We had just ended another successful 2019 deer season at Timberghost when Jeff, Bryan, Joe and I sat down to review all of the great hunts over the past season, the fun along the way, and most importantly what we wanted to accomplish over the months to come to make sure Timberghost’s 2020 deer season was even better. A lot of people ask what we do outside of hunting season and we always give the same comment, whatever needs to be done to improve the operation for our hunters.
Yes, that is a bit vague, but it is difficult to explain since we spend all winter brainstorming ideas and planning projects to complete by September 1st so we can ensure our guests enjoy an even better experience during the upcoming Iowa whitetail hunting season. September 1st always seems like you will have plenty of time to get everything done, but it is rarely the case as we either have too many great ideas or nature throws a couple of curve-balls to remind you that you are not in control of everything. That and the fact that what seems like 9 months is really condensed into a 6 month period due to weather constraints caused by winter weather.
The 2020 pre-season is off to a great start and we are really starting to get geared up for running wide open into season. We had our normal meetings and planning sessions during the winter. Not every day, some days where it was between 20-30 degrees the guys would work on the free-range hunting properties scouting and looking for new stand locations while I worked on necessary paperwork and year-end reports in the office, a necessary evil in my mind. Being Iowa, there are some really brutal winter days, however, there are still daily chores to take care of like checking fence, feeding, breaking water, and other chores to ensure a healthy whitetail herd in the preserve. If the chores are done, those brutal days make a great day to get together in a warmer place and get together to start making plans for everything we need/want to accomplish once Spring breaks and the ground thaws.
One of the first big projects we can get to is managing the switch-grass on the preserve which requires controlled burns on about ⅓ of the acreage to help ensure a healthy stand of native prairie grass, something every trophy whitetail loves come fall. This can only be done on certain days with low wind velocities and only with proper firebreaks mowed in to ensure it is safe for both us and the property. As Southeastern Iowa continues to thaw out, we are also very focused on getting all the spring food plots prepared for planting so they can be planted in a timely manner, both for our preserve hunters and our free-range hunters. With the variable weather patterns of cold and rain from year to year, this can be a frustrating battle you have no control over. Iowa weather can be a little tricky and doesn’t really care what your schedule looks like or what your plans were for the week or weekend. Of course, in the middle of trying to organize and get all of this done we are still trying to keep up with the office work as we try to get all the applications sorted for free range hunters applying for the Iowa non-resident tags as well as touching base and firming up the schedule with everyone whitetail hunting in the preserve as well as all of the daily chores that always need to be completed. So even when it seems slow, it is very hectic and busy here on the ranch, but we generally get it all taken care of before the summer gets going.
About 2/3’s of the way through planting season we get another exciting, but very time consuming job added to the list of daily chores….fawn season. It is a very exciting time of year, but takes a lot of time out of the day as we work to tag buck fawns and survey the fawn crop in the preserve, as well as spend several hours each day with the fawn crop in the breeding operation. Since the fawns coming out of the breeding operation are the primary mechanism that enables us to have the biggest impact on continually improving the genetic pool in the ranch, it is very important and takes about a half a day every day…7 days a week…starting in May and lasting until the end of July. What this means is we now have a half a day to get the rest of the chores done along with work on any larger projects we have planned for the summer.
At least there is August right. August is a blessing if for no other reason than we could not possibly get everything done before then even if everything went perfect so the additional 30 days before season is quite welcome. When you flip the calendar it is always a wake up call to see August. It means season is starting whether we are ready or not and we have roughly 30 days to finish things up. Regardless, August is a fun month despite the workload since we are getting close to getting a break (hunting season). Late July and August is time for fall planting preparation and then the actual planting itself, both on the free range properties and the preserve. After all, nothing is as enjoyable than sitting over a beautiful fall food plot and watching a trophy whitetail stroll into range. At the same time, we have well over 100 deer stands on the free range properties that must have straps inspected and popped, get limbed out, and have trails cut in to the stands maintained, not to mention getting up new stands or exploring new properties….all of which we try to get done in the late summer months while we are getting over 100 Browning Trail Cameras out to start seeing what trophy whitetails are running around southeast Iowa.
This is the short version of the basic “off season” here at Timberghost we go through every year to ensure our guests have the whitetail hunting experience of a lifetime. If it is in our control, we work hard to make sure it is done right and if it is something new that can improve the Timberghost experience, we make sure to get it done for the upcoming season. As you can see, it is an extremely hectic time between hunting seasons here in Iowa, but we love every second, the good and the bad, because in the end, the smile on a hunter’s face as he walks up to a trophy whitetail is worth every second of work in the off season.