By Jeff Gambill
How nice would it be to have a map showing the exact travel routes, bedding areas, and feeding areas of the local deer herd? That map is available; it’s just a matter of bundling up and hiking through the woods.
One of the most important preparations for deer season is to scout hunting grounds during the late winter/early spring. For some hunters, it makes little sense to prepare for a season six months from now or expect deer to have the same travel and feeding patterns during the hunting season. From my experience, however, now is the perfect time to figure out that perfect ambush point for next bow season.
Unless there has been a major change in the deer’s habitat or there is an intrusive hunter during the season, deer will stick to the same pattern in October that they have now. Deer are creatures of habit, and what they do now is what they will do in the fall.
There are two big reasons why I scout for deer now and not in August. One is the visibility of sign. In the winter, travel routes look like interstate highways, bedding sites look like craters, and droppings pop out like early spring flowers. However, in the summer, deer sign is hidden in the foliage and greenery of the woods. Now is the perfect time to find the travel routes, and staging sites between bedding areas and food plots. During this time, I even plan where I’ll place my stand, cut down shooting lanes, and figure out entry routes into the woods.
The second reason I like scouting in the winter is because I have no fear of spooking deer. Any deer that is jumped now will have no recollection of the incident by next fall. Now is the time to nose around and find a buck’s core area, the thick and brushy out-of-the-way hideout that mature bucks prefer. Any buck that sees me now will have forgotten about it this fall when I will have slipped in and placed my stand on the travel route between its core area and its feeding range, or where the does will be. Finding an ambush point and a quiet path to slip in and out of the woods is much easier now than blundering about the same woods in August and ruining my chances of setting up on that same trophy buck.
Before the mushrooms are up and the fish are starting to bite is the time to get this done. I know I’ll be out there with my 4-year-old in tow because it will be a perfect time to introduce him to the woods and have a little “adventure.”
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Local hunters should be aware that there are several outdoor events taking place across the Wabash Valley and in the state.
One of the best public hunting grounds in the state is in Sullivan County. Fairbanks Landing, 8,000 acres of beautiful, mature woods, was opened two years ago to hunters. The grounds are maintained by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at the Minnehaha State Wildlife Area. In order to help maintain these new hunting grounds, The Sycamore Trails Fish and Wildlife Committee is sponsoring a cleanup day at Fairbanks Landing. Sportsmen are encouraged to take pride in the new fish and wildlife area by coming together and helping the IDNR clean the property of trash and refuse left behind by polluters. This is a great opportunity to see what the property is like and to clean up one of the best hunting areas in the state.
Anyone interested in helping should meet at the old Fairbanks School (Mammy’s Kitchen) at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 4. The school is in Fairbanks just off Indiana 63 south of Prairie Creek. American Electric Power is providing lunch at 1 p.m. at Mammy’s Kitchen. Participants need to bring boots and gloves. Trash bags will be provided. Republic Services will be providing Dumpsters at strategic locations and Minnehaha will have some heavy equipment and trucks for larger items.
It sounds like a perfect opportunity to meet some new people, get to know the property and do a public service.
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There are also a couple of National Wild Turkey Federation banquets coming up on the calendar.
n The Wabash Valley Longbeards Chapter in Sullivan County will be having their banquet at the Sullivan Elks Club on March 11. To get more information about times and ticket information, contact Marvin Harris at (812) 696-2464 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
n The Crossroads Gobblers Chapter will be having their banquet at the Zorah Shrine in Terre Haute on March 18. This has been the biggest chapter banquet in the state for the past two years. There will be plenty of prints, guns and merchandise raffled away. Once again, Outback Steakhouse will cater the banquet. For more information, contact Bill Holloway at (812) 466-3091 or by e-mail at email@example.com.