Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment to a 12-part, comprehensive series about building a hunting club with buddies from nearly the ground up. Author Thomas Allen will share what he learns as he learns it. His hope is that anyone who reads this series can learn from his successes and failures, and apply them to a one-day fruitful hunting club. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh installments.

“People often say looking back is a sign of weakness, and success only comes from focusing on the next step and what is directly in front of you. I say look back often, never forget your failures — or successes — there’s always something to learn. Never forget your past.” ~A. Nonymous  

I can tell you — without hesitation— that I look back on our first season as a club with pride. We accomplished so much on very limited time. We came together as a group of like-minded hunters and executed what seemed an impossible list of tasks to prepare for the 2017 hunting season.

And we did it.

But, we kept a realistic outlook, and remained flexible knowing it wasn’t going to be a perfect season. In fact, we knew from the moment we signed the contract that it was a multi-year project to get the property to a sustainable level.

Forget Shed Hunting
My kids contributed to the bulk of the kills this past deer season, and you’ll have to pardon me again while I brag. It’s very satisfying to work the land and kill deer that have a mouthful of the food you grew for them, but it’s even more satisfying to watch kids enjoy the sport. They’re killers.

Yet, we still experienced and enjoyed various levels of success. Not everything went as planned, we had many roadblocks to overcome and a few surprises along the way.

We still have a long way to go, but one step at a time.

If you’ve taken nothing from this series, consider this: Patience is the most powerful tool you can possess in this process. A single year can’t possibly tell you enough to pass judgment on the eventual outcome.

Two things I’m most proud of are the two videos below. If you’ve not seen the videos of my children Tommy and Taylor taking two very respectable bucks on our property, watch them, even if it’s a second time:

Tommy’s Buck

Taylor’s Buck

Back to Business

Since the season has ended, it’s time for postseason recon. Arguably, the time and effort you put in during first few weeks following the season’s end are the most important of the year.

It’s time to find out who survived the season and might be around next fall. The traditional in-season camera tactics and mock scrapes won’t be nearly as effective. I believe concentrating traffic is the best way to garner an accurate herd inventory. Instead of running nearly 20 cameras, I’ve dropped it down to eight.

Forget Shed Hunting
I removed half of the cameras to focus on concentrated areas. I built four mineral sites and reloaded the Wildgame Innovations Feeders with corn, also covered with cameras. For the mineral site, I like loose Trace Mineral.

The key to postseason recon is by first identifying centrally located areas on your property where deer traffic has been the most consistent. Establish mineral sites that will serve as deer attractant until the season begins again in the fall.

For the purpose of mineral, I like loose Trace Mineral, (not the block) as attractant. Once the mineral site has been established, and the deer have a pit dug out, I might switch to the block. But to get the salt and mineral to thoroughly soak into the soil, the bagged trace mineral is ideal.

Forget Shed Hunting
I removed half of the cameras to focus on concentrated areas. I built four mineral sites and reloaded the Wildgame Innovations Feeders with corn, also covered with cameras. For the mineral site, I like loose Trace Mineral.
Forget Shed Hunting
Keep up on your feeder batteries, especially if it’s been cloudy and your solar charger hasn’t been collecting the necessary energy.

On our 600 acres, I implemented four mineral sites, each being watched by a Wildgame Innovations camera. I also kept each of our four Wildgame Innovations feeders in strategic locations, also being covered by cameras.

But don’t forget to keep the feeder batteries fresh.

The Pipeline

One of the best attributes to this property is the gas pipeline that runs through the middle. It sold us on the lease. Any amounts of of open ground in Alabama, where dense pine plantations dominate the landscape, make open ground of any sort highly valuable.

And we planted three beautiful food plots that not only made us look like we knew what we were doing, but they pulled the deer, too.

But, that sort of land feature also comes with the risk of added human pressure. That’s a fact you’ll just have to deal with. The risk is worth the reward.

