A Whitetail Calendar
A Whitetail Calendar – February
By: Lee Totten
Whitetails of America
January has come and gone. If you live in the northern states like I do (PA), then you are most likely still in the thick of some bitter weather. Going to work in the morning is generally even more disdaining when you think about warming up your vehicle before hittin’ the road. However, you take solace in knowing that you have 2 large fields, a creek bed, and an open thicket that you can gawk at - in hopes of seeing deer - on the way in. I am lucky enough that I pass an urban outfitters’ property every morning, complete with multiple box stands, and can sometimes see an elk or two. Proof, once again, that living in the country is so much cooler than the city – suck it, Golden Gate Bridge!
When I was a kid, my uncles use to talk about how bad of a driver my dad was. My dad would rest his wrist atop the steering wheel of his 1979 Ford Custom, complete with cab that was covered in primer and a second-hand bed that was still its original hunter green. There was a lot of play in that old steering column. That is why I remember seeing his wrist sway back ‘n forth while we were still riding between the lines. Although, I can also recall watching him cross the yellow lines a few times because he was what my mom would call a “rubbernecker.” Is that one word? Or is it like a superhero name? “The Rubber Necker stopped another bank robbery today.” I digress. My dad’s “rubber-necking” (a hyphen just seemed appropriate here) was a symptom of his love of hunting. He would swerve all over the road if it meant that he passed a decent buck and had to have a second, possibly third, look at the majestic creature.
Now that I have the same passion and appreciation of these animals, I understand his illness. On my way into work, I will scan a field for any signs of life. Hell, I stare, longingly, at the Kmart loading dock because one time I saw a large crow standing there and I originally thought it was a young turkey! I’ve been smacked once or twice, by my wife, for not paying attention to the road while driving. I chalk it up to my preparation, but, in reality – as I said before - it is a symptom of our passion. With that said, we’re one month closer to feeding our addiction, and February still has some excitement for us.
In last week’s article, we talked about the few things you can be doing, during the month of January, to bolster your chances of harvesting your target buck. Your gear has since been cleaned and stowed away. You have checked your trail cameras and now you know that your target buck has survived the late season. You have even let your anxiousness take you to the archery range 2 or 3 times. February brings with it a little more of the same repetition, but also an added treat. The cold weather, and most likely some snow on the ground, will hinder a lot of progress being made toward your end goal, but here are a few tasks you can tackle during this month:
If you are lucky enough to leave your trail cameras out all year, then you can check them in February. There is very little harm that will be caused by pulling your cards and, once again, scanning through the deer inventory. If you are even more lucky, you own a Spartan Wireless GoCam from Whitetails of America, and you don’t have to pull a single card. Your friends and coworkers get to watch in envy as you swipe through the texts and emails of photos that your camera sends you throughout the day. Nothing excites me more than eating my oatmeal and seeing pics of pregnant does, bucks still holding their antlers, and beautiful twigs falling from the trees, causing blank photos of luscious forest.
For most northern states, you won’t see a lot of sheds until the middle/end of February. You may not see them until March or even April. With that said, do you really need an excuse to be in the woods? Jump in the old truck, tell your wife you’re going to read to the kids at the orphanage, and go for a walk in the woods. It’ll be cold, but very few things are as beautiful as a forest with a layer of snow on its bare branches that shimmers when the sun peeks through the grey skies. The lack of leaves on the ground make the woods seem so quiet that you can almost hear a shed when it falls from the head of a monster whitetail. And that is my poetry for the week.
As much as we all love whitetail hunting, I also enjoy chasing long beards with my dad. He takes great pride in being able to call in mature turkeys. He still rifle-hunts for whitetail deer, and puts in the time to scout for them, but nothing gets him motivated like an approaching turkey season. That’s why we start scouting even when there is snow on the ground.
Finding scratches, where turkeys are looking for food, and seeing their tracks in the snow can help when April approaches and you are hot on the trail of a mature bird. Their patterns will change as you get closer to the season, but knowing where birds roost will narrow down your search for hens and their accompanying Toms. In some cases, you may have seen these birds on a regular basis during archery season. Spending more time in the woods to definitively pinpoint their location will make for a great spring turkey season. Plus, it takes your mind off the fact that it’s still 6-7 months until archery season resumes for the new year.
Managing predators is an important part of managing your deer herd. Protecting the young deer will ensure that when an older deer is harvested, a buck will take its place on your hitlist. Coyotes can hinder that cycle.
This year will be the first year that my dad and I actually venture into coyote hunting. A two-man blind, a buddy heater, hot coffee, and an electronic call will make up the entirety of a few Saturdays for us. We have found a few dead yearlings, with their fur scattered about, during the past couple cold months. Removing the coyotes from the equation will mitigate these losses, and it also gets us into the woods with another legitimate reason! Leave the ACME rockets at home!
I thought about copying and pasting this passage from last month’s article, but I wanted to add a twist. Sling arrows with a friend or family member! There, a twist.
Heading to the archery range might not be easy for all of us, but going once during the month will keep some of the rust off your form and also keep the blood flowing. I generally shoot my bow in my back yard – for the record, it’s not very big so I can only shoot out to 30 yards – but during February, when the temperatures are bitter cold, I try to hit the range at least once. My 10-year-old son usually goes with me as they have a 10yd target set up for children. This year, I will be looking to get him a bow that can grow with him. He’s getting more and more interested in hunting, and I think a real bow with a release and 3-pin sight would further excite him. Having him shoot one at the archery shop will help narrow the search for which bow he needs.
So, that is February. Relatively uneventful, but still a part of the countdown to deer season. The first few months of the year generally consist of monitoring the surviving deer population and killing time until true preparation can commence. Enjoying the other seasons, like spring turkey, is not a sin. Chasing birds and coyotes can help alleviate the feeling of drudgery and boredom. Slinging arrows with a family member or friend can almost make the lack of whitetail hunting, tolerable. Almost.