2019 Lessons Learned


Well-Known Member
Because this topic potentially covers so many different forums, I thought I’d park it here in the General section. What lessons did you learn this season?
Food-plots: Even with a weed infestation in my brassicas, on balance, this was our best year by far for plot production as far as quantity and quality. We are now seeing the benefits of spreading nearly 60 tons of lime on our 17 acres of plots. Corn ears were larger/more developed, and the turnips/rutabagas produced great tubers. Clover varieties all produced well, and our grain plantings (rye/triticale/oats) were an amazing draw until late November when deep snows covered them. Lessons? I have way too many turkeys (I counted one flock of 67), and too many does. Turkeys are relentless knocking down stalks to get to the grain. Interestingly, deer were far more focused on brassicas and grain mix than they were the corn this year. Also, we’ve now learned how hard the beavers are on the corn. They made multiple trails into the plots within 100yds of the pond and would take multiple stalks every evening. What can I do? We can do a better job on does, but I doubt we’ll be able to take more than 4 or 5 (I won’t let outsiders hunt unchaperoned). It’s a problem when you see 20-30 deer in a 6 acre plot every evening.....:(. Turkeys? I’m not sure what can be done. I left the coyotes alone this winter hoping they’d help as the handful we might take during hunting season will never be enough. I’m actually contemplating cutting out the 4-5 acres of corn.... Beavers? I could probably trap a few, but I’m entirely dependent upon them to keep my boys fishing hole adequately damned up. I’ve got to change things up, or I’m headed to inevitably hurting natural browse levels and an eventual population crash given our harsh weather. Other big lesson? It is impossible to plan for the impact of bumper acorn crops (or the lack thereof).
Natural Habitat: We are 51/2 years into 24 acres of hinge cuts. The benefits have been far greater than I’d hoped. Our browse outside of the cuts is in phenomenal shape, and there still tons of browse available in the cuts, which have become a sanctuary. I continue to be surprised at how many of the cuts are still alive. I’m already looking for additional areas to cut....several years from now.
Hunting: This was one of my most enjoyable seasons I’ve had since buying the property....and I never punched a tag. I had the best bowhunting evening in my life passing 11 different bucks that were 8 or more points, as well a huge bodied 61/2 year old 2x3. During the rifle season, I had 2 encounters with my target buck but never had a perfect shot. The big lesson? In a year with a bumper acorn crop, traditional plans and practices based upon food-plot patterns are not conducive to frequent encounters with old bucks. With our swirling mountain winds, treestand, pop up blinds and hunting from the ground can really educate the deer in a hurry. I am giving some thought to locating a redneck blind or two to a couple of our best oak ridges/flats.

What lessons did you learn that the rest of us can benefit from?
You hinged 24 acres!?!? That's damn impressive!

I learned that I can efence deer off a bean plot... for a while. Also learned that quail love said bean plot, either for the beans or the ragweed I let grow in it (or both).

Also learned that in Throw-n-Mow that I don't have to mow... the dead vegetation will fall over and accomplish the same thing. Just got to time it right.

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
It sounds like you had a great year! Your problems are good problems to have, too many deer, too many turkeys. Turkey numbers tend to run in cycles, in several years you will be wondering where all the turkeys are at? I just bought three more 360Huntingblinds, they are almost airtight, and have a better window system than redneck. I'd suggest that you check them out at the sports show in Harrisburg. What you have learned this year is the same thing that I keep learning over and over again, time put into deer management yields good returns.
I learned that you don’t have to use corn to get good camera surveys if you have plenty of established food plots with mineral licks nearby. This is the first year we didn’t use corn at all during the summer or the season and we had more and better bucks on camera than we ever have. I even think the hunting was better, possibly due to the reduced disturbance.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Learned the hard frustrations that can come with be a dedicated land manager. My top 3 bucks all taken by the neighbor during different seasons. I have 200+ and they have 20 acres and don't do a thing for deer management or hardly hunt. The advantage he lives out there and the biggest buck he happened to come home from work and saw him running around on field, grabbed xbow went out where he saw him, hr later walked right in 20 yds.

I'll keep crying until next year. Tough pill to swallow though when he got all 3. Better to be lucky than smart?

So what did I learn? Is it coincidence or is something drawing those big boys there during random times. Back to drawing board.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
The best improvement on my property isn't on my property. It's a roughly 10 acre clear cut behind me. That holds all the deer I see, but it isn't gonna be great forever. It's already getting to be 7 years old I think. So I've started knocking down a couple acres in the center of my property each year. It's thickening up faster than I ever imagined, and it's upped my browse enough that I'm starting to get dogwood to come back. It's also releasing lots of desirable species that were caught in the understory.

Pushing carbon and diversity
Had my best food plot ever this year, and it was largely a fail in my eyes by the time hunting season arrived. I had great clover, but had low hopes of having enough of it to last the season, and be a viable option after snow. I was wrong on both accounts. I know I pound the barley drum a lot here, but until it starts popping up in more threads, I'll keep pounding. It was a fantastic summer forage, it starved out would-be grass invaders, and I wish I grew it thicker so I had more straw. Also pushed other annual grasses in the clover, and I think it really helped the clover work harder at being clover. I ended up with as many good plants I hadn't intended as the ones I planted, and the deer and bugs liked them all. First year I hadn't had a weed apocalypse blow up in my face because of something I did.

Lime can knock out horsetail. Write that down.

Trail cleaning
The difference was clear this year having a clean trail vs one covered in brush and branches from a butchering of a demolition process. I walked right into my ground blind with a deer in the plot, and she never knew I was there.

