As Illinois deer hunters, we have certainly been thrown a few curve balls these last few seasons. EHD, CWD, poor game management, over hunting, and drought have all made the news too often.
This, however, is a new year. The year we can start taking matters into our own hands. I’m sure you’ve heard of Voluntary Restraint by now. This is the year to implement it. Try to get as many neighbors on board as possible. If your area is suffering from low deer numbers, let the ladies walk. Let the young boys walk too. That said, if I am in need of deer meat and my deer population is lower than I’d like, I’d rather take a basket rack out of the herd than a breeding doe. In a few short years, you’ll have more deer and bigger bucks. You are your property’s best manager.
Like most small property owners, I didn’t need the state or anyone else to tell me how many deer to shoot. When I first acquired my 50 acres, the deer numbers were very low. The only reason I bought the place was because I knew it had tons of potential. Although I’ve seen that potential realized the last few seasons, this year I’m feeling particularly proud of my efforts. As strange as this sounds, I rarely get does on trail camera pictures. I’d say my pictures are 95% bucks. This runs parallel with my actual sightings throughout the last few seasons. This year is different though. This year I’m seeing does on camera with some consistency. We haven’t shot a doe on my place in 2-3 years now and I think it’s finally showing. My buck numbers as a whole appear to be about the same, but the number of quality bucks has jumped this year. That doesn’t mean I’ll get one, but it certainly increases my odds. Boy I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.
Being your own land/game manager can be frustrating. Neighbors aren’t always in agreement…especially when it comes to letting certain bucks walk or not shooting does. Our own DNR seems to work against us at times. It does work though. I only own/manage 50 acres. I feel as though my place doesn’t even exist when I hear others talk about their 300, 500, 900 acres hunting paradises. My 50 acres is proof, though, that you can make a difference…even on small parcels. My 50 is far from perfect. There are still several costly things I’d like to do to increase my deer sightings and holding capacity, but the improvements I’ve made so far have really begun to prove themselves worthwhile. I’m more than happy with the outcome of my improvements.
I usually only have one buck that I am after, but let’s just say this year I feel a bit more fortunate. My goal in the past has always been to get the one deer I was after. This year my goal is to get each of my two kids a mountable buck…or at least one of them. It wouldn’t be too terrible if I happened to get one as well.
I hope your season is as great as you want it to be. Be safe, hunt hard, and enjoy your time outdoors this deer season. Feel free to share pictures of the one you’re after this year. I’ll share mine when I’m hopefully kneeling behind him.