Deer season is nearing a close and I’ve only let one arrow fly all season. One. And, it was to kill a coyote that came by my stand on an early season hunt. Mission accomplished there, but the deer are what really get my heart pumping.
Since I bow hunt all season long, by this time of year, I usually have tagged a whitetail and filled the freezer. But, this season has been different than most. I’ve had quite a few career-related changes that have limited the amount of times I’ve been able to get in the woods.
So, how do I feel about this?
Well, honestly, by this time of the season, I begin to get a little bit of an itchy release finger, especially if I haven’t taken a deer yet. So, during a season like this one, I really began thinking about what defines a successful hunting season.
Maturity In Hunting
It’s a thrill to get to take a mature buck and maybe even take home a set of monster antlers. But, it’s also something that doesn’t come easily, especially when hunting at close range.
I’ve learned over the years that if you want to be in the action when the rut comes, it’s often wise to have been hunting the does all season long. Where do they feed? Where are they bedding? And, where are their travel corridors in between? Knowing the answers to these questions requires not only logging some time in the stand, but also being patient enough not to start slinging arrows at every deer you see. Bottom line… maturity is required in hunting as well as in life.
Even with the challenges this year that have limited my time in the woods, I have been able to hunt a handful of times. And, I’ve gotten to observe quite a few deer and had the opportunity to shoot many of them. But I didn’t draw.
As I’ve gotten older, I also see the value in learning all that I can about my craft. Much of that learning comes from hunting with friends and other seasoned hunters. Everyone has their own strategies and methods for taking whitetail and other wild game. Many hunters might try to prove that their methodology is superior. I simply enjoy the fellowship and sharing of information. I set out to know more every hunting season than I did the year before. This is possible whether I shoot a deer or not. There is always something to observe and learn. And that’s one of the things I love about this way of life.
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Slowing Down The Pace
Life tends to move at a breakneck speed. Technology is not only allowing the flow of information move more quickly, it’s allowing us to get more done in a shorter period of time… which means we pile more and more things on our plates. Which means we move along even faster. I think you see the pattern here.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I look to the skyline from my tree stand and realize that it’s been months since I’ve even looked up and around me to observe the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. Life gets crazy and I get wrapped up in finishing the next ‘to-do” on my list. It’s during moments in the stand, that I often realize that I have focused much of my time on trivial things. Hunting gives me the chance to hopefully get away from all of these distractions for a short time. Sure, I may have my phone with me to capture the occasional wildlife video, but it sure is nice to not be tied to the computer that I’m currently typing this article on!
I’m thankful for moments in the woods where I can enjoy the incredible attributes of nature that God gave us to show us that there is a magnificent Creator.
I hope you are getting a chance to read this in a quiet place. But, chances are, you are cramming this information in as you do other things at the same time. It’s amazing how many distractions technology creates. Getting into that perfect tree stand location not only gives me the opportunity to test my hunting skills, but it also allows me to test my listening skills.
In the quiet of the woods, there are many sounds you can hear that you wouldn’t otherwise. Likewise, maybe there are things that God has been trying to tell me and teach me. What are the things He has been trying to teach me that I have drowned out with the noise of work, family and other duties?
Hunting gives me the chance to evaluate how well I have been listening to the One who gave His life and gives me reason to live. It gives me a chance to listen loudly in the quiet of the landscape. For that, I am truly thankful.
So, it’s not just about the kill or the size of the quarry. Hopefully, I can improve my hunting skills, but also be able to slow down and listen to the what the Lord wants of my life. Now, that is a good definition of hunting success.
Success in the field is a feeling that cannot be explained. Whether it’s harvesting the buck you’ve been after, catching a trophy fish, or retrieving your first goose after working so hard to call it into range, the exhilaration is real. I started off as a die-hard whitetail deer hunter and still am. However, as the years have passed, I have found myself unexpectedly captivated by another type of hunting… goose hunting.
For The Love Of Geese…
The effort, the precision and the skill that I realized it took to be successful in harvesting geese is what pulled me in. Even though it is not easy to kill a deer, turkey or any other type of animal, goose hunting seemed to require so much more to go right.
That desire for perfection took over. The more I hunted, the more impassioned I became about it. My hunting partners saw how obsessed I was over goose hunting success, that they wanted to try it as well. It was then that I realized how important it was to pass along my newfound knowledge of goose hunting to others.
As outdoor enthusiasts we find ourselves in a very unique industry. Unlike other sports, we do not battle the competition. We instead look to pass along our skill and knowledge to make those who are beside us and those who will come after us better at the sport we’ve grown so passionate over.
