Look Back, Look Ahead…But Keep Hunting

The hunting season is winding down for many of you, and this is the final week of rut reporting for most of us. It's a natural time to reflect. I'm already scanning back through many of our reports and looking for information that will help me next fall.

I've kept a personal hunting journal for years because it helps me understand deer in my area better. South Central reporter Brandon Ray also keeps a log (which he described in a recent post) for the same reason. I encourage you to do the same, not only for the insight it contains but also because it serves as a unique, living history document. But don't forget that you can use our entire fall's worth of rut reports in a similar way--as a big-picture record for your entire region.

Each of our reporters taps a wealth of sources--hunters, guides, shop owners, pro staffers, and more--to make sure you are tuned in to exactly what is happening on the ground from week to week, and taken as a whole, that information can reveal important trends, such as how weather affects rut behavior or how a late rut (like this one) influences the intensity of sign-making, chasing, or the timing of the second rut.

It's not too early to review what you've seen and learned this fall and begin to factor it all in to next year's plans.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of hunting left in many states. The final weeks of the archery season in my neck of the woods (Minnesota and Wisconsin) is one of my favorite times to be in the woods. The competition is nearly zero, the ground is typically blanketed with snow, and patterning deer is somewhat easier.

Mid-South reporter Will Brantley's recent report about finding bucks concentrated in small "safe havens" should motivate the region's hunters to keep at it. Find an isolated spot with both food and cover and you stand a good chance of finding the buck you're after. Look for covers that other hunters ignore, as well as more discreet food sources like browse and acorns. Do more scouting than hunting, and the opportunity can be fabulous. And if the weather has been cold and/or nasty, as it's been in Great Plains reporter David Draper's area, daylight buck activity may be better than it's been all fall.

As usual, it boils down to never giving up and putting in the effort, as evidenced by South reporter Eric Bruce's story of young Nicholas Sampy, who missed two bucks from a stand one day, and then returned the next to score. My outfitter buddies tell me that one of the toughest things for them to do is convince a hunter to return to a stand he's sat the day before. Add to that the mental burden of whiffing not one but two shots at bucks on the previous day, and I'm betting Sampy was gritting his teeth when he walked to his stand that morning. You've got to hand it to him for getting back in the saddle. Sometimes there's no substitute for simply grinding it out.

So keep at it. And whether or not you take your buck, start taking notes for an even better season next fall.