It’s almost game time. Soon, the leaves will be changing, beans will be defoliating, and you’ll be 20 feet up waiting on that buck of a lifetime. August is time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and make those final preparations that will make the fall of 2023, one to remember.
by Mark Kayser
August marks a time when whitetail hunters begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light could be the glow of the upcoming season. It could also be an oncoming freight train rushing at you like an NFL middle linebacker. Are you ready for the season, or have you spent too many hours on the links or chauffeuring a speedboat on the lake with a gaggle of kids on a tube?
Luckily, you have a window yet to complete some whitetail chores, and the timing is exceptional. The landscape has evolved, for the most part, to what it should look like for the hunting season. Forests reign in a leafy kingdom. Spring food plots show what they will be able to offer through fall. The surrounding crops are nearly mature. As summer slowly creeps toward fall, you have everything needed to make final preparations. Here are a few chores that have the potential to enhance success in the coming months.
Trail Camera Maintenance & Adjustment
No doubt you fought through ticks and chiggers to place an army of trail cameras in the spring or early summer. Despite this battle of bugs, you may need to reinvade your hunting area and adjust cameras for late summer and fall focus. The landscape is slowly changing every day, as do whitetail habits. For these reasons, a move to your trail cams is likely in order.
Spring food sources could mature and dry out, leaving deer looking for a more supple nutrition source. Surrounding crops could lure deer off your hunting property to take advantage of higher protein alternatives. Tall cover crops that provide a solid mix of protein and carbs, like dryland or irrigated corn fields, become ultra-attractive because deer can find food, water, and shelter in one location.
Deer may still be using your property as a springboard for its sanctuary setting but leaving it via a new route to access fresh food. In addition to crops luring deer across the fence, acorns could change your deer patterns. If you have populations of oaks, it pays to scout them for acorn production, and if the crop has a bumper possibility, preset trail cameras to begin monitoring those areas. Hunting app management, such as those offered with HuntStand’s Pro app subscription, aid in organizing and highlighting thousands of images.
Some properties hold a continuous pattern through all four seasons, but from my experience, expect pattern fluctuations throughout varying times of the year. A property I hunt annually in Kansas is a prime example. Alfalfa keeps deer close in the spring and summer, but neighboring soybean fields create a migration as summer heats up. By fall, the deer begin filtering back to munch on clover plots, and turnip plots hold their attention in winter. Keeping tabs on trail cameras becomes a full-time job.
Stand Assessment & Deployment
While you battle ticks, chiggers, and oh, I forgot, mosquitoes, survey the landscape for new stand sites. Your trail cameras will reveal much as you refocus their photo angles, and those images could reveal patterns you need to consider. Again, the timing could not be more perfect as the playing field begins to emerge with land management practices on full display.
Although your food plots, native browse, and acorn patches stay the same, farmers follow a rule of crop rotation. This allows the soil to recover and recharge from nutrients that varying crops rob, and others replenish. This rotation influences deer patterns. Deer will up and move from a home territory to take advantage of foods within easy walking distance. Relocating a mile or more from their confirmed home territory is nothing for a deer seeking sustenance with an understanding of rut rigors followed by approaching winter.
Whether you move a permanent blind or simply hang a new treestand, be wary of changes that could make your traditional ambush sets as unoccupied as a Bud Light fan club meeting in Lubbock, Texas. Setting new stands in summer also provides a window for the area to settle after your intrusion. You want to avoid busting into the perimeter of a bedding area in late October, saw in hand, to carve out a new stand site. Deer soon forget about an intrusion if no follow-ups occur. Still, a commotion followed by repeated disturbances from your fall hunting endeavors begins to change patterns, particularly on mature bucks. Analyze any pattern changes now and preset your ambush for a targeted, time-saving approach in the fall.
Landowner & Neighbor Social Call
Be neighborly. Summer provides an ideal window for a visit. You may be hunting land simply through a handshake or a lease. And whether you hunt via these methods or own a property, talking to the neighbors makes sense for your future deer management.
A landowner meeting with the person who manages a property for an income lets you query about harvest projection dates, livestock grazing rotations, future fieldwork, and any other property projects that could throw a wrench into your fall hunt. Knowing these beforehand allows you to recalibrate your strategy, move stands or even find a new property to hunt. One year a buddy of mine shockingly discovered a pipeline was going straight through the property he hunted during the fall months. A dozen or more workers and heavy equipment ruined the season.
Neighbor meetings help you coordinate management goals. Getting to know the neighbors and understanding their hunting philosophy and their intended hunting pressure can help you craft a better management program. Your program could accentuate theirs or move you to provide more deer attractions on your property if the neighbors seem like they need to be more neighborly. In a perfect world, you would work together on sharing information on what bucks to pass, working to provide year-round feed, and setting aside ample sanctuary to create a more extensive Garden of Eden for all to enjoy.
Last-Minute Food Plot
Lastly, always believe it is still possible to plant a food plot if you see a need to attract deer back to your property. Fall is an ideal window, but be ready to farm. Your window will be from July through mid-September. You need soil samples completed, limed soil, soil tilled, and fertilizer spread so that you can plant instantly when the window looks favorable. The steps and products used in soil preparation take time to work. Your timing should also coordinate with a good rain opportunity to get plants up before cooler temperatures invade.
Plant what you researched does best in your latitude, but plant backups, such as winter wheat or oats, in addition to brassicas and turnips, provide a rescue plan if one crop fails. Blends and plot partitioning provide even more of a guarantee that something will sprout as an attraction.
Fall seems like a world away as you visit the lake, camp, hike the mountains and enjoy amusement parks, but you’ll be shivering in a treestand soon. Some sweat equity will make those shivers much more agreeable as you confidently hunt.