How to Develop Deer Hunting Goals
New Year’s resolutions are well under way across the country. At least that’s the idea, right? As we reflect on the prior year, it’s only natural to want to improve something for 2017. Whether it’s our health and fitness or something as specific as deer hunting, there’s always something we could do better. While the term “resolution” seems to always flop before we even see the light of February, goals tend to live on longer. For that reason, this article will discuss a few deer hunting goals you might consider for the New Year ahead of us.
Now you’re probably thinking how obsessed someone would have to be to actually set deer hunting goals. Isn’t the goal of hunting simply to kill a deer for one reason or another? Not necessarily. Sure, we all want to put some more venison in the freezer or hang a trophy buck on our wall. But there are many other reasons to hunt or ways to push ourselves harder in 2017 besides that. If you’re a passionate deer hunter who thinks about it throughout the year, goal-setting is a great way to achieve way more than you ever have before.
Setting SMART Goals
To have any hope of really achieving these nine deer hunting goals, it should be what’s called a SMART goal. This is an acronym to help you get the most bang for your goal-setting buck. If your idea hits all of the following points, it is likely a good one to pursue. If it doesn’t, try to refine it a little until it hits the mark. This isn’t just a procedure on paper either. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable to your goals. If done correctly, they can actually help you achieve them too.
- Specific – include as much detail you need to make it happen.
- Measurable – develop a way to measure your progress to keep you on target.
- Action-oriented – it should include some clear action to take.
- Realistic – don’t expect miracles to happen just because you write them down.
- Time-based – you can choose the 2017 hunting season or longer for bigger items.
Nine Deer Hunting Goals for 2017
We’ve compiled a list of nine different hunting goals you should consider adding to your own list. While they all have a slightly different focus, they challenge you to grow as a hunter through learning new hunting skills or sharpening old ones. Additionally, these goals are fairly general in nature to make a point. But you can use them as a springboard to create SMART goals from these topic areas. Think about more specific details, how you’re going to measure their success, whether there is a clear action you can take, how realistic it is for your area, and how long you’ll have to complete them.
Become a Shed Hunting Master
With shed hunting season rapidly approaching us, this is the time to make plans for it. While it’s not strictly a hunting-related activity on the surface, there’s a lot to be learned from it. For example, you can find out which bucks made it through the hunting season and much of the winter by studying their antlers. This is really useful to inform other deer hunting goals, especially if you’re after a certain buck. During this time of year, you can also wander wherever you want to look for shed antlers, which might allow you a glimpse into a secret whitetail hotspot you hadn’t noticed before. Study the terrain where you find a shed antler and follow their trails to see why they chose that particular spot. With seasonal differences, they might not be in the same area next fall. But knowing that in itself is useful for whitetail hunting too.
Study Your Deer Herd
You don’t have to be a biologist to conduct or benefit from some simple wildlife surveys. In fact, the more you know about the deer in your area, the better equipped you will be from a hunting perspective. Similar to shed hunting, winter is a great time to run a trail camera survey on your property so you can see which deer made it through another season. All you need are a few trail cameras (one per 100 acres), some Big & J® attractant (if legal), and a little of your time. Spend about a week getting deer used to the bait, and then hang your Bushnell® trail cameras to collect data for 2 weeks or so. Scrolling through all the trail camera pictures will take a while, but we there are worse ways to spend your time.
Planning a Hunting Trip
We typically think of these kinds of hunting trips as a “someday trip” – they will eventually happen, just not this year. The danger with this thinking is that we don’t get any younger and none of us is guaranteed another hunting season. More to the point, we often let “someday” turn into never. Whether we let laziness creep in or decide that there are many good reasons to not spend our hard-earned money on a trip like this, we often let them slip away. Not this year. Take time now to brainstorm a hunting trip you’ve never been on. Whether it’s an elk hunt across the country or a safari hunt across the world, make it happen this year.
Get Access to More Hunting Properties
Most of us aren’t blessed with hundreds or thousands of acres of private land to hunt on. In fact, many of us depend on public land hunting each year. This year, one of your deer hunting goals should be pushing yourself outside the old familiar comfort zone and hunting somewhere new. Contact your state wildlife agency to find additional public hunting land within a few hours of you. Or maybe this is the year you finally ask a landowner if you can hunt on their property. Many farms readily accept hunting requests, simply because deer damage their crops. But to get their approval, you need to be ultra-respectful and should probably offer to help with something else in return. If you do get access, make sure you always deliver on what you say you’ll do. Having access to multiple properties, especially a mix of private and public land, is a great way to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature next fall. If the conditions aren’t right for a certain property, they might be perfect on another one. If you’re hunting a mature buck, it’s also a good way to hedge your bets by casting a wider net, if you will. Finally, hunting on a new property will teach you things that hunting on the same old property can’t. You’ll realize you don’t know everything, and there are still skills to learn.
Improve Your Property
If you are a landowner, we realize you’ll still primarily hunt your own property before driving hours to the next spot. One of the best deer hunting goals you can do to push yourself and make it a more effective hunting property is to plant food plots or do some deer habitat improvement work this spring, summer, or fall. Luckily, this is the best time to plan all of those things from the comfort of your couch. Pull up an aerial map of your property and identify a few areas you’d like to target for planting food plots or some oak and apple trees. Once you figure out how big the area is, you can calculate how much equipment and supplies you will need.
Try a New Weapon
Maybe you’ve always hunted with a rifle and that’s been your chosen hunting weapon. This year, why not try something new? Hoyt® bows are a high-quality brand you can trust to get you from the beautiful early season bow hunting conditions right through the bitter cold late season. Thompson Center® muzzleloaders will help you with the late season hunting over your new food plot. Different weapons will allow you to extend your hunting season through much of the fall instead of only having a few weeks to fill your tag. And in some cases, you can also get multiple deer with those weapons.
Be a More Strategic Hunter
We get it. It’s easy to fall into the same hunting routine. You get up in the morning and go to the same tree stand each day, following the same pattern. Within a matter of days, deer will have your activities and location patterned and you’ll likely face some boring sits in the woods. This year, make a goal of becoming more strategic about what you do to keep the deer guessing. Hang a few different Hawk® tree stands around your property (or on several properties) to switch things around. If the wind isn’t good for a particular hang-on stand, you can always use a different location where it’s in your favor. Having multiple options means you get to wait for the perfect conditions for a particular stand without feeling like you’re missing out on hunting. Not to mention, this also provides you with a much-needed scenery change once in a while.
Along with being more strategic, sometimes you just need to work harder to get it done. Whether that means sitting in the tree stand longer throughout the day or hunting more days than the prior season, the more you’re in the woods (to a point), the better chance you have of seeing and killing a nice deer. Work harder to find new hunting spots and be willing to trudge through a swamp to get to the perfect tree stand (if the conditions are right). If you’re on public land, the effort is almost always worth it just to separate yourself from others.
Kill a Mature Buck
You knew it had to make the list. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us do want to put a high-scoring buck on the wall. Unfortunately, some properties and geographies are simply missing the right components to really create and hold a 180-inch whitetail. But most of us would be happy enough to take a mature buck too. If you put the other deer hunting goals above to good use, finding and killing a mature buck somewhere should be within your reach.
Best of Bone Collector Season 8 – 2016 in Review
While we listed out nine ways to become a better hunter, don’t let this list stop you from trying new things. Really think about what went well in 2016 and what you would like to accomplish in 2017. Chances are there are plenty of other deer hunting goals you’d like to finish this year. Go crush them and make 2017 the year of becoming a better hunter!