Ready or not, season near

We are less than a month and a half away from the opening day of archery season for deer, and I’m not ready.

There are tree stands to hang, shooting lanes to cut, trails to rake and equipment to tweak. I don’t know how deer season always seems to sneak up on me each year, but it does.

The main reason I’m not ready is because I just received permission to hunt a new property. As excited as I am about the 256-acre piece of rolling wooded pasture, I have no idea how the deer use the place. I don’t know where they bed, feed, drink or travel.

For me to feel comfortable devoting much time to hunting this unknown property, then I need to figure this place out quickly.

The best way to do this so late in the game is to study maps and then install and monitor game cameras.

Being this close to the opening day of the season, I don’t want to spend much time on the property. I don’t want to disturb it.

The land has been vacant for a year, so any human presence would be alarming to the deer that have become accustomed to having the place all to themselves. The last thing I want to do is leave human scent all over the place.

Aerial imagery is my first step in the scouting process. I use the satellite view in Google Maps to pinpoint promising looking locations. Then I take a peak at a topographical map to see how the land lies.

Once I have used the imagery and maps to select a few locations, I’ll slip into the area, locate trails and set up my cameras. Then I’ll come back in a week to see what pictures I picked up.

If the pictures are promising, I’ll hang a stand.

If not, I’ll move the camera to another area and try again.

Once I have decided to hang a tree stand in a particular location, I quickly work to make the area around my stand site accessible and right for hunting. This consists of creating or clearing trails I can use to quickly and quietly access the stand. I use a saw and shears to trim back limbs and vegetation along the trail. Then I use a rake to clear the trail of old leaves and sticks. I want to be able to approach my stand as silently as possible.

I’ve been in too many tight tree stands where I couldn’t shoot in every direction I needed to. These days, I make sure to clear my shooting lanes.

This is easier to do if you have two people. One person sits in the stand and directs the person on the ground where and what to cut. You can do it on your own, but it requires multiple trips up and down from the stand to make sure you have cleared everything necessary.

Picking up a new place to hunt is great, but it takes a serious effort to learn the property so you can maximize its potential. It’s not too late to learn what you need to know about a new property to be ready for opening day, but at this point, every day is precious. You need to get to work.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Reporter.