By Nick Simonson
As the joke in the upper Midwest goes, “we’re past the fourth of July, so summer’s basically over.” The warm weather season, especially this abbreviated one with its late start, is as fleeting as the flicker of lightning bugs above the grasses on the edge of a midsummer highway. Blink now, it’ll be gone and it’s on to autumn. For the diligent bow hunter though, the turn of the calendar into July signals a time of great preparation and there’s much to do before the season arrives at the end of August. Between now and the start of the season there’s scouting to be done, stand inspection and deployment to tend to and some clean-up projects to help improve the odds of success this fall.
Knowing what’s lurking in the woods, draws, fields and sloughs leading up to the season is helpful in finding a target buck to pursue and to learn the movement of deer in a particular area. By using trail cameras, it’s easy to get this information through passive processes, but it’s the active scouting efforts that help cement deer patterns in late summer that will spill over into early autumn. By glassing fields with binoculars and spotting scopes and watching for deer movement during peak activity hours around dawn and dusk, hunters are able to get an idea as to when deer are moving most often and how they are adjusting to summer conditions, including developing food sources and cover. Take some time a couple evenings a week to drive around hunting areas and learn more about how the animals are moving. Make a journal out of the process and write down data that can be combined with trail camera photos and maps to make a pre-season plan for success.
Now is the time to inspect last season’s stands for wear, missing parts or things that need to be repaired (like that seat the squirrels got ahold of last December). Make sure every stand is given a solid once over in the waning weeks of summer and add some tape or padding to eliminate clanking metal or squeaky hinges so they’re as silent as can be for autumn. It’s a good idea to get them hung up now so they become part of the environment, lose that stink from being in storage the past few months, and are ready to go when opening day arrives. Just make sure to give them a good check again right before the season, as weather events and shifting can occur after stands are put in place. If necessary, add new ratchet straps and maybe even a few trail markers to help find the location of new stands a whole lot easier.
Finally, when getting ready for the bow hunting season, make a visit to stand sites and be certain that all applicable shooting lanes are clear of branches, brush or other obstructions. Remove fallen trees from those sight lines with a small chainsaw, and trim back branches around the stand with a pole saw or lopper to allow for a smooth draw and a clear view. Just remember to leave some foliage around the stand and in back of it to break up a profile in case a wary deer glances up or spies the site from a distance. Deposit the branches and debris in a manner that helps direct deer toward the stand and turns a quartering or going-away shot into a broadside one by placing it strategically along a known travel corridor or the shooting lane. With these tips in mind, the last few weeks of our warm-weather season won’t seem so wistful, and the autumn days afield will be all the more exciting.