So, whether it was people I had already hunted with for years, or someone new who expressed the desire to get into the activity, I wanted to help and better them as hunters, as well as continuing to better myself.
Everyone has their own opinions and preferences on how to be successful in goose hunting. And, no one person is more right than the other. We all have different experiences and techniques that have worked for us. So, here are some of what I have learned during my ongoing journey of being a successful goose hunter.
Goose Hunting Tips And Tricks of the Trade
When it comes to hunting geese, the absolute most important thing I have learned is to pay attention to your surroundings. When putting out decoys, calling geese, and setting up blinds, the best thing you can do is watch what the geese are doing in real life.
Setting Up Decoys
Geese are very wary animals and it doesn’t take much to deter them from coming into your spread. Knowing that, you want your layout to look as natural as possible. I find myself driving around during the weeks leading up to the season and scouting to see the activities of the birds in the area. Just like you would scout for whitetail deer, find a field or pond full of geese, park your vehicle and just watch how they act.
Know Thy Geese
Pay attention to how they are grouped in the fields, as well as how close or far away they are from one another. Also pay attention to how they are talking and calling when on the ground. You want to mimic the actions of the birds you are hunting to make them as comfortable as possible. The more comfortable you make the birds, the better the chances are of convincing them to commit to your spread and giving yourself an opportunity at success.
We typically like to set decoys 6 to 8 feet apart from one another. This will give the birds a more relaxed look, as opposed to when they group up when getting nervous and closer to taking off.
Multiple styles can be used when setting up decoys around where you yourself will be positioned. Some like laying the decoys out in an “X” pattern. We personally use the “Nike Swoosh” pattern more often. Either will give geese the pocket needed to land in your spread. It often just comes down to personal preference. Over time, you may learn and try different methods, but these are two commonly used styles that are simple to do. They have proven to work well over the years for the Buck Stoppers crew. Whichever pattern you use, it is important to keep your decoys clean. The birds will often pick up when there is mud or dirt on decoys.
The X Pattern
For the “X” pattern, you will be setup in the center of the X of decoys and have the wind to your back, as the birds will want to land into the wind to help slow them down.
The Swoosh Pattern
The swoosh setup has one longer leg of decoys spread out and a shorter run of them to the opposing side, in hopes that the birds land in the pocket created in the center for a desired shot for the hunters.
The part of goose hunting that proves to trouble most people is calling. Mastering a goose call can take quite a bit of time and patience. There are generally two types of calls that are used – a short reed and a flute call. Each person will adapt to calls differently.
Short Reed And Flute Calls
Flute calls prove to me much easier to learn on, as the blowing technique is simpler. Short reed calls allow more advanced calling styles, notes and tones, yet require a much more advanced technique.
For those who have never blown a goose call before, mastering a flute will give you the basics needed, but still provide the sounds you need to talk birds into your spread. Some people love the sounds produced by a flute and never feel the need to move onto a short reed style call.
Start by going to an outdoor store or trade show that has a variety of calls and test them out. Each call will be different for every person, so the more you are able to try the better chance you have at finding a call that fits your ability.
Focus on first mastering your honks and clucks. These calls will be the primary ones used in the field. Other sounds produced by geese, such as “come back calls”, moans, and murmurs are ones that you can later pick up as your experience grows and you learn how to control the air and flow techniques.
If you are reading this and find yourself asking, “how do I even begin with mimicking honks and clucks,”rest assured that the internet will prove to be your best friend. YouTube has countless videos on calling basics that will help you begins to produce proper sounds.
Patience Is Key
Most importantly, be patient when learning to call geese. Everyone is going to learn at a different pace. Too often we see learners get flustered over not being able to produce the sounds they want. If you find yourself unable to produce the noise you’re wanting, find another technique and see if that works for you.
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A lot of the calls used in the field can be produced using words and phrases. Saying certain words gives you the similar air flow needed to mimic a goose sound. For example, saying “do-it” into the call is how we always help new comers learn to honk. As you get better and better at calling though, your muscle memory will know the air flow and technique needed and you’ll no longer have to say the words. But trying this method is a great way to start.
Don’t Talk Too Much
When it comes to calling in the field, some people think more is better. This is surely not always the case. Just as I stated earlier, pay attention to your surroundings. As birds begin to fly within distance of your spread, listen to the sounds they are producing. If the geese are not calling much, we prefer to stay quieter and stick to basic honks and clucks.
Over the years we have seen that if the live birds are not super talkative, over-calling to them provides no benefit to bringing them in. If the geese are more talkative, we call more back to them. Always remember, the goal is to mimic live birds. The only time we will aggressively call to birds is if they seem to be flying away from our spread. In this instance, we use what is known as “come back calls,” in combination with the honks and clucks we primarily use the rest of the time.
