While it’s still too early to put your crosshairs on a deer, you can help improve your 2017 hunting season beginning this month. And it even includes pulling the trigger of your deer rifle on a live animal —the best way to keep yourself in deer-hunting shape.

• Clear a new path or two. Whether it’s through a brushy field or a stand of timber, deer will always check out a nearly-cleared path. And if it leads between two locations they like to frequent, they will surely use it if it offers them an easier way than currently exists. You can sweeten the deal with a bag of corn or other food. Keep it maintained for the rest of the summer, and you’ll have a new area to hunt when deer season opens.

• Watch those trail cameras. Put some in new locations. It’s never too early to scout with trail cameras. If you’ve had them out all year, don’t hesitate to put a couple up in new locations. This can help you find a trophy you didn’t know was in your area, or give you a better outlook on alternate locations where the deer you know about spend some of their time. If you clear a new path, definitely hang a camera or two up along that route to see what’s walking.

• Hunt coyotes, hogs, or both. There’s no closed season on wild hogs, and the same goes for coyotes. You’ll get a twofold benefit. Wild hogs tear up the earth and destroy crops that attract deer. Coyotes eat deer fawns, so any one you kill is good for your deer herd. Also, you can hunt these animals with your deer rifle, and nothing keeps us in better hunting shape than pulling the trigger with a live animal in our crosshairs. 

Don’t enter the 2017 deer season blind to what’s happening on your hunting grounds, and don’t wait until seeing your first deer to pull the trigger on your rifle. Do these things this month and next month and all the way until opening day of deer season.