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Preparing early for bow hunting

Bow season starts in a little more than a month. It is time to plan the season.

Perhaps I take bow hunting more seriously than I should. Some people go out, get the first deer that walks by, and go home to fill the freezer after a nice meal of deer loin steaks on the grill.

To me, bow hunting is much more than filling the freezer. I am not opposed to putting in a winter's worth of meat, but I can always do that during the regular gun seasons. Bow season to me is all about the hunt. The deer has to be a big one and I am to the point in my life, getting a good shot with my camera is almost as good as a shot with the bow. Either way, being close to a great animal gives a person that adrenaline rush few people understand and even fewer experience.

I start planning the next season's hunt in February or early March. If we have had a hard winter, it is taking a toll on the deer. A big help to deer when they are being stressed is to go cut some firewood. I like hickory wood just big enough to fit in my stove. These trees have a large number of small branches with tender tips the deer love.

I have chewed on them to see what the attraction might be for a deer. I was surprised to find the tips tender, juicy and quite sweet. I am sure there are enough calories in a tree to boost the energy level of several deer as well as heat my home. There have been times we cut several trees on Saturday and came back for the wood on Sunday to find the area covered with deer tracks and the ends of all the branches browsed off.

Through the summer and fall, we make food plots to help maintain the health of our deer herd and make sure at least a few of the big ones take up permanent residence. So far, the plan has worked well. I think deer are as lazy as the rest of us. If they have food, water and female companionship, they are going to stay where life is easy. About this time of year, I put out the cameras so I can choose the deer I will pursue when season opens.

Digital motion detector cameras have made checking out what is in the area much easier than it was in the past. At one time, a person had to actually sit in the woods for days or weeks to find the deer they wanted to hunt. This led to people shooting the first deer that walked by on opening day because they could no longer bear the thought of waiting any longer.

Our lives became easier when trail cameras were developed. A roll of twenty-four or thirty-six pictures could be taken to the store and the results would be back in a few days and several dollars later. Now, with high storage memory cards, a week or two of traffic through a food plot can be downloaded onto a computer and several hundred pictures can be checked as a slide show.

I have not picked the buck I am after yet, but in only two weeks, I have seen dozens of deer, several nice bucks, a few raccoons, and any number of turkeys. One doe with quite a young fawn comes to one food plot almost every day at the same time. She is probably the main reason for the untimely demise of my oats crop I was using to protect the turnips.

I do so enjoy the hunt but at times I think preparing for it is almost as much fun.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.