Morken: Lessons learned from the 2021 archery stag season – Alexandria Echo Press
ALEXANDRIA, Minnesota — Deer archery season has come and gone in most Midwestern states. Many have focused on ice fishing, but January is one of my favorite times to really reflect on what worked and what didn’t work from the previous season.
This arc season has been one of my most satisfying in recent memory. I shot four deer between Minnesota and North Dakota. It’s about perfect for my family with us who eat some form of venison almost 4-5 times a week.
I felt confident in my ability to make a great shot at whitetail deer again after working to overcome the target panic that crippled me a few years ago. That in itself made this season a success.
A few years ago, I spent so much time going through every aspect of my shot. It took away a lot of fun from hunting.
It felt like I was finally getting back to focusing on the process of what I love about archery hunting for whitetail deer this year. It’s scouting, reading landscapes and analyzing how deer use a property to give me the best chance of approaching within 30 yards of them and filling out a tag.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways of 2021 that others might learn from.
Test yourself on different properties
I have a property in southern Minnesota that has been my go-to place to hunt for the past 5+ years when it comes to white tails in my home state.
I chased him as little as ever last season. This was partly due to time constraints and not being able to travel two hours to hunt very often. Some of it was by design.
I explored various public properties around the Alexandria area in 2021. I started the process by researching in March and then dove straight into these areas from late September.
I pulled a big doe out of a public swamp early in the season because of this screening. I also knocked two large bucks out of their beds upon entering this area which I will use as information for future hunts.
The four deer I shot last season came on different properties, which really boosted my confidence in my ability to do the job in different terrains.
Think about ways to push your limits next season. It’s a great way to grow as a hunter.
Minor moves can make a big difference
I shot a dollar during the 2020 season in North Dakota, which left me a little unhappy with my setup.
That deer might as well have been downwind of me. The doe he came to follow did, but he stayed long enough for me to get a clean shot from 15 yards.
It was an area that could produce consistently, but I had to make a change. In the summer of 2021 I made my way through the narrow strip of woods looking for a new tree to prepare my hunting saddle which was closer to the river bank. The goal was to position myself downwind of the trail these deer took the year before, while still being able to shoot the other two trails parallel to this tree cover along the river.
I took to the water in my kayak on November 2, 2021 for my first hunt in this new tree. In the early morning a fork buck was 7 yards upwind of me on the same trail I pulled this 2020 buck about 75 yards. This young male passed right by without having the slightest idea that I was there because I was in a better position. Less than an hour later, I had filled out my tag on a good dollar crossing one of the other trails.
I felt like I was a bit lucky to have a chance of getting that 2020 dollar. One minor move can turn a good location into an almost bulletproof one.
Trust the terrain blockers
The previous example of making this move to position myself closer to the river bank brings me to the importance of using terrain blockers such as a water edge to our advantage as hunters.
My last bowhunting of the 2020 season was in cold, snowy conditions on a new property I had just obtained permission on near Alexandria. All of the best deer tracks were in the middle of this block of wood as I headed out for a nighttime hunt. I got up and looked at the trail intersection and finally settled there with the wind blowing in about 75 yards of trees behind me before it met the edge of a field.
I was looking to fill out a bonus tag on a deer that night. Sure enough, a group of about 10 of them made their way along this transition where the wood met the edge of the field behind me. They caught my wind and blew out of the area.
Time and time again I see this happen when deer ignore daytime worn trail systems that you can find in the middle of a cover block. They place themselves on the leeward edge to travel so they can sense any danger throughout the area. This is especially the case late in the season when the deer have been under pressure for months.
Thought I was pretty close to a river in Minnesota last season on a late November night hunt. The nearest trail parallel to the water was just upwind of me. Near last light a buck ignored this trail to travel as tight as possible to the river bank behind me. Broken.
Many large signs are put up at night. You almost have to ignore what you see sometimes and believe that bucks and does will do whatever they can to cover as much ground as possible with their noses.
This is a great thing to keep in mind when looking at maps or preparing spots for next season. Get as close to the river bank, habitat edge, or waterfall as possible where deer cannot navigate.
If nothing else, it’s a good starting point that will allow you to observe an area safely.