So You Want to....Start Your Season Off Right: How to Spend Your Offseason as a Whitetail Hunter

So You Want to Start Your Season Off Right?

In the Midwest, a deer hunter sums up this time of year in one word: uneventful. As the snow begins to melt away and the temperature fluctuates between freezing and thawing, options begin to present themselves. As the snow melts, sheds magically reappear. Coyotes are breeding. Turkeys are a month away from gobbling. Take advantage of the frost by seeding your food plots. Remove unwanted brush and timber. These are opportunities to get outside and you can do several of them at once. 

As always, be certain to check your local DNR rules and regulation.

A Buffet Menu of Possibilities

All bucks would have dropped their sheds by now. Your only ingredient is time. By no means am I a successful shed hunter. That does not deter me because looking for sheds offers so much more. Travel routes are apparent. Rubs you did not know existed stand out. Bedding areas are obvious by the oval melted shapes in the snow. When combined, it all adds up to better stand locations and more pieces to your puzzle. 

For a more in-depth shed hunting overview, take a trip down memory lane with these previously posted articles:

Never Use the Word Hate….Unless You are Talking About Coyotes

In nearly every part of the Country, coyotes are an alpha predator. There are few ways to control their population without hunters. January through March is peak breeding in the Midwest for coyotes. During this time, males are out looking for females to breed with even during daylight hours. A female’s gestation period is about 60 days and a litter of pups can be as many as 12. 

Your past deer season has given you intel on where coyotes are denning by hearing and seeing them. Using mouth or electronic calls are the most popular ways to hunt. The landowners that told you “no” to deer hunt their property are likely to tell you “yes” to hunt coyotes. As a bonus, this offers a great chance to gain deer hunting permission for the upcoming season.  

No one really likes coyotes. They hunt deer in packs. They wipe out a good majority of the fawn population. Turkeys and their poults are on the menu. Smaller farm animals, cats, and dogs do not stand a chance. Killing them brings ecosystem balance which is one of the most overlooked functions a hunter provides.  Fewer coyotes means less stress on your local deer herd and bedding areas getting used more consistently. 

Find a hog farmer that is willing to give you a few dead ones. A coyote can drag off a small hog. Pound a stake into the ground and tie the hog to the stake. If you come across a fresh deer carcass, tag it properly, then relocate it where you want to hunt. A coyote cannot drag off an adult deer carcass. Both are methods that will keep coyotes coming back to feed.

A small game license is usually what is required, and the season is open year-round. If you are interested in making a little side cash, use a small caliber rifle like a .22-250 or .223. A clean, non-damaged, thick winter coyote pelt can earn up to $60. You can even hunt them at night. 

Thunder Chickens

Turkey seasons generally opens in mid-April and goes until the end of May. Most states require you to enter a lottery in December. You are notified if you successfully drew a tag about a month later. 

Historically, the first three weeks are gone in the first lottery. Leftover tags can be purchased in a second lottery system. Any non-issued tags from second lottery are offered to purchase on a first come, first served basis. A State’s rules and regulations will vary. Your tag typically runs Monday through the following Sunday. There might be time restrictions allowing you to hunt until noon.

If you deer hunt out-of-state, this offers you a great opportunity to spend a long weekend hunting turkeys and coyotes (a turkey call will bring a coyote in), looking for sheds, and figuring out better stand locations. 

There are four recognized sub-species of turkeys in the United States. Kill all four and earn your Grand Slam. Add in a Gould from Old Mexico and you earned yourself the Royal Slam. 

  1. Easterns are the most common and are found in the Midwest, East, and Southeast
  2. Merriams are found in South and North Dakota
  3. Rios are found in the Great Plains and in parts of Texas and New Mexico
  4. Osceolas are found in Florida

Land Management

Never heard of frost seeding? Look it up. Farmers have been frost seeding for decades. It is simple and takes little time. As the temperature goes below and above freezing, soil opens and closes. It also takes in all that melted snow. Spreading out a hard seed like clover, alfalfa, or chicory onto bare ground gives you a great start to establish a lush fall food plot. Make sure to look at your upcoming 10-day forecast. Right now, daytime temperatures are in the upper 40s and nighttime temperatures fall into the mid-20s. This is your optimal timeframe so take advantage. 

Trimming limbs and removing brush is a chore to check off your list right now. You have time, bumping a deer is not detrimental, and the temperature is conducive to wearing long sleeves and pants. Dealing with no foliage is a blessing in disguise. Work smarter, not harder.

You Get Out What You Put In

You can accomplish a lot this time of year. Step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to try something new. Hunting is a lifestyle you can enjoy year-round. It is even better when done with family and friends. Start your year off right and begin heading down your path to success. 



Author: Exodus Black Hat Team Member Geoff Guzinski