I’ll start with an apology. I know it’s been too long since I’ve posted a Micro Manager entry. But, well, I was hunting…and that is, after all, the whole point of this series, right?
Deer season isn’t over. Not yet. But after nearly a full season of assessing our work from the spring and summer, I’ve learned some new information. The results?
I’ve hinted in previous posts that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the impacts of the habitat work on overall hunting success and deer sightings. That’s true. But I also know I wasn’t blessed with an abundance of patience, and sometimes I tend to have a glass-half-empty outlook.
But facts are facts. And here’s a fact: I saw far fewer deer on Noah’s Farm this year than I did last season. That’s both perplexing and disheartening.
Last season was my first hunting the 17-acre parcel, and everything was rushed. I had just closed on the property a few weeks prior to the season and that left very little time to do anything but toss down a couple of small plots of oats and clover and to hang a couple of stands in locations that seemed good at the time.
My son Noah and I hunted the piece a few times and didn’t kill any deer off it, but we never sat the farm without seeing at least one deer. And, usually, we would see 6 to 8 deer using the food plots and moving through the property. Bucks were rare, but we did see a couple.
This year? We were skunked far more often than not, and I never saw a single antlered buck while hunting. Worse yet, my trail cameras weren’t much more active.
How could this happen? How could “enhancing” the property make it hunt worse than last year, when nothing had been done at all?
Well, perhaps I just answered my own question. At least partially.
We started working on the property as soon as the snow had cleared enough. Which meant we were at it hard and heavy by early May. We removed roughly two dozen dead ash trees and hinge-cut another couple of dozen trees in an effort to create thicker timbered areas.
We planted a few hundred trees and shrubs, and then created travel corridors and small food plots.
All told, we worked throughout the spring and much of the summer to do everything just as the “experts” prescribed.
But now I wonder if all of that human activity didn’t take a toll on the way local deer use the property.
I left the property alone as best I could starting in mid-August. I did monitor trail cameras from time to time, but not any more than I do on any other place I hunt–and I saw plenty of deer in those locations. But perhaps the damage was already done.
The other difference? Food.
Last fall, the property’s plentiful apple trees were absolutely loaded with fruit. This year? None. For whatever reason, the trees just didn’t produce (none of the trees in my neighborhood did either).
So, no apples. Now, couple that with the fact that my food plots were almost a complete flop. Plus, the few oaks scattered across the property didn’t seem to produce many acorns. Aside from weedy browse, there was very little food on the property.
I’ll be honest here. I’m a bit frustrated right now.
As I write this, Michigan’s gun season ended a couple of hours ago. Which means we’re in the home stretch before another deer season will have passed. I love late-season hunting when conditions are right, and I like to think I have a knack for finding those places deer have sought shelter.
I was counting on Noah’s farm to be one of those areas. Perhaps it will be. But, thus far, it has been a tremendously disappointing year. It’s hard not to wonder if all of the time, effort, and expense was worth it. Hard not to wonder if the property will ever be the type of place I dream about.
But I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. I have a plan of attack. Noah’s Farm may not be a late-season hot spot, but now is a great time to determine what bucks, if any, survived the gun season. And any deer I can get to use the property now, after the intense pressure of gun season, are deer that likely will use the piece in the future.
The sun has not yet set on the 2014 season.
But it’s time for me to start finding answers and solutions to make sure 2015 produces better results.
There’s plenty of work to be done over the next couple of weeks.
I’ll keep you posted on the results.