As deer hunters, there really is no "off season". Once the hunting season is over then it's time for taking down stands if need be, shed hunting and spring and summer time scouting. All of this is in preparation for the next season. All of the hard work and effort culminates and builds into the anticipation of opening day. Then, as long as it feels like it takes opening day to get here it feels like the season comes to an end equally as fast. With the 2017 deer season behind me, I thought it would be beneficial to look back at what my goals were, if I was able to meet them and what I learned along the way.
My 2017 season was full of ups and downs, plenty of frustration and plenty of success as well. Completely unrelated to hunting itself, this season was full of personal milestones. My youngest son turned two, my oldest turned eleven and we welcomed our baby daughter into the world. My wife and I celebrated three years of marriage and 10 years of being together and my sister got married. You can imagine that all of these things, especially the new baby, took some time away from hunting (especially since all but one happened during October and November).
My goals for this year were to first and foremost put meat in the freezer. I got skunked last year, which could be blog post all of its own, and didn't have venison in the freezer for this year. My other goals were to do some hunting out of state, kill a mature buck with my bow and hunt more in the national forest.
Early in the season I let a few does walk in hopes they were dragging bucks behind them. I've done this in years past and have decided I will no longer do this. I passed on does for so long that it was once again late into the season before I killed any deer and I was at risk of getting skunked again. I was able to get the monkey off my back during a hunt in Francis Marion National forest which allowed me to kill two birds with one stone with regard to my goals (meat in freezer and hunt the national forest). In future seasons, though, I will look to do some doe management early on instead of waiting and ensure a full freezer sooner than later. I did not hunt the national forest after that hunt but plan to hunt multiple times next year now that I have a better ideas of the lay of the land and how things operate there.
I had the opportunity to do some hunting in North Carolina as well which allowed me to check that off my list. Matt and myself spent a couple days in the hills of North Carolina hunting some of his family's property. It was a pretty surreal experience. The first day we hunted the temp started in the lower 30's and dropped several degrees before starting to snow. We hunted all that day and the next day while about 6 inches of snow accumulated. Matt killed a doe and I saw several deer just not any close enough. I did have a small 6 pt eat in front of me for about 30 mins but we weren't allowed to shoot anything smaller than an 8 pt. At the end of the trip we went home with the doe Matt shot and a roughly 130 lb buck that his uncle gave us out of guilt for us not seeing/shooting more deer. All in all it was a fun trip and we're already planning to return next year.
The last major goal I had was to harvest a mature buck with my bow. I was not able to accomplish this and it was for multiple reasons. Your best bet where I generally hunt is to get a mature buck during the rut. Other than the rut, the bucks don't leave their bedding areas and their home ranges are pretty small. The rut gets them moving and even more so if you can get some cold weather during that time. The rut this year for me was sort of an "off-time" as we were getting acclimated to having a brand new baby and also trying to celebrate several big milestones in our family. In retrospect, it's not that big of a deal as I've ended the season with 4 deer in the freezer and a potential 5th or 6th if my son can seal the deal next weekend on his youth day hunt. Oh I also forgot to mention that my bow feel 20 feet from a tree stand at the end of November due to a faulty hoist rope so it's been out of commission since then anyways!
Goals are important in anything you do as it gives you a purpose and point to aim your efforts. If you've never set specific goals for your hunting season I highly recommend it. How did your season go this year? Do you set goals for your hunting season(s)? Let us know in the comments or on our social media pages.