March madness for deer hunters in Pennsylvania
With 2016 now a memory and the 2017 Pennsylvania deer seasons still six months off in the future, now is the perfect time to think deer hunting.
While March may not come to mind as a likely candidate for “month of the year” on a deer hunter’s calendar, those willing to put in a little low-key groundwork during the off-season can make their late summer/fall preparatory chores go much smoother.
Here are some suggestions for making the most of the prime opportunities March provides for tracking the habits of your local herd.
Post-season scouting is one of the best and easiest ways to learn more about how whitetails use the terrain in your local hunting area. A leisurely midday walk on a sunny weekend will reveal a wealth of information for those willing to put in the extra time and effort.
For the most part, the woods have been long-abandoned by a regular human presence, and with that, the deer return to a more relaxed routine. At this time of year, the main priorities of a whitetail include resting and eating, so focus on transition zones between cover and food sources.
The combination of bare vegetation and damp soil or fresh snow will blatantly reveal even the most obscure travel routes and escape trails when compared to other times of the year. Take advantage of this window to educate yourself on preferred bedding areas and movement patterns.
Don’t be afraid to pick out a new area of land to explore either. Having a fallback option once the season gets rolling is great if your primary hunting spots become unproductive or need a rest. Narrow down some areas online using satellite aerial images, and then go walk the property.
Carry a map, GPS or smart phone and mark the locations where deer traffic is evident. Look for natural pinch points or crossings and keep these areas in mind for next year’s stand placement.
Pair a trail cam with minerals
Now is also a great time to get trail cam photos of deer that survived the fall seasons. Hang a north-facing trail cam over some mineral supplements to take inventory of your local herd while providing nutrients essential for winter recovery without an unnecessarily high salt content.
This protein and calcium-rich mineral blend will help boost antler growth and prolactin development in fawning mothers-to-be. Plus, its irresistible aroma really draws in deer and keeps them around for some great photo ops.
By this point, shed hunters are likely already out scouring woodlots and farm fields for dropped antlers, hoping to harvest just one small memento from that “big buck that got away.”
This enjoyable activity is another great way for hunters to elongate their never-ending pursuit of whitetails into the offseason, while collecting even more intel on bucks that remain for next year. Besides, I’ve never met a deer hunter who isn’t thrilled to find the sheds of the buck that eluded him all season.
Improved food and cover
Late winter is the perfect time to make some adjustments in the layout of your hunting property. A small tractor or ATV and a chainsaw may be all it takes to dig out unwanted food plot growth, trim field edges, drop a few treetops or clear new stand access or travel routes.
Think about all the tree stand sits when you thought, “Man, I wish the deer would walk over this way or that way,” then go make it happen by doing a few selective cuts and piling brush to force the deer where you want them.
By putting in a little extra work now, hunters can reap the benefits of their labors for months to come. With that in mind, there’s never a wrong time to consider ways to improve one’s deer hunting opportunities- even in March.