I have to say that for me, February is the worst month of the year. The rut is over, whitetail hunting is over, and unless you are after exotics or hogs, hunting is over—period.
All that’s left are the memories, good and bad—more good than bad, we hope.
Even though your time in the woods is basically over for hunting, you still need to get out there and take care of a few things. Think of it as the clean-up month. That means it is time to retrieve your stands from your lease and inspect them for anything that might cause you problems next season. On a personal level, I know that one of my stands had a squeak in it when I shifted my weight on the stand. Not Good.
We all know that in the woods, any sound at all that’s foreign will send a whitetail off to the next county, especially if he is a big boy with a few years under his belt. He did not get big being stupid. It’s important that we take the time to do some maintenance on all of our stands and now is the time to do it
Yes, sometimes it can be a major pain in the butt to lug all of your stands out. That is why some hunters prefer to just leave them there year after year. It’s in a great spot, and you just want to leave it there.
I can see a few problems with that strategy. First, at least where I hunt, you have to be a little concerned about theft. Even though you chain it to the tree (to keep honest people honest), it is a bad feeling when you go to your favorite spot to hunt at oh-dark-thirty only to find that your tree stand is no longer there. One year, I went to my spot only to find that not only was my stand was gone, but so was the tree
Second, you need to remember that a tree grows constantly, and the strap you tightened around the tree to hold your stand in place might not be the safest strap any longer. If you elect to leave your stand attached to the tree, then you run the risk of the strap snapping when you put your weight on it causing what could be a serious injury. My advice is to take the time to bring them home where you can go through them carefully.
Are there any loose bolts? Or worse, missing all together. I would take the time to tighten EVERY bolt and screw on each stand. Then while I have them right in front of me, spray some WD 40 on them. The scent will be gone before you need to use them again. It will not only take care of any squeaks you might have had; but also, it will help keep the rust off.
February is also a good month to do a little after season scouting. By now, the bucks have already, or will very soon, drop their antlers. If you have the time, get off the pavement for a while and take a hike on your lease.
You might be lucky and find the antlers of the buck you hunted hard last season. At least that will confirm he made it through another year and avoided being taken by any other hunters.
I love it when I find both antlers of the same buck I have on camera during pre-season. One of my friends framed the picture he had of the buck and next to it were the antlers displayed on a finished board.
So don’t forget to look up on the bushes or the lower branches of trees. Too many times, when looking for antlers the hunter makes the mistake of looking on the ground, only. Once, when I wore a younger man’s clothes, I was bent over walking slowly looking for sheds. When my back hurt so bad I had to stop and stretch, I stood up. There in front of me was a shed caught in the branches at chest height. I almost missed that.
It is also a great time to follow tracks to find out where the deer prefer to go when they are pressured. You might find a new area on your lease that you never knew existed. Maybe you will locate a new food source. You would be surprised what the deer will eat to survive.
Think of the whitetails in the northern states. Last winter in New York, the snow was much deeper than normal, and the temperatures dropped to ridiculous levels. As a matter of fact, my outdoor thermometer actually says ridiculous on the bottom of the temp glass. I thought it had frozen there for good. I know I was.
The snow was so deep that the deer could not dig down to the food (what little was around). The white stuff also caused a problem when the deer were chased by coyotes. It was so deep that the deer could not run fast and the coyotes would be able to run on top of the snow and catch the deer.
My friend Nathan Jones was filming a segment for his television show when a young buck ran right under his stand followed closely by a group of coyotes. The whitetail ran out on a lake and slipped on the ice, then could not get back up; and the coyotes had their dinner. Mother Nature sure can be cruel at times.
So, it really does not matter if you are looking for sheds, scouting for deer or just enjoying a crisp February day in the outdoors, the point is you ARE out there and that alone beats sitting on the couch all day long.
Have fun and always remember to hunt safe.
Email Lou Marullo at [email protected]