Spring came, summer started, and by mid July I was scrambling for access to private land for the fall. Growing up on a 17- acre farm in the heart of Chester County, Pennsylvania, we enjoyed raising livestock (sheep), managing the land, but never hunting it. Coming from a family of non-hunters, hunting the family farm was out of the question, or so I thought. With just two weeks left before the baiting/feeding deadline, I was granted permission to hunt the farm, finally!
With 6 weeks to the opener on September 17th, I quickly got to work setting out Lucky Buck, putting stands up, and hanging cameras. It wasn’t too soon after the first few buckets of Lucky Buck that I realized I might have a problem. The same woods where I was setting feed were also the same woods where the sheep were in field rotation. (A lesson I quickly learned when my trail camera photos were all of sheep not deer.)
After some coaxing and much hesitation from the sheep they were moved to a new pasture & my trail cams quickly revealed the bucks I had been waiting for. The top of my hit list, Squirrel, a 3.5 year old 9 point.
Off norm weather patterns, late season heat, and a late rut, archery season proved unsuccessful. After long hours in the stand and in the blind, Squirrel out smarted me during the rut & my first year on the family farm. Every hunter makes mistakes, especially when you are first starting out. As I looked back on the season, I took notes of the major mistakes and lessons I learned to try to do better for next season.
Learning the land was the easy part, learning this buck was the hard part.
This buck (and all the deer on this land) had 26 years of free range, no hunters, and zero pressure. Normal hunting methods did not work during the rut. My old tried & true tactics simply didn’t cut it, and my bag of unconventional tricks fell short.
From my back door to the first tree stand, 17 minutes. I found myself hitting the snooze button one more time, coming back to the house for a quick lunch, and leaving at dusk. In hindsight, I should have treated this small lot of private land, just as I would public land; in it for the long haul. When hunting public land, I pack a lunch, get in early, and stay late. A strategy I will surly adopt for my next private land season.
Having grown up on the farm for 26 years, I knew where the deer were. I’ve watched where they move, I know where they bed down, and I thought the two places where the stands were set were golden. Each with clear shooting lanes, in ideal pinch points, and close to food plots. As season progressed, and the deer started to catch on to my presence, (either by smell or my not so quiet walking) I saw less and less deer in range of my stands. They were further off, out past my comfortable shooting distance. At this point a seasoned hunter probably would have backed off a bit, moved to other hunting ground. I should have switched to hunting public land for a few weeks, and not over hunted this small plot.
Private land was a whole new strategy; there are tens of moving pieces, more upfront work, but when it comes together it’s so rewarding. Off-season is when I will switch gears from hunting to preparing. Planning out new food plots, adding feeders, hanging more cameras, and keeping their haven as untouched as possible. After all, hunting is a year round sport.