Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Off-Season Preparation for Deer
By Bob Humphrey
Turkey season is over and deer seasons are three or four months away. What better time to start preparing your stands for the fall. You can make minor disturbances and even major perturbations without negatively impacting your hunting. In fact, you’ll only make it better.
Let’s start with existing stands and stand locations. Remember that low-hanging branch that blocked your shot last fall, or that pile of dead branches you had to walk through trying to sneak to your stand? Get rid of them. A lot could have changed over the winter too. Don’t wait until a week or two before season to find out your stand tree was struck by lightning.
1. Trim out shooting lanes - Branches fall and saplings grow into shooting lanes. Clear them out so there won’t be anything that might interfere with your shot.
2. Inspect your stands - Check all straps and fasteners to ensure they’re snug, but not too snug. Nuts, bolts and screws can come loose and make noise, or represent a safety hazard. Tighten them up. Check ratchet straps for wear, then loosen and re-tighten. Trees grow and if straps become too tight they will break. Also, squirrels like to chew on them, as well as seat cushions and shooting rests. Inspect and replace if necessary.
3. Inspect Locks - If your stands are locked, open, lubricate and re-lock them. Locks can become rusted or corroded eventually becoming non-functioning, which can be a real pain if and when you decide to remove that stand.
Now it’s time to move on to new stands. Remember that smokin’ hot spot you found last fall, the one you noted in your hunting log and marked as a waypoint on your GPS? Okay, so maybe you’re not that meticulous. But I’ll bet you found one or two locations you thought would make good stand sights. And I’ll bet you can find them again, especially now that you have some extra time.
Here again, you can do whatever is necessary to trim branches and clear shooting lanes without worrying too much that it will disturb deer in the area. It will initially, but they’ll become adjusted to the changes long before hunting season. Try to minimize disturbance, and make sure you don’t cut any rubs or branches that overhang scrapes.
Another nice thing about doing this now is that you can load all your gear in or on an ATV or Side-by-Side vehicle and drive right to the stand location. It may not be a big deal with a simple loc-on or a climber, but try strapping a two-man ladder stand on your back and carrying it a quarter mile into the woods.
In addition to the passive mode of finding hotspots, you can take a more direct and active approach by creating them.
1. Create Openings - Opening the canopy allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor, which means more natural deer food. It also creates more thick cover that deer prefer. And this can include the next tip …
2. Release Mast Trees - Thin around apple or oak trees, persimmon bushes or any other hard or soft mast-producing trees. By removing or reducing the competition for sunlight and soil nutrients you can increase mast production immensely.
3. Plant - If you don’t have mast trees, plant some. You can also put in small hidey-hole food plots, or plant woods roads and skid roads with clover.
All of these require bringing equipment into the woods. Again, you can use your ATV or Side-by-Side vehicle now without concern over too much disturbance. You wouldn’t and shouldn’t be driving in to your stands three or four months from now.