Believe it or not, I was bowhunting this month! My son, Jacob, turned 10 at the end of January, so I took him to Ohio for some late season bowhunting with his Kodabow Crossbow. Well, the 60° weather didn’t help us any, but it did provide some comfortable sits and a fun, father-son weekend. Jacob passed on a few does and one, young, one-antlered buck, so our season’s officially closed for 2015-16 and we’re excited to start looking for our next buck to hunt! So what can a person be doing this month to help improve his or her success come fall? I’ll continue my series on how to consistently shoot mature bucks with 5 more tips you can apply in February.
- Switching Gear
A good hunter understands the importance of knowing his equipment inside and out. Now is a great time of year to switch equipment if you’re considering it. Tradeshows are a great place to go sample some new bows on the market. For the past couple seasons, I’ve shot an Elite Energy 32, and I love it, but there are a lot of great bows out there! And, if you’re an aging bowhunter, disabled, or maybe too young to pull a strong enough vertical bow, like Jacob, a crossbow like Kodabow makes may be the ticket. Whatever your preference, go out, find one you love, and get familiar with it, so that your weapon is feeling very comfortable come fall.
- Continue Applying and Researching Big Game Draws
Wyoming’s big game draw deadline is past us now. Arizona’s deadline is early February. Utah’s draw is coming up, and those are just a few. February is a good time of year to research other states you’d like to hunt in the future. Make calls and surf the web so you can take steps now for great hunts in the future. Now that Jacob is 10, I can start applying him with me in many of them, and the nice thing is, as a youth hunter, the fees are often MUCH lower!
Trap or Hunt Predators
A couple weeks ago, Paul Ranft (watch our feature on Paul in Farm Country Bucks) was kind enough to spend an afternoon with Jacob, me, and a couple other friends and introduce us to trapping! I’ve always had an interest in doing more of it, and Paul is a seasoned expert in this area, so Paul brought up his expertise and some supplies to get us going. Trapping or hunting predators this month keeps your skills sharp and helps improve the deer herd, so give this a try!
As with January, the winter months are great for surfing the web, specifically for scouting hunting properties using aerial imagery apps. I like to use Google Earth and Bing Maps. Did you know Google Earth Pro is now free? Awesome imagery, and the birdseye views from Bing Maps can be second to none. If the snow’s deep, online scouting can be a great way of covering ground without leaving the house! Spend some time cross-referencing property owners. Better yet, check out mapping apps like Onyx, where they’ve incorporated plat books/land ownership right into the aerial maps. They won’t cover everything, but it’s a big improvement from having to order plat books from every county you might want to hunt.
- Work on Relationships
I don’t mean the Valentine’s Day/romantic kind, but, guys, you probably shouldn’t forget that one this month. This time of year, landowners may look at you strange if you ask for permission to deer hunt in the fall, and I’m not saying this should be the question you lead with. But, if you’re interested in hunting someone’s property, spend some time letting them get to know you! Understand that it’s very hard for someone to grant hunting permission to a complete stranger, so don’t be a complete stranger! I wrote about gaining hunting permission a couple years ago, so give those tips a try this month.
- Bonus Tip: Calendarize!
It can be very easy to forget certain deadlines any time of year, and especially when hunting isn’t quite in the forefront during winter months. One thing I do to make sure I don’t miss important big game draw deadlines is I put them on my computer calendar and smart phone. I set auto-reminders and recurring events, and I set multiple for each so that I don’t forget if my phone or computer reminds me at a time when I’m not able to act on it right then.
Mistakes to Avoid in February
Doing nothing is the mistake to avoid this month. Whatever your goal is for this fall, pick something you can do this month to help you get at least one step closer to it and do it! My goal is to go introduce myself to two local landowners I’ve never met.
Good luck with your next buck!