Hunting Season Is Over! Now What?
Every good hunting season has to come to an end
Maintain Your Equipment
- Sharpen your knife. Take care of your blade and sheath it for next year.
- Take stands down. If you leave your stands up through the winter, squirrels or other animals may eat or tear up the foam seats on your stands. Winter winds and moisture may also hurt your stands straps or seats. They could get stolen too.
- Clean up your hunting clothes. I have a container for my hunting clothes. If you've got burrs, nettles, or other stuff on your clothes you can sit down in front of a football or basketball game and pick the stuff off into the trash while you watch. Take care of your hunting clothes before retiring them for the year.
- Wax your bow. It's always good to wax your bow, but especially after the season ends.
- Clean and oil your guns. I also like to use a metal protectant like "Sheath" to spray and rub down on my rifle barrel.
I was able to harvest 2 deer from the same stand 5 days apart including this big doe
Records, Notes, and Observations
- A Personal Record Book. I keep a file on my computer of all the deer I have taken since I started hunting in October 1997. The record I keep lists the date, type of deer, any details if it's a buck, and the location. I know some hunters will be more detailed in their own records such as adding the temperature, time of day, weather, and wind direction/velocity. It's enjoyable to look back and remember those hunts. I have also heard some hunters will keep a journal of every single hunt with details and how many deer they saw on that particular hunt.
- Notes and observations. Review your deer hunting season and make notes and record observations to help you plan for next year. My experience has been you never know what deer will do from year to year but notes and observations will still help. A few of my notes from this 2016 hunting season...
- I missed the same doe twice in archery season from the same stand two weeks apart. She wasn't totally spooked after my first miss.
- I took two antlerless deer from the same stand 5 days apart in late December. The deer were not at all spooked in that area 5 days after I had taken the first one.
- I had Turkeys close one morning during archery season so I want to consider a Fall Turkey license next year.
Do some winter scouting of your hunting property
Planning for Next Hunting Season
- Make a list of what you NEED for next year. Arrows, bullets, broad heads, silencers for your bow string, a scope, a new or better jacket. If you can't tell the difference between what you NEED for a successful hunting season and what you simply WANT for next season ask your spouse. Your spouse can probably help you discern that fine line.
- Make a list of what you WANT for next year. Okay, you want a new rifle but you don't need one, or you want a full Scent-Lock outfit but your don't need it. Differentiate between your needs and your wants. Hopefully you can afford some of your wants too.
- Make some plans on paper, computer, or in your head. It's always good to start dreaming about next year. I tried a new tree for a tree stand and I loved the view and though I missed a doe I want to hunt that tree again, but another stand on the edge of a swamp didn't get me close enough to the deer so I won't put that one up again. Is there a spot or tree you want to hunt from next year? How can you hunt your property in any wind direction with the stands you put up? Make a plan now while this year's season is still fresh in your mind.
- Decide on a special hunt out-of-state or in-state. I live in Indiana where they have special deer hunts in State Parks and I have never participated but next year I want to put in for one of those hunts. I have had friends with great success on those hunts and I've heard enough good stories to apply for next year. Maybe you want to save up for an out-of-state hunt in Colorado or Wyoming next Fall? Plan now.
Whitetail Buck I got near Ovando, Montana
I put details and photos to remember the hunt on the back side
Off-season & post-season activities
- Dates. If you have not taken your wife out on a date since September well...might just be a very good idea to treat her to her favorite restaurant if she's been a hunting widow, if you want to have a happy hunting season next year take her out. You gotta reward your better half. If you have children they may need some extra attention as well.
- Dust up your deer mounts. If you are fortunate enough to have a buck hanging on your wall from years past now might be a good time to clean up and shine up your buck on the wall. A little varnish can give a new sine to those antlers and if the antlers are real old you can try some light brown wood stain to put some color back on those antlers. "Golden Oak" has worked well for me in restoring color to some old antlers.
- Home-made antlers plaque with pictures on back side. I have taken a couple of decent racks and made my own plaques. I used some pine wood, used a router on the edges, and stained and varnished the plaque. I put the antlers on the front with materials I found. You can buy those kits for antler mounts at most hunting stores. I used some leftover leather for the mule deer antlers I have shown. On the back side I used a permanent marker and made some basic notes on the date, time, and location where I shot the deer. And I taped several pictures of the buck and the hunt on the back side as you can see from the pictures. I have these two plaques in my basement. It's easy to walk up and take them down to show my friends or look at again and remember a great hunt.
- Scouting. Go out around your property and see where the deer are traveling and bedding. For us here in the midwest a few days after a snow is a great opportunity to scout and learn deer patterns.
- Rabbit and/or Squirrel Hunting. Not as much meat as a deer, but it's hunting.
- Watch Hunting Shows on cable or on-line. We don't get cable so I watch my hunting shows on my laptop. I prefer watching hunting shows after the season. It keeps me excited and dreaming for next season. A couple of my favorites are Growing Deer TV (growingdeer.tv) with Dr. Grant Woods and Midwest Whitetail (midwestwhitetail.com) with Bill Winke. The shows are about 20-30 minutes, well-shot, very informative, and fun to watch. You can go to their websites or watch them on YouTube as well.
Enjoy the off-season while you wait for next October!