August 15, 2018

Top Summer Improvement Projects

This is the summer you told yourself at the end of last season that you’d get out and do the things you didn’t do last season. Well? How’s it going so far?

Fall will be here before we know it. It some states, we’re a month out from the start of the season, so it’s literally around the corner. Maybe you’re ahead of the game already and working off that summer prep list, or maybe you’re not where you wanted to be by this time, but that’s okay. There’s still some time left. Here’s a few tips and ideas to help you get ready for the upcoming season.

At this point in the summer, it’s most important to prioritize what you want to try and accomplish with your hunting areas. There’s limited time left, but there’s still some time, so it’s all about taking advantage of it. First and foremost, it’s important to think about your goals for the season. What are you trying to accomplish this year or what did you learn from last year that you want to improve upon?

At the end of last year were you saying you wish you had another piece of property to hunt. Or maybe it was your stand locations and better optimizing your current setup by improving current stands and putting stands in new places. Or was it food plot related? There’s still time to get some late season plots in, so that could be another area to focus in on.

Getting more hunting land

This is the thing I tell myself at the end of each season that I want to improve upon, and I’m sure I’m not alone. When some of your core pieces aren’t producing or having the activity you’d hoped for, you wish you would have other options. Knocking on doors and getting to know folks can lead to amazing new hunting opportunities.

This here is the long play. A farmer is not going to just invite you in, roll out the red carpet and give you full access to his land. You’re playing the long game here, building a relationship. First by introducing yourself, understanding if others already are hunting it, maybe you start with activities that have a lower barrier to entry like shed hunting or turkey hunting. Both activities are a great way to build the relationship and trust before you ask to really make a commitment to deer hunt the property.

On the MeatEater Podcast, they recently shared a letter that listener sent in as a model for how to ask for permission. It’s a great example of going the extra mile with a landowner to get access to hunt their land. You can find a copy of the letter on the listener’s site. It’s a great starting point on how to frame the conversation with landowners in your area where you’re trying to get access.

Growing food plots

Planting food plots can be a great summer improvement project, but again, it’s not something you can just dive into. It takes some up front thinking and strategizing about where and what you want to plant. It is getting later in the summer at this point, but you still do have time to turn some dirt and get some seeds in the ground.

A couple of things to consider when planning out your food plots.

  • It’s good to think through why you want a food plot, and what are your goals towards improving your land
  • Take a survey of what type of feed is already in the area, and try and identify anything that’s missing. Your property can help to fill that gap. Here’s a great article from WiredToHunt on choosing what to plant.
  • Understanding the current condition of your soil is a critical step. This will help determine what types of fertilizers you use and if you need additional elements in the soil like lime. A simple soil test will go a long way and will help you save money down the road.
  • Lastly, consider how you’re going to access the land. Make sure when you’re thinking of where to put you food plots, that you’re giving yourself an opportunity to access your stand still and not potentially blowing deer out every time you access the land.

When is it too late to plant?

It depends where you are in the country, and the later you wait, the more you’re gambling with mother nature. For instance, in the upper Midwest (WI, MN and MI), ideally you want to get your food plots in the ground before Labor Day Weekend. What you’re working against here is that first frost, and you hopefully can give your food plots enough time before that first real cold snap hits.

Hanging new tree stands

Maybe last year you didn’t like your tree stand setup, or you wish you had more stands. Buying more stands is always a good investment because you’re giving yourself the opportunity to hunt different areas. This is good when maybe the action isn’t where you thought it would be, and it’s also smart to have variety so that you’re not hammering the same spot all season.

Another way to look at it would be if you already have some ladder stands, maybe it makes sense to add some hanging stands to your lineup so that you can try the run and gun approach. Give yourself the opportunity to get mobile out there with a run and gun stand like a Lone Wolf Hand Climbing Tree Stand.

Another great options for tree stands is to cruise craigslist. For gear like this, I love to keep an eye out on craigslist since there always seems to be somebody dumping their gear, and usually you can find some great deals on gear that’s still in solid step.

Improving existing stands

If you like where your stands are, then be sure to take some time this summer to make sure your stands are ready to rock. It’s always good to check stands now to make sure things are in order as you’d expect. First off, is that stand still there? Nothing is worse than walking up on your first sit of the season to not find it hanging in the tree anymore. Also, how good a shape is the stand in? Is it still safe or is there some wear and tear you need to address? And lastly, how good are the shooting lanes? Maybe last year you didn’t have enough options for shooting lanes, so now is a great time to get up in that stand and work on cutting in some more shooting lanes while still giving yourself enough cover.

Creating better cover

Food and cover are what deer are looking for. If you have the food part taken care of, great! Now it’s time to improve some of the woods around you to help hold mature deer. A great way to do this is do some hinge cutting, where you cut younger trees part way so that they bend over but still stay alive. This creates new ground cover for the deer and can help an area hold more deer. Mark from WiredToHunt does a nice job of introducing hinge cutting in this post. This is another great way to improve the surrounding habitat, and a solid afternoon project to hopefully improve your hunting opportunities.

Wrapping It Up

There’s all sorts of projects and things you can be doing in the summer to better your chances for the fall. However, there’s never enough time to do it all because life gets in the way. However, I think it’s important to think about your goals are for the season, and what are a few things you can do with the remaining summer days to improve your hunting areas and chances. Start small. Take what you think will have the largest impact, and prioritize those projects first. Good luck and get after it.

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