Again this year, I wanted to share my thoughts on the past season. It’s always a good idea to take an honest assessment of your hunting season so that you can learn from your mistakes and continue or improve things that worked for you.
This year, I want to point out two things that I learned that will change the way I hunt and manage deer.
The first is something that has happened the past three years with my soybean food plots. Had you asked me 4 years ago if there was anything new or that I could learn about soybeans I would have said…probably not. In 2012 and again in 2013 we had pretty bad drought on my farm in southern Iowa. The standing soybeans I had each year started to shatter by mid to late November each year. Shattering is when the pod opens up allowing the soybean seed to fall out to the ground. I wrote it off as a result of the drought. Well, the weather in 2014 was great and again I had some shatter in late November and into December. Shattering pods is bad news because the seed is what attracts deer during the later season. I couldn’t understand why?
One thing I had to consider was the fact that my beans were lasting longer than ever before due to my electric fencing. But I had never experienced shattering like this before. Working with Dairyland Seed we easily came to the conclusion that although my beans had tremendous yields because they ripened early (which is what farmers like so they can harvest them), the early ripening caused the pods to shatter when carried into the late season. The solution…simply push the maturity class of the bean seed to a later variety. I was used to planting late category II’s or category III soybean seed for southern Iowa. I will now be planting category IV’s on my farm. The pods may not dry down like what is desired for farming…but I should eliminate the shattering.
The second is about buck disbursement into fall ranges. I’ve always observed that each fall bucks will disburse into fall ranges. Some bucks will not move from their summer range, others will move out and set up shop at a different place in the their home range…but not where we’ve been seeing them all summer. It has never been so evident than with “Barkley”. He’s done this each year since 2012. But what is new (or what I’ve finally observed and caught on to) is that even after bucks move into their fall ranges they kind of spread out. What I mean is even if my farm has the best habitat and food…on any given year it will only hold about 3 mature bucks on a regular basis. Other mature bucks will come in and pass through, but won’t stick around. This “spreading out” seems to occur every year around late October when the scrapes and rubs go nuts. This makes sense to me since I’ve always felt that buck sign was a way for all bucks to communicate with each other and in many cases set up dominance hierarchy within the herd. Is this nature’s way of limiting buck fights? Each year for example “Barkley” won’t show up until about late October after the bucks move into fall ranges…but then he seems to sort of leave and won’t show back up regular until well after the rut. There is no doubt “Captain Jack”, the buck my son got muzzleloader hunting, was the dominant brute on the farm and he was also very aggressive. So will this mean that now that “Captain” is dead, “Barkley” could now take over as the dominant buck? Only time will tell.
As far as hunting success this year. I took a total of three hunters on the farm including one hunt filled by my son. It was unfortunate that one of the archery hunters had a torn MCL and was limited with her ability to hunt the entire farm being restricted to short walks and only ground blinds. Even so, the archery hunters had two close encounters with mature bucks but could not close the deal. My son Forest filled the only other slot with his late muzzleloader hunt and he got “Captain Jack” on his first night. All in all, I think the farm performed very good and both attracted and held deer including mature bucks throughout the fall and into winter!