The last bit of basic knowledge needed to get into the field and harvest geese is blind types. Every property is going to be different as far as how you are able to hide yourselves when hunting. Most commonly you’ll see pits, layout blinds and above ground blinds.
Pits will be dug into the ground and are the least noticeable by geese. However, not everyone is able to dig up the property where they are goose hunting as needed to build a pit.
Layout blinds are the primary method we use, as they are easily transportable and can be adapted to many different surroundings. They are brushed in and hidden using the foliage or crop in which you are hunting.
Above ground blinds, such as an A-Frame style, are often built with fencing or framed out with camouflage. They can be camouflaged with corn stalks or marsh grasses to help them blend into the surroundings. Each style will have its benefits, but the most important thing is to spend the time making them blend into their surroundings as naturally as possible.
If you, your family, or friends are on the fence about getting into the sport of goose hunting… don’t look back! Like anything else, the more time and effort you put into mastering this sport, the higher your probability of success.
Hopefully after reading this goose hunting tips article, your basic knowledge of what is needed to get into the field has grown. And, hopefully, you are that much more confident in your ability to learn and adapt to a new style of hunting, of which will surely be rewarding after your first successful harvest. We wish you the best of luck. And, as always, happy and safe hunting!
I absolutely love the white-tailed deer. In fact, my 365-day-a-year obsession over whitetails is almost haunting. I am so happy and grateful to be able to do what I love and to also share my knowledge and love of big whitetail bucks with my clients.
You may be wondering how you can grow bigger bucks on your property or leased land. So, let’s get started.
When I meet with clients at their hunting properties (whether owned or leased land), I focus on the three basic necessities of deer: food, water and cover.
These three important components are critical for whitetails (and any other animal that calls your property home) to be able to thrive. I also focus on attracting and holding those big trophy bucks on your hunting land as long as possible during daylight hours.
To properly address these three basic necessities, there some questions that must be answered about the deer habitat on your property. So, let’s now break down the five steps to improving your property or lease for bigger whitetails.
#1: How are you entering and exiting stand locations?
Access is the first thing I always want to address when taking on a new property. How are you accessing your property and stand locations? What are the prevailing wind directions? Although not always practical, access from the outside perimeter of the property is always best.
In a perfect world, every property should be set up with outside perimeter access. However, it’s understandable that there are situations where this may not be possible. For example, you might have a property where you have a cabin smack dab in the middle. Or, there may also be other natural barriers that prevent perimeter access. These are all part of the land access component that I address with clients.
Accessing From The Middle
Although accessing stand locations from the middle of the property is always risky business, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. You must then pay very close attention to wind direction, and how you can access and exit a stand location without bumping out deer.
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Screening plays a very important role in accessing a hunting property. Screening can be achieved by planting vegetation, such as Egyptian Wheat, Sorghum, Sudan grass, or Miscanthus. I do not recommend corn for screening. I don’t want deer feeding in a corn screen leading to a stand or blind locations. Hinge cutting trees and planting rows of pine, such as Norway spruce are other forms of screening. Going forward, I will discuss the advantages and reasons for screening in future blogs.
#2: What Food Sources Can Be Found On Your Property?
Are you implementing food plots currently? What kind of natural browse can be found on the property? If in Ag country, what are in those farm fields?
It is essential that you try your very best to provide as much food as possible, with food plots and natural browse for total year-round food sources. Try not to give deer any reason to leave your property so that you can increase the chances of finding those shed antlers in the spring from the bucks observed during the previous season.
You should also determine if food plots are already implemented on the property. What kinds of natural browse, hard mast and soft mast exist, if any. If your property is in farm country, determine what the farmers are planting, and the number of acres planted.
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Will there be food plots from scratch? By that I mean, if food plots are going to be planted within the woods, will trees be cleared? If so, be sure to find the best tree in the area and develop the plot layout around it in association to access and exit strategy. The same applies for a ground blind set.
By creating a plot from scratch, you can control how deer move through the plot. Deer can be forced past a stand or ground blind by creating soft edges and pinch points that block a deer’s line of sight and peak curiosity, especially during the three phases of the rut.
Whitetail Food Plots Options
In my own experience, clover and alfalfa provide for the best year-round food source. But, I only recommend clovers and alfalfa being only 10-15% of the total amount of food available. Corn and soybeans are great sources during late season and are good winter-long foods.
Brassica, turnips, tillage (dicon) radishes, sunflowers and canola are a few other popular food sources for food plots. In large plots that exceed one acre or more, I like to design the plots to have a wide diversity of food sources for season long variety.
