Start Planning for Next Season

By Dan Johnson

Hello Everyone, welcome to my little slice of this magazine. My name is Dan Johnson, and I am addicted to bowhunting for whitetails. You may gather from the title of the editorial that I only have nine fingers. I won’t get in to how I lost it, but I will say that it decided to stay in Atlanta, GA when I made the move back to Iowa. I picked up my first bow in the summer of 1992 and started hunting soon thereafter. Due to sports and other school activities, then attending college and partaking in “college type” activities, hunting took the backseat. Then, in 2006, I cannonballed into bowhunting and never looked back. Since then I have tried to absorb as much knowledge about the whitetail as humanly possible… how and when they move based on natural occurrences like weather and moon phases, their core areas, what they eat and when they eat it, as well as hunting strategy. I just can’t get enough of it.

Like most of you I am blessed to call Iowa my home, and it is my goal every year to put as much energy as I possibly can into harvesting a mature whitetail buck without taking away from my family duties. For me, that is at least a 4 year old buck or older. I don’t own any property, I don’t lease property, and I don’t hunt with an outfitter. I have permission on a couple different farms that I attained by knocking on their front door. I share those farms with other hunters; so there are times when accomplishing my goal can be a bit difficult.

January marks the end of another season of hunting, another season of antlers, and another season of stories. For most, this means the end. Packing up and putting away all of your hunting gear, taking down treestands, and reliving all of the encounters of the months past. For a few, the hardcore, January marks the beginning of the next cycle. Always looking forward, always planning, and always looking for that next opportunity to increase our odds of having an encounter with that buck of a lifetime.

For me, January means end-of-season scouting. I love to get out in the timber after it’s all said and done and walk the properties I hunt. Observing the terrain with no leaves on the trees can be a real eye opener if you have never set foot in the timber during the winter months. You will be able to see every contour, elevation change, and pinch point much clearer. The goal is to then use the information that you learn to help you find a new stand or blind location for the next season. If there is snow on the ground, it makes it that much easier as you can see the trails that the deer are using.

Knowing where the deer have been the previous year can be a huge benefit for the following season. Using this information can help you forecast deer movement as well as make you be a more efficient hunter.

The other activity I like to do right after the season is over in January is to organize my trail camera pictures from the previous months. Over the years I used to keep all of my pictures in a series of folders on my computer. I would organize them by the farm the pictures were taken, the year the picture was taken, and then categorize them by specific buck. I would then go back through those pictures and check out the date and time. Then, based on that date and time I would look online at historical weather data to see what the weather was doing at that specific time to identify why the deer was moving when he did. I can use that information the following year to again forecast annual deer movement. To make things a little easier I now use an online program call DeerLab. All I have to do is upload the pictures and let the computer program do the rest.

For the hardcore guys like myself, this whitetail addiction is a 365 day ordeal that never really ends, and seems to get worse every year. The rest of this year I will be providing a little insight into what we should be doing every month to help increase our odds in the woods. If you want to become the best hunter you can possibly be you need to stop thinking about deer hunting just during the hunting months, but throughout the entire year.