I will be the first to admit that the last few months haven’t exactly been the most exciting times in the history of Whitetail Weekly. Between being in the peak of our “off-season” and staying close to home awaiting the birth of our second child I didn’t spend much time in the woods generating good weekly blog material. Rather than force something together every week I decided to take some time off and skip a few weeks here and there instead. Thankfully the days of missing a weekly entry are behind us now and we’ll be back to business as usual starting this week. With April 15th now in the rear-view mirror it is officially time to get started on our 2012 season. Usually we already have one or two trips to the property under our belt for scouting, shed hunting and any applicable projects but this year we have yet to make it up to the property at all this spring. Our late start combined with an early green up thanks to the warm weather means we will be playing a bit of catch up this year. Despite the late start we still have a healthy list of projects on the agenda for this year and I’m really hoping that we have the time and motivation to get them all completed. As if the project list isn’t long enough on its own we’ll also have to tackle the usual “maintenance” type of work as well as those few unplanned projects that seem to pop up every year. All told we’re looking at another pretty busy spring and summer…….and I can’t wait to get rolling!! Here’s a quick preview of what we have planned and what you can expect to see in upcoming Whitetail Weekly entries. Food Plots: Our property currently has three food plots on it. There are two smaller plots (the Southline and the Fenceline) and one larger plot (the Plateau). We have plans to completely re-do the small Fenceline plot since it has had some serious weed issues in the last season and a half or so. The plan is to apply multiple doses of herbicide, re-till the plot and plant it into a perennial crop (most likely clover at this point in time). Last year the Plateau plot was planted to canola and then tilled under in August by our land owner. After it was tilled under it didn’t re-grow like we had hoped and didn’t provide much food for the deer to browse on. Due to the lack of regrowth it was pretty ineffective as a food source by the time the season rolled around. This year we approached our landowner with a new plan and he has agreed to plant the plot to canola again but he will not be tilling it under this year. We have a few plans of our own to improve this plot including planting a screen around it to increase cover, retaining the canola for better browsing and adding turnips for better late season draw. This should be a really fun and educational project and I am really, really excited to get going on it. Habitat Improvement: With much of the property that we hunt being a lease we are a bit handcuffed in terms of what we can do in regards to habitat improvement. Our landowner is very understanding and allows us to do a lot more than many other landowners would but I’m still not going to take a chainsaw out there and start hinge cutting or anything. Even with those limitations we still manage to knock out a few projects every year and have seen some good results with what we have done in years past. Part of the property was clear cut a few years back and has since re-grown into a really thick, tangled mess. Normally I would love that type of habitat but this past year we noticed a lack of travel in a few areas. Upon closer inspection at the end of the season it appears as though the area is so thick that deer are actually avoiding it. We are going to cut a small run through the middle of the area following an old well used run to hopefully get deer back into that old travel pattern. Off of that “main” run we are going to make a few smaller paths into a few good bedding pockets that deer had used in the past. Hopefully by creating these shoots and runs we will get the deer moving back through the area and let them take advantage of the thick cover and bedding that it presents. We also have another lane clearing project planned for out in the clear cut. This project will free up a now overgrown lane that the loggers had used during their operations. Clearing up this lane will provide a travel lane for the deer, a shooting lane from one of our current stands and even a possible exit/entry route for us as we move to and from our stands. Another habitat project that has been on our agenda for a few years now is to attack the Thornapple trees that are all over our property. We and the landowner both agree that we need to get after these pests asap and try to slow their spread. There are a few areas in particular that I would like to attack first including taking out a few that are crowding out real apple trees. Not only will getting rid of the Thornapples feel good but it will also feel good to free up a few apple trees and hopefully increase their fruit production in the future. Trail Cameras/Scouting: If you follow this blog in the summer you already know that we are pretty intense trail camera users and running the cameras is one of our favorite past times. That will not change at all this year as we will be running even more cameras than last year and will continue to share our pictures with the readers One thing that will change a bit this year is the focus of those trail cameras. Last year the Plateau Plot was new to our property and our cameras were heavily focused on, and around, that plot in an effort to gain an understanding of how the deer were using that area. Between the trail cameras and the knowledge gained last hunting season we now have a pretty good feel for that area and while we will still have cams on that plot, I want to focus on a few different areas this summer and try to learn more about them as we did with the Plateau Plot last year. Our landowner is rotating his crop fields this year and that means we will now have a cornfield on our south border (the field was canola the last two years) as well as a new 20 acre canola field (was a hayfield in years past) on our property. These changes will certainly affect the way the deer move on, and through, our property so we will be using the cameras to try and figure out the new patterns. These changes could create some really good hunting and we are excited to see what happens. We are also going to try and make “in person “ summer scouting more of an emphasis this year and hopefully we can do some low impact, long distance, scouting this year and get some good velvet buck footage to share. Hopefully we can take advantage of the relaxed summer feeding patterns and lay eyes on some good bucks out in our new canola field or the alfalfa field next to it. We’ll have our digital cameras and our video cameras with us when we go so hopefully we’ll have some good pictures and videos to share over the summer. So there you have it, the groundwork for a fun and productive summer that will hopefully lead into an equally fun and productive hunting season. Over the last few years we have really increased the amount of off season work that we do and, in turn, have seen some pretty good improvements in our hunting action as well. Seeing a return on your investment is always nice, especially when your investment is made through hard work. It sure makes it easier to spend a day working your butt off in the woods if you are confident that your efforts will be rewarded come hunting season. Stay tuned as we get the 2012 season under way, hopefully it will be just as enjoyable to those of you following along as it is to us! Take care, and thanks for reading!!