Whitetail Hunter | Post Season Adjustments

Over the next month another deer season ends in most states. For some it was the dream season, for others a nightmare... and for the rest of us somewhere in between. No matter how your season went, there were lessons to be learned and adjustments to be made for next year, based on those lessons. After all, for most of us, the allure of hunting stems from the challenge associated with it. Closing the deal and claiming a deer for your freezer and wall is the goal... but the chase and experience is the real beauty of it all. Close calls, rare experiences and serene moments in nature fill the soul and mind, pushing us to further sharpen our skills so that we may increase the frequency of these encounters.


Let's say you had the best season of your life. Congratulations! Was it a fluke or have you been honing your skill for years and have it figured out? Personally, I believe there is always room for more knowledge, more effort and more reward. Mark Drury is a great example. He has been on top of the world as far as a whitetail hunter for years, yet he is constantly in a state of improvement... his results are obvious. Maybe you don't care about, or even dislike, the thought of a perfectly managed situation such as his. Maybe the size and age of the deer you kill mean nothing. That's the beauty of hunting. The definition of success is completely up to you. With that said, I believe anyone, pursuing any goal, can benefit from a few post season adjustments.


This is my personal list of considerations post season. They may seem generic, but in my experience answering these few basic questions year to year and then resolving any associated issues is mostly what is required to vastly increase next year's success.


Post Season Considerations
  • Was I prepared physically and mentally?

  • Were my stands placed properly?

  • Was I proficient with my weapon?

  • Could I have made small adjustments to the property to positively influence my hunting?

  • Did I truly give myself the best opportunity?

Each year I ask myself these questions and attempt to be as honest as possible in my assessment. Read aloud and verbally answer them. If you're a note taker write them in your log and mark as yes/no, followed by what you feel may be or may not be necessary adjustments for next season. This practice can be used to improve personal honesty and responsibility towards any goal or reflection in life. It just so happens to work for hunting as well.


Below, I'll share my personal answers to these considerations as an example and then expound on other potential scenarios.


Necessary Adjustments Before Next Season

  • Was I prepared physically and mentally?

"This season, I was very well prepared physically and mentally. I plan to continue a healthy-ish diet and solid workout plan to keep weight down, cardio/strength up and maintain mental toughness."

There is a reason this one was listed first, not being physically able or mentally motivated to hunt seems to make a season pretty damn tough... rather unsurprisingly. A couple years ago I was in the worst shape of my life. I was thirty pounds overweight and couldn't hike 100 yards without breaking into a sweat. After a very disciplined workout and diet schedule I lost the thirty pounds and vastly improved my cardiovascular ability. Hanging stands, long walks in, long drags out and off season scouting have all become much easier and much more enjoyable. Not to mention, not sweating your fat ass off on the way to the tree sure helps keep you from getting cold later or blowing an area up with excess human scent. The physical improvements also improved my mental toughness. Long sits, bad hunts, and negative consequences have no bearing on my effort and drive anymore.


  • Were my stands placed properly?

"Yes/No. I have several stands to move between end of season and spring. One farm was hit by a tornado and took out some stands/changed the setup drastically. The other farm is solid, other than one stand that could use a positioning tweak for quicker and more concealed readiness. I have marked approximately 20 gps locations on public to check on foot and mark as viable or not.'"

This one seems to be in demand nearly every year. Sure, there are perennial "killing trees" but it's always a good idea to take note of things that could be adjusted. I decided during an all day hunt this year that I needed to move a stand that has been there for years based on the fact that if I was seated it was too difficult to get up, get to my bow, and get drawn if something happened quickly. Sometimes habitat changes, movement was unexpectedly in a different area, entry and exit points didn't keep you from bumping deer or your wind was swirling erratically. Three or four stands on the edges of the action allowing you to hunt undetected are far better than the prettiest setup in the world that lets every deer in the county know you're there.


  • Was I proficient with my weapon?

"Yes"

This is one that I list simply as a reminder to keep myself sharp. I always plan to make this one a yes and you should too. This is unapologetically one of my largest pet peeves amongst fellow hunters. We owe it to the animals we pursue AND ourselves to be as good as we can be with our weapons. Accidents and unfortunate situations happen, no doubt, but there's simply no reason we should have a dozen tracking dog businesses within an hour of us...


  • Could I have made small adjustments to the property to positively influence my hunting?

"Yes. This one caused me a few issues this season. I knew I had storms roll through and I didn't check on it as early as I should have. Several stands were down, and several travel routes were completely changed. This will be done by spring. "

Property adjustments may or may not be food plots, timber stand improvement or include a bulldozer. If you have a lease or private property that could use more food, more cover, or less of it then create a plan or speak with a consultant to get it accomplished before next season! However, property adjustment can be as simple as dragging a few downed limbs to adjust travel routes... especially on public or permission property.


  • Did I truly give myself the best opportunity?

"Yes. I overcame habitat changes, lack of mature bucks, and loss of stands by scouting public on the fly, tagging two mature bucks and two mature does. I plan to expound on some of the new info gained from this year's observations and changes!"

This one is where you must be honest with yourself. Did you give yourself a chance? There have been years I wasn't good enough with my equipment, out of shape, hunting areas out of laziness, or chasing mature bucks where I knew none existed. I had to admit it and decide if I wanted to fix it. Get proficient, get in shape, make the adjustments, understand you can't kill a deer that doesn't exist and get better! Success is defined by you.


2021 PUBLIC LAND BUCK - I was exhausted in this pic after a week of all day hunts and a long difficult drag out. Post season adjustments from the previous year made this happen!

 

Remember, luck and preparation can look identical... but luck always runs out. I know that this time of year is a wind down period to relax after a long hunting and holiday season. However, I have found that listing these items now and putting a plan into action has made an improvement in my hunting success every single year.