5 “Mulligans” from the 2018 Whitetail Season

Whitetail Buck

Ohio’s 2018 whitetail season wrapped up on February 5th. Looking back on any season, I find things I wish I could do over. Using this analysis helps me prepare for the upcoming season. Here is a quick recap of my five key lessons from 2018.


I acquired a new property to hunt right before the rut in 2018. I chose not to push too deep while scouting the property and set up on the first sign I found. This was a mistake.

I never felt confident in the setup and thus didn’t hunt it like I should. My fear of blowing deer out of the area handcuffed me in an area where I had one of my best opportunities to kill a mature buck.

Hindsight being what it is, I should have walked the property and learned more about how the deer were using it. When gaining access late in the year, the best option is not always the conservative one. I didn’t impact the entire piece with my pressure but feel I missed out on shortening the learning curve and harvesting on this property.

Winter/Spring Preparation

Wind direction played a key role in stand selection as it does every year. This past winter, I never made it into the woods to make the stand adjustments I had planned on. Thus, many of my setups were skipped over due to bad wind directions.

Winter is the best time to scout and prepare stand sights. I found myself hanging a new stand in 2018 and when the leaves fell off, the stand was no longer huntable. I was too exposed.

I need to focus time and energy in the winter and spring months to fine tune my hunting locations. Not only is the sign most the visible prior to the spring green-up, bumping deer out early on has limited impact because whitetails have enough time to forget about the intrusion. Spending some time now to prepare for the upcoming season will pay dividends.

Shortsighted Focus

When I got the pictures of Mr. Crabbs in late October, I was all in on hunting this buck. I found what I thought at the time was the perfect killing tree for this deer, hung my only set and thus ended any opportunity at harvesting Mr. Crabbs.

A buck’s behavior changes once the rut kicks in and Mr. Crabbs was no different. While my set was great for his pre-rut activity, once he was chasing and tending, the location left a lot to be desired.

I needed to be focusing less on the previous information and more focused on adapting and adjusting to the changing whitetail climate. My do-over would certainly include using more trail cameras during the rut and using my mobile setup to allow me to adapt more quickly. My singular focus on killing this buck from “THAT” setup contributed to me not seeing Mr. Crabs the entire 2018 season.

Tree Stand Cover

I am going to go into this in greater detail in another post, but my 2018 regrets have to include not planning well enough for tree stand cover. In too many of my stand locations, I am exposed once the leaves fall. This is one of my key areas of focus going into the 2019 season.

My ladder stands are short at 15 to 16 feet and any lack of cover allows the resident doe to pick me off. This season I was hunting Mr. Crabbs on a perfect wind and a beautiful cold frosty morning. At first light, I stood up in my stand to get ready for the action to start. Upon rising, I was greeted with a doe blowing behind me. She picked off my slow deliberate movement and ruined the hunt. I was completely exposed because the leaves fell off the trees and I hadn’t accounted for this change when hanging the set.

2019’s top priority is to improve the cover in my stands. My goal is to use winter scouting to help me to better select my trees and plan for adding cover when a better stand location isn’t available.


With six different coyotes on one camera within a week, we have a serious coyote problem on my hunting properties. Until recently, I hadn’t paid that much attention to the coyote problem. The past two deer seasons have changed that attitude.

I began attempting to trap coyotes towards the end of 2018 and plan to continue through the summer months as Ohio has no closed coyote trapping season. My goal is to learn all I can about trapping coyotes this winter and spring. Hopefully, I can get it right and take some out just prior to the fawns dropping.

I feel that the level of predation on my hunting properties is a key element to the sustainability of these locations. I don’t hate coyotes! I may not like what they do to the deer populations, but they are just being predators. The issues happen when they go unchecked. I have a lot to learn about predator trapping and predator hunting but look forward to the challenges this brings.

This is my list of “Do Better” items for 2019. Every year we have the opportunity to learn and grow from the previous season. What is on your list for 2019? Please share in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Author: Eric Hall

Afflicted with Whitetail OCD, I have been addicted to the Whitetail Deer since the late 1980s. It is an all-consuming and never-ending passion to learn about and ultimately preserve the heritage of whitetail deer hunting. Now I feed that addiction with the Whitetail OCD blog.

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