Building a ground blind
I'm not rich in blind capital, so I decided to try building my own. I left it on the ground, it had no floor, no glass, and it was wrapped in landscape fabric. I got it done for under $200 and it was a penthouse compared to sitting on a ladder stand in November in zone 3. If I can find a way to build them up at the cabin, away from the bugs, and move them whole, I will be building more.

Move dirt
My place is one big low spot (not swamp, just slow to drain and flat). I tried my first water hole dig and used the spoils to put 8" into/onto a plot expansion. Now I've got a water hole and some new plot space that is above the ponding level. I may be able to grow winter cereals into spring now. I've got two days slated to dig holes and raise up plot space again this summer.

Buy in bulk
I needed some rock and some wood chips at my place for stuff around yard. Those projects were right on the bubble between bag convenience and bulk savings. I opted for a dump truck of rock and a dump truck of wood chips. I knew I'd have extra, but after a season of moving it around, it's almost all gone, and I kinda want more. Little by little I'm laying down 6' wide landscape fabric to deal with weeds around the cabin, weeds along the trail to the biff, weeds around stuff I need to mow against, and more. I think if I had a side dump of wood chips I could use it all up in no time.
You have a good learning thread for all of us going here Elk. Not all of this seasons trail cam pictures have been analyzed yet but some learnings or maybe a better phrase -re-learnings screamed to us to throughout the hunting season. This property and the properties surrounding it change each year and the deer of course change their habits in reaction to those changes. Changes to this property that occurred this past year included tremendous growth in the woods which created an abundance of cover and earlier succession type browse. The cover has become so thick that coupled with more than normal swirling winds, hunting from the ground as I prefer to do was severely hampered.

Rabbits have multiplied to where they are now a part of every camera pull as are the coyotes that must be feasting on them.
Fisher cats and grey fox are also back on the scene. The increase in predators may be the cause for how the deer seemed to move about with extra stealth in the woods. Well placed ladder stands put up this spring will be required to hunt in the woods this coming fall as it is just too thick in the woods to see deer beyond twenty yards. And as Elk mentioned we too are considering putting some Rednecks in the woods.

With the extra cover more deer spent a lot of time on the property and especially older bucks. However once the rut was well underway some of those older bucks wandered off into other area properties in search of presumably receptive does. We are thinking that more does on the property from Nov. 15 on will equate to availability of more receptive does on the property then which might result in more of the older bucks staying put and thus making it to even older ages. To encourage more does we plan on upping our food plot plantings with better timed plantings, more fertilizer and more late holding fruit trees and up our native browse even more by reducing buckthorn areas and actually planting native shrubs. We also plan to encourage those property owners in our deer management co-op to up their both native browse and planted foods as well.

Meanwhile most area properties continue to be dominated more and more by invasive plants. In addition more farms cutting corn versus combining it is also ending in less deer food available for area deer. Many properties are seeing less deer and that is prompting some trespassing so we have and will continue to ramp up our policing activities to keep them at bay. Tomorrow one such trespasser faces trespassing charges in court. Hopefully he will change his ways.

On the very plus side here the older bucks have taken to utilizing food plots throughout the season and more importantly doing so during daylight hours. Fruit tree plantings as mentioned aimed at extending the fruit availability dates into late Nov and Dec will first focus on encouraging that relatively new buck behavior to regularly frequent food plots here during daytime hours. The second focus of fruit tree plantings will be on increasing fruit availability for Dec. thru March. The pictures below contains an example of the type of Food Plot hunting we will be shooting for. It is sort of a middle ground between in the woods hunting and food plot hunting. The "Food Plot" shown in the pictures is only bow shot wide at its widest point but it offers long views into the plot as well as into the apple trees and woods surrounding three sides of the plot.

IMG_0064a.jpg IMG_0167a.jpg
Last edited:
I enjoy this game a lot, but I am also a creature of habit and its very hard for me to change (life lesson #1) If It has worked for me just once and failed 20 times I will still hope for #2.

Lessons I learned this year.
I HAVE to practice with my bow, the last couple of years my practice time has been limited, in the past I have gotten away with minimal practice. This year my luck changed for the worse and I suffered mentally from it all season. I hit a buck glanced the brisket at 12 yards, lots of blood, trailed him for over 1500 yards, crossed a creek and never found him ( a month later on camera, still a live) Totally missed another buck 22 yards (best to date 145" deer, measure by the neighbor killed two weeks later). All of this carried over into gun season, missed a buck standing still at 100 yards with the rifle. Can't tell you the last deer I missed with the gun!!!

Lesson #2 is to not take things for granted, I still need to practice and also I have to work at what I want vs just expecting it to happen

Lesson #3Food plots are very important for the over all success of the herd, not as important to filling tags. The last two years I have not had the resource, time , and funds to plant. The local deer have suffered because they have wandered away to unsafe locations where the shoot EVERYTHING!

Lesson #4 Need to be prepared for anything at anytime!!!!! My new hunting blind is awesome, I love it, but it also lead a total collapse of my mind. I have never seen a deer come from this direction, so why would I open it????? 830 the first day of gun season, 4 doe come out to my foodless food plot. The window to the right is wide open and can shoot all four doe, I look behind them and their stands the biggest buck I have ever seen on my land 160's easy!!!!!!!!! Never seen this buck before or since. Zero pictures. He is standing in a WIDE open area in the brush 40 yards away, slam dunk!!!!! One problem, the window that I am looking at him thru ISN'T OPEN!!!!!. Bottom line is you never know when the biggest deer of your life will come walking by!!!!

I am sure their is more but the bottom line is to keep at it. Whatever "it" is!