Editor’s note: This is the final 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, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th installments.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. —Theodore Roosevelt

Turning the page on our first year as a club reminds me of the many struggles and mistakes we endured. Personally, I was humbled more than I care to admit with situations that should have been handled differently, but ultimately it was a learning experience. And one we all welcomed.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn throughout this process is patience: It will take several years — if not more — to get your hunting club to where you initially visualized it.

Be patient.

That’s just the reality of it, accept it and move towards accomplishing the next task. Many hands make light work.

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Crossing items off of the Club To-Do List takes many willing hands. There is no way for one person to make a club efficient. It takes a few to motivate the many, get dirty, get sweaty and be prepared to work hard.

We have a list of goals at the club, but with this 12-part series I really want you to learn from our mistakes — and even the things we did right. Above just about everything else, though, this whole process takes a tremendous amount of work.

Be prepared for that.

If you want to run a successful club, it literally has to become a lifestyle. That may sound like too much to ask, but those of us who save up all our vacation and literally live for those cool, crisp fall days chasing whitetails already know what that lifestyle is about.

Building, managing and encouraging a successful hunting club only comes with dedicated hard work.

Work hard and play harder. There is no greater success than the sweet fruit of your toilsome labor.

Field Work

Last year we signed the lease contract on September 15th, and didn’t really get our food plots prepared and planted until the second week of October. That was about a month late, I think.

This year we have a two-month head start, and our goal is to have all of our food planted by early September. Thirty extra days of growth would give our deer buffet more time to fill out and grow robust.

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We are getting an early start on field preparation. The goal is to spread out the work across multiple weeks so not all the planting efforts are jammed into two weekends. Work smarter, not harder.

We’ve mowed the fields and will be taking the disc to the dirt in coming workdays. And once the ground is receptive, we’ve decided to make some substantial changes to what types of BioLogic seed we’ll plant and where — largely based on our experiences last season.

One step at a time.

Trail Camera Turn Around

I’ve had cameras deployed across our property for 11 months now, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the deer population. Maybe. Most of it anyways.

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I currently have a minimized list of trail cameras up on our property. In coming weeks I intend to substantially increase that count to full coverage during the late preseason. It’ll add to the overall work and battery expense, but building that yearly inventory is critical to making good decisions during the season.

At this point, I still have eight Wildgame Innovations trail cameras deployed, but I plan to increase that count by twice as many by mid August.

The following pictures are of two bucks that survived and are back in the game for the 2018-19 deer season. One is a shoNuff shooter because of this age, and the other is a fine buck, but I believe he’s only three.

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Back in 2017, this heavy-set 6-pointer showed up, and made his rounds across much of the property. I knew instantly he wasn’t young necessarily, but one that should be shot if he would show himself. In this picture, I estimate him at 3 years old, but wouldn’t’ be surprised if he was four.
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This is the same heavy 6-pointer from 2018. In this picture he’s sporting his new 2018 headgear, and it’s not changed very much at all. This picture was taken about 50 yards from where last year’s was captured, likely indicating that this area is apart of his home range. As they get older, these Alabama deer go nearly 100-percent nocturnal, and I expect the same for this guy. Regardless, he’s on the hitlist.
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Last December this pretty young 8-pointer showed up on multiple cameras. He looks to be 2 years old in this photo from 2017, but certainly shows promise to be a good one in coming years.
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The same buck from above is the same deer in this picture, I believe. I’m not 100-percent sure yet, but the areas of photographic evidence and rack formation similarities indicate this is the same deer. However, this year he seems to be growing a pair of short G4s, which would bump him up to a pretty 10-pointer this year. I think he’s three this year, and not quite a shooter yet. He is showing great potential, though. A positive sign for sure.

New House No. 2

In the last installment, you experienced the organic process we took to relocate and build one of our shooting houses. But that was just one house of four that will be seriously remodeled over the coming months.

We operate on a budget, like just about every hunting club in existence. To keep costs down, we built the house — which is really more of a platform at this point — out of lumber we milled. And it turned out pretty great!

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A long hot day on the sawmill produced enough lumber to begin building our second organic shooting house. We still need to cut wood for two more, but this is a great start, and we had a lot of fun doing it.

To keep the momentum rolling, Paul and I endured a day of oppressive Alabama heat to mill out the needed materials for the next house. He and I still have more heat to beat in order to get the rest of what we need prepped for the next build.

Here is a quick look our current level of progress on the next house.

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Speaking of going full circle. Just the other night, my family and I enjoyed smoked kabobs with special meaning. My son shot the turkey and my daughter shot the deer that made up the meat portion of our meal.

Both critters came from our hunting club.

Providing food for our family table has become something they’ve each grown quite proud of. And that makes me even more proud of the work we put in, the time we invested in preparation and actually hunting for the fruits of our labor.

This is living right.

Thank you for following along.

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Being able to collectively enjoy the real fruits of our labor is at the core of why we hunt. Both my children contributed to this meal that was provided by a deer and a turkey that once roamed the acres of timber on our new club. It makes me proud to cook and eat such delicious food provided by the hands of my babies. This is why I hunt.

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