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How To/Pro-Tips

Shed Search

Late winter deer scouting can be the most productive scouting of the year. First, vegetation is at a minimum, making any deer sign easily seen. Second, you can locate and really investigate potential hotspots without having to hold back for fear that you will spook a trophy buck out of the area just before season. Major deer trails stand out like interstate highways and even well-hidden buck trails are easier to pick up. With most foliage gone, you can get a good look at buck core/sanctuary areas, which are usually found in the most forbidding, brush-choked areas available. While there, try to get a handle on the buck's entrance and exit areas. If the sanctuary is too tough to hunt, stake out the "bedroom door" next season. With luck, you can find shed antlers. These tell you that that particular buck survived the season and will likely still be around next year.

Stay Ahead Of The Game

The most important elements of wingshooting are the same as in golf. Keep your head down and follow through. This means keeping your head down on the stock and continuing your swing after pulling the trigger. However, lead is also critical to hitting moving targets. That is how far in front of the target you must "aim" to cause the shot column to intersect with the target's flight path. "Sustained lead" means establishing a specific amount of forward allowance and maintaining that distance through firing and follow through. Skeet shooters use this rather precise method because target speed and angle are known. "Swing through" lets the target set the lead. Beginning behind the target, the shooter swings through it and fires as the muzzle passes to the front. "Snap shooting" means simply pointing at the spot you think the target will be when the pattern gets there and firing. This is the least precise method and works well only at very short range.

Take Note

After the season, as you put your gear in order, consider catching up on what many consider a very important piece of hunting equipment - your hunting journal. Throughout the season, good hunters keep notes on what they see while hunting. They jot down what deer are browsing on and when; what trails and terrain sees the most use and when; what the weather was like when they observed unusually high activity. He or she also note or map spots where they frequently jump or encounter deer. Almost all journal entries note the time of day, day of month, weather and wind conditions and moon phase. At season's end they "clean up" these rather random notes and they become their "Hunting Journal". After a few seasons, it becomes a great database of information on deer movement

Food Plot Fertilization

More and more people are starting to plant wildlife food plots to make an area more attractive to deer, wild turkey and other wildlife species. Basic farming principles can make these plots more productive and efficient. Have the soil tested. This can be arranged through a local county agent or representative of the state agriculture department. Many forest soils are acidic and need lime for best plant growth. You can waste a lot of time, seed and fertilizer when an application of lime was what was really needed. The soil test also can clue you in to what specific fertilizer blend is right for your area. It is well established that deer prefer and selectively feed on well fertilized plants. Also consider what you plant. Warm- or cool-season plants and shade-tolerant species for small forest openings are available. Consult with state wildlife agency biologists as to which plant species local wildlife utilize and are compatible with in your region, climate and soil type.

Fishing North By Northwest

Those first warm but still pre-spring days before winter finally lets go for good can be a fishing bonanza. Fish, dormant all winter long, "wake up" when the waters begin to warm, and they wake up hungry. Early spring fishing reverses the summertime advice to fish in the shade. Seek the sun for best fishing results. Because the sun is still traversing the sky at a rather low angle in the southern sky, look to south-facing coves and other productive structure on the north and northwest sides of reservoirs to warm up first. Banks of natural rock or of rock rip-rap are particularly good because the rocks efficiently absorb and hold the sun's heat, helping warm the adjacent water. Fish will suspend along these rock banks looking for both favorable temperatures and food. Virtually all species of game fish are affected by this early warm-up and some of the spring's best fishing can occur before spring actually gets here.

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