Keep a Hunting Journal This Year, Be a Better Bowhunter Next Year
Do you remember what you ate for dinner four days ago? How about a month ago? If you’re drawing a blank, you’re not alone. Life is busy and hectic. It’s all too easy to forget things, including things you care about – like bowhunting and white-tailed deer.
Whether you’re a new bowhunter or a veteran, we recommend keeping a hunting log or journal and evaluating your notes to become a better bowhunter.
Why keep a hunting journal?
Hunting journals don’t deliver instant gratification or immediate results. For example, writing something today might not help you decide how to hunt tomorrow. But it will provide answers over time. Think of it as an investment. Take notes now to make smarter, more informed decisions later.
Many hunters use weather apps, digital mapping software, trail camera pictures and other modern tools to make hunting decisions. Still, the key is to combine all the details learned from those tools in a central location to get an overall outlook on your hunting strategy.
Collecting data and tracking your hunt details helps you identify movement patterns, ideal hunting times, and which crops deer visit throughout the year. Consider tracking your hunts this year to make next year’s season more productive. A journal also provides the opportunity to reminisce and relive memories. Although hunting logs are valuable learning tools, they often become treasured family keepsakes, too.
What to use?
What you use isn’t as important as remembering to use it. You can use an old notebook, the notes feature in your phone, or a downloadable hunting journal app. These items are small and light enough to fit into your pack.
If you want to print and create your own journal, use Bowhunting 360’s “Field Notes Journal” to get started. Click here to download the journal.
Things to Track
Your hunting log can be as involved as you want it to be. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can invest one minute or one hour writing details in your journal (perhaps when you sit in the stand.) Just remember, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
At the beginning of your journal, write your name, the year and your season goal. For example, do you want to shoot two deer, mentor a newcomer, spend time afield or record a harvest on camera?
Then, create individual entries each time you hunt. Consider including the following information in each entry:
- Time you hunted
- Weather conditions, including the temperature, wind direction, wind speed, barometric pressure, and if it was sunny, rainy, overcast, etc.
- Moon phase and sunrise or sunset time
- Hunting property and treestand location
- Entry and exit route to hunting spot
- The number of deer you saw and what they were doing. (What were they eating? Which direction were they traveling? Were they alone or with other deer? What time was it when they came through?)
- Rutting activity such as rubs, scrapes, chasing, fighting or grunt calls
- Terrain and foliage observations
- Gear or clothes you need to buy, fix, or update
- Things you saw/heard on your way to or from the stand
- Questions to research or ask other hunters
- Unique memories, including getting lost, coming face to face with a fawn, or tripping on a log and bruising your tailbone
- What you harvested, if anything
You can also include screenshots of weather apps or pictures you took throughout the sit to jog your memory when you look back. If you know how, consider geotagging your images, too.
If you’re hunting private land, you can also track specific deer, aka hit-list bucks, and food plot activities, such as planting dates and growth charts.
Don’t forget to log information on days you didn’t see anything. It may seem like a waste of time, but tracking uneventful hunts can help you determine when or where not to hunt in future years. Only make those judgment calls if you identified a pattern for a specific time or area. Making decisions based on one individual hunt could be flawed.
After the season ends, write a comprehensive recap entry and evaluate your season.
Make it Fun
Don’t think of the journal as a chore. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Keep your entries fun and lighthearted so it’s something you enjoy. Don’t stress if you missed a day or aren’t feeling ambitious enough to write more. Sharing the notes and observations with your kids, friends and family might also spark an interest in bowhunting, which could push you to keep writing and sharing. You can also encourage other bowhunters to start their own log and agree to compare information after the season.
Who knows, your journal may inspire generations of hunters for years to come.