be eating winter browse like honeysuckle and greenbriar now, and looking for acorns next fall, but they will frequent the same areas. When looking for sign now, think how it will change with the changing seasons.
You can sweeten your chances next year by planting winter food for the deer and keeping it growing as the seasons change. Winter peas should still sprout during warm spells like we had last week, and you can follow up with hot weather peas later in the spring. Keep food growing where you want the deer to be next year when season opens. Insuring they have plenty of food now will help the does as their fawns develop in them, and will also help the bucks recover from the rut. All the deer may need help during a rough winter.
If you put out mineral blocks, now it a good time to get them out and let them be soaking into the ground. Although the deer will not lick them much until later in the spring, you can have them out when they get ready for them.
As a bonus, you might find shed antlers in the woods now. Bucks drop their antlers around the first of February and, if you are lucky, you might find one. Squirrels and other rodents eat the antlers for the calcium in them and they don’t last but a few days after being shed. You have to be in the right place at the right time.
Get out this weekend. You might find the woods hold more interest than the Super Bowl – if you know where to look.