January 2018, new year, new season, high expectations! I had just come off my best year ever with bow hunting being able to harvest 2 mature bucks on state land. The previous few years I had made tweaks to my tactics and I felt that with the results of 2018, I finally had this deer hunting thing figured out!
As summer was coming to an end my “Go To” spot #1A and B were producing mature bucks on camera at an early and regular rate that I hadn’t seen in previous years. Typically they would show up more into the season as the outside pressure drove the mature deer deeper into cover.
Spot #2, the piece of property that I scouted and hunted for the first time the previous year and actually harvested the 2 bucks off was not providing a whole lot of promise on camera, but I wasn’t too concerned about that because honestly, the previous year showed a lot of buck activity but not really anything too mature. And those final results were good since this was the area I harvested both of my bucks the year before. I felt that this location once again would produce once the outer pressure kicked in.
Enter the 2018 archery season with high expectations! And fast forward through October to massive disappointment.
Spot #1A suddenly dried up as of the end of August. The mature deer were no longer parading in front of my camera like they had done all summer. It wasn’t too hard to figure out what happened here as in September I ran into another hunter setting up further in than I had seen anyone before. Initially I wasn’t too concerned and felt this would make my spot deeper
in even better. But it didn’t take too long to figure out that the two individuals hunting this
area were hunting it heavy and often. There is no doubt in my mind that the increased pressure along with the baiting that they were doing were changing the range/habits of these
smart, mature deer. This was confirmed further later in the season as finally late October I got pictures of my #1 and #2 hit list bucks on camera on the other side of the property at Spot #1B.
Spot #2 I had anticipated would pick up but it didn’t take too long into the season to determine this wasn’t the case and this one was way more perplexing than the other. The entire area was just devoid of sign unlike the previous years. Same surrounding crops and no sign off additional pressure. The trails that were beaten down last year were bare. I was not seeing the typical sign as the previous year and these observations along with my camera results and actually hunting results were mounting to a very frustrating season.
I did some hang and hunts and even moved some stands to test the theory that maybe these deer had me patterned or something else had changed, but the results were the same.
My Michigan Archery season closed with relief as I drove to Kansas to bowhunt there Nov 7-17. Hunting Kansas on a DIY public land hunt by the way opened my eyes to what real deer act like. And then a short 2 day gun hunt in Ohio in January. Holy wah! I can honestly say those hunts have likely ruined me for Michigan, but that’s a whole other story.
Reflecting back on my Michigan season, it’s obvious when it comes to deer hunting you never have it all figured out, especially when it comes to hunting public land. But the one lesson I took away is “OPTIONS ARE GOOD!!!!”. Unfortunately I had put my eggs in 3 baskets, albeit very large baskets, and I had felt pretty comfortable with that. But when they didn’t produce, it was almost too late to dive into and figure out other potential areas. I had 5 permanent stands over the three locations encompassing several hundred acres which keeps my # of hunts per stand to a minimum, but that wasn’t enough. Moving stands slightly and doing a couple hang and hunts is one thing. But to really have some spots scouted, understood, entry/exits figured out is a whole other ball game that takes off season scouting to really understand and have figured out.
2019 will bring more out of state hunts after my Kansas experience, but the void in between will be filled with spending time in the Michigan woods. And this year, I will have multiple options. I have found a couple new locations with some surviving up and comers and so I have added those spots to my list of options for the 2019 season. Fingers crossed!