If you follow my blog at all you have probably heard me preach a time or two on the benefits of Keeping a Journal of your Hunting Season. I like to write more than most people so it is no surprise that I would keep a journal but even if you aren't a fan of writing you can benefit a lot from keeping track of a few simple things from every hunt.
The journal I use records specific data on the front but the opposite side of the page (seen below) allows for general comments.
Simply keeping track of the main stats like what stand you were in, the time you hunted, the weather and winds, the number and types of deer that you saw and when you saw them will give you a lot of valuable information at the end of the season. I keep all of those stats as well as going into more detail about other animals that I saw along with a quick write up of each hunt. Aside from the valuable hunting knowledge you gain I have also found that I tend to remember a lot more information by writing it down than I would without a journal. One of my favorite past times is going back over years past and reading about encounters or occurrences that I would likely have forgotten long ago if not for writing them down.
At the end of each season I look back over the year and begin to tally up all my deer sightings from the season. I like to know how many deer I saw total, the make up of the deer I saw (doe, fawn or buck), and what time of the season I saw them (bow season or gun season). I also break those numbers down one step further and look at how many deer I saw per sit and how often I saw bucks. Once I have the numbers for this season compiled I can then use them to look back at years past and compare them to this year.
While I use a commercially available journal for myself a simple notebook would work just as well.
By comparing year to year it gives me an idea as to whether or not our habitat and plotting work is making a difference, if changes in our hunting strategy (access routes, stand locations, etc) are paying off and also allows a cursory look at how the deer herd in the area is doing. Obviously this is by no means scientific but it gives me a quick and general reference as to how my season compared to past years.
This year we headed into bow season after a very exciting summer. We had seen a ton of deer on our property including several nice bucks and we had high hopes for the season. It didn't take long to start seeing deer and the action stayed pretty steady through most of the season.
By the end of bow (including two late season trips) I had spent 28 days in the deer woods and had totaled 40 separate sits. Due to schedules I get a lot of days where I only sit in the afternoon or morning so that would count as one whole day but only one sit as opposed to the two I would normally get in during a day.
In those 40 sits I saw 57 deer total but was unable to harvest a deer. That total of 57 deer consisted of 22 bucks, 17 does and 18 fawns. To break that down one step further that 57 total deer seen works out to 1.4 deer per sit and a buck every 1.8 sits. When I compare those numbers to last years bow season numbers the 2011 numbers are better all the way around. I saw more deer overall this year, more deer per sit and more bucks as well. If you were to ask I would say that this year was better than last for a number of reasons and these numbers, and the action they represent, are certainly one of the reasons.
When we look at the gun season numbers the numbers there is quite a drop off, which is something we are working on correcting by making some habitat adjustments again this off season. My gun season only consists of the two weeks of the main gun season as I prefer to bowhunt during the muzzleloader season. In those 15 days of gun season I was in the woods 9 days and compiled a total of 15 sits in those 9 days.
During gun I saw a total of 15 deer (2 bucks, 4 does and 9 fawns) and was able to harvest a nice big doe on Thanksgiving Day. The 15 deer I saw over the gun season worked out to an average of 1 deer per sit but I was only seeing a buck once every 7.5 sits. As bad as these numbers are they are actually a bit better than last year but I'm certainly not happy or content with our last few gun seasons. We are making some adjustments to hopefully keep the deer on or around our place better once the guns start booming next year.
Good rubs, like this one I found this year, definitely get noted in my journal.
If you combine those totals I ended up spending 37 days in the field and saw 24 bucks, 21 does and 27 fawns this season which put my total sightings at 72 deer. That far exceeds the 51 deer I saw total last year and works out to an overall average of 1.3 deer per sit.
Now you may be sitting there saying "so what do all these numbers mean" and to be totally honest with you, standing there by themselves they don't mean much at all really. There is a whole lot more that goes into considering a season good or bad than just a set of numbers. The numbers alone certainly don't tell the whole story and are just a small part of what I consider when deciding if this season was good or bad.
The true value of the numbers lies in the fact that they give you a quick and easy way to get a relative measure of one season to the next. It's a bit like comparing the fuel economy numbers on a vehicle when looking to purchase a new car. Most people won't base their decision solely on those numbers but they will certainly consider them when comparing vehicles and use the fuel economy as a tool to arrive at their final decision.
These numbers are just one way to look at your season and while they are not the end all, be all in terms of how your season went they definitely offer some good information into your analysis.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!