When you have one or two varieties of food in one plot and another variety of food in another plot 100 yards or more away, you inadvertently create stress on the resident deer. So the more variety and diverse a food plot, the better. Just because seed blends are sometimes packaged individually, it doesn’t mean they can’t be blended with others.
My favorite plot food is a mixture of Antler Kings Honey Hole, Slam Dunk and Lights Out seed blends. The forage oats in Lights Out provides for fast green up and early season food, while the brassica, turnips, radishes canola and buckwheat provide great mid and late season food.
When this mixture is seeded on the perimeter of a corn and or soybean field or plot, you’ve just created a smorgasbord for a slam dunk kill plot!
#3: Is there a water source?
One of the key things to determine about your hunting land or lease is whether or not there is a water source. If so, what type? A deer’s water preference isn’t always what you might think.
Water is a very important element to any deer, and all wild life, that lives on your property. On our own “proving grounds,” water is the #1 limiting factor on our property, and the element we have 100% control over.
You can create very simple, and inexpensive, watering holes. Simply use a 50-gallon barrel cut in half and bury to the top edge of the half barrel. Be sure to keep them full of water, especially during periods of dry weather conditions. To do this, I recommend a minimum of 150 gallons per water tank.
Ideally, pond development is the best form of water you can incorporate if it doesn’t already exist. For more information on wildlife pond creation, I recommend Zach Haas of Wisconsin Lake and Pond Resources, LLC.
His services include:
• Consulting, planning and Design.
• Permitting where applicable
• Pond liner and fabric installation
• Beneficial aquatic planting design and installation
• Management and maintenance
• Solar aeration system installation
Check them out @ www.wisconsinlpr.com
#4: Where are deer bedding?
What type of cover are the deer bedding in? Is there enough browse in that bedding area? Cover is very important when it comes to holding deer on your property. You want to determine where the deer are bedding, (or where you want them to bed), and in what type of cover they are bedding.
Cover varies dramatically in fall/winter bedding to summer bedding locations. During the mid-late fall and through winter, deer prefer thick stem count, yet low, open canopies to allow for maximum sunlight for thermal cover.
In the summer, deer prefer open, high canopy, maximum shade and air flow, especially bucks with velvety antlers. If in hill country, like here in West Central Wisconsin, north-facing, high-canopy benches are preferred. In the fall and winter the opposite is true. Where applicable, hinge cutting to provide side cover and allowing sunlight to penetrate the canopy, is a great way to enhance that fall/winter thermal bedding cover. Remember, deer prefer side cover over canopy, and the biggest misconception of hinge cutting is that deer want to lay in open exposure to sunlight, and not under a hinged tree. Actually, deer want side cover!
Hinge cutting can be used in a wide variety of applications. Look for future written blogs and video on my Facebook and YouTube pages.
#5: Can You Use Mineral Supplementation?
The first thing you need to know when it comes to mineral supplementation is whether or not it is legal to supplement in your particular area? You also need to know where your mineral stations are in accordance to food and water.
To me, the use of a deer-specific, high-quality, mineral supplementation strategy is widely overlooked by even top-industry deer nutrition experts. My background is dairy farming and livestock production. With any great nutrition program, mineral supplementation plays a key role in genetic maximization and forage utilization. I do not understand why some industry “experts” feel mineral supplementation isn’t necessary.
Even with top quality forage, that alone cannot provide adequate micro nutrients that deer need to maximize genetic potential. What holds true for maximum milk production in dairy cattle, is true when it comes to maximizing a deer’s genetic potential for antler development, fetal development, and milk production in does for fawn consumption and strong, healthy fawns. Mineral supplementation is critical to each.
Again, pay attention to state and local regulations when it comes to mineral supplementation.
These are the five areas I emphasize the most when I visit a client’s property. I also emphasize them on my own “proving grounds” in my home state of Wisconsin (the Coulee Region of West Central Wisconsin, to be exact).
As with any habitat plan or consultation I perform, I break things down into much further detail, and discuss other topics as well. I find these five points to be the most common topics when it comes to managing any ground for mature whitetails. Hopefully this information is helpful in your quest to manage and harvest bigger whitetails.
When it comes to any management plan, it doesn’t have to break the bank. And, we want to keep the plan implementation fun.
For more detailed information on the topics discussed in this blog, and other topics, find me on Facebook and YouTube at EpicWhitetailHabitat, LLC and on Instagram @EpicWhitetailHabitat, or contact me directly at:
Epic whitetail Habitat LLC
W11124 Neperud Rd
Osseo, WI 54758