In the following images, you can see the maintenance that was performed. This occurred during the final week of our season, which certainly impacted the hunting. But the good news is they likely won’t be back to perform this extreme level of maintenance for quite some time.

Forget Shed Hunting
The gas line workers had to check welds on the pipeline at multiple locations, and that meant digging, noise, digging and more noise. It happened during the final 10 days of the season. Not cool, but a part of hunting a property with such a land feature.
Forget Shed Hunting
While an aggravating and unavoidable situation, it was pretty neat to see how they accomplished the task. #RedAlabamaDirt
Forget Shed Hunting
Here is one of the spots that was dug up and worked on, and they did a fantastic job repairing the dirt. Looks great.

Trail Camera Update

My trail cameras have been out and generating data on a daily basis. From all that I’ve seen since early March most of the bucks have shed their horns. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good estimation where any of those antlers have been dropped.

Forget Shed Hunting
The trail cameras continue to be our eyes on the property producing very valuable information. We are seeing that just about every buck has shed out, and new antlers are already protruding. They’re small, but noticeable.
Forget Shed Hunting
Here are a couple of the bucks visiting one of our mineral sites. They’ve been regulars during both morning and evening hours.

And that brings me to my next piece of advice.

Most of us don’t have the time to give fully to deer hunting. What I mean by that is simple: I’d love to have no other obligations than to just manage this property, but that’s not my reality. In fact, shed hunting in general has become the casualty of my commitments elsewhere in life.

My family is very important to me, my career is very important to me, fishing is another demanding passion of mine, and I can’t even think of life without turkey hunting. So, more or less, I don’t commit myself to finding antlers like I once did in Iowa, where I grew up.

I love shed hunting very much. And I miss it. While my current shed collection is impressive, it’s no where near where I want it to be — you just can’t have too many. For now it’s going to have to wait. Perhaps the day will come when I have more time to get out and burn boot leather looking for fallen bone. At this point in my life — this year especially — it’s just not a priority.

I have to prioritize to keep my house in order.

For now, trail cam pix will have to suffice. The advice? If family, career, passions and time are in short supply, forget about shed hunting. It’s not a necessary aspect of successful club management.

Forget Shed Hunting
Shed hunting is a valuable activity, and exciting way to build an impressive collection. However, if time is short this is one of those things that isn’t entirely necessary to adequately managing a property. Don’t get me wrong, I love antlers and I love shed hunting. But with my work schedule, family obligations, spring turkey hunting and fishing, I prioritized shed hunting near the bottom of that list. Something to consider if you’re ultra busy like I am.

Is it beneficial? Certainly. Is it fun? Absolutely. But you can do without it if you’re looking for an area where time can be saved, that’s a good start.  

However, if you can fit it into your schedule, by all means, get to walking. Get out and walk. Like I said, one can’t have too many antlers.

Season Of Stats

Back in one of the early installments of this series, I mentioned keeping a Hunter Log Book. We did a pretty good job, and after spending a couple of day crunching numbers, I’ve found some very interesting statistics that were worth every hour put in mining it out.

Here are the critical elements:

The Alabama season begins October 15 and wraps up February 10 allowing for 118 days of deer hunting.

  • Eight members enjoyed a total of 53 actual days on the club.
  • Eight members sat — morning and/or evening — a total of 103 sits.
  • Between those 103 hunts, 133 deer sightings were recorded.

The blow graphs generated from the collected data tell a very interesting story. However, it’s worth mentioning that this system is imperfect. You simply can’t expect every member to always remember to fill out the log following each hunt — I forgot a time or two myself. Therefore the data collected and indicated may not be 100 percent accurate.

The data you do gather paints a very interesting picture that can easily educate and enlighten the entire group. Take it for what it’s worth, and apply it where applicable.

Check this out:

Forget Shed Hunting Forget Shed Hunting Forget Shed Hunting Forget Shed Hunting

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