Scouting for Whitetail
For most hunters deer season never ends. Whether you are shed hunting, planting green fields, scouting, or actually hunting, there is always something that you can be doing to help have better success when the season starts. Most hunters love to stay active in their pursuit of whitetail, and putting in the necessary time and work in the offseason will have you reaping major rewards come opening day.
There are so many different kinds of scouting that you can do. You can do it the old-fashioned way, or you can use advancements in technology to your advantage as well. Most hunters like to use a combination of the two, no matter which method you prefer the more scouting you do, the better off you will be. This article is going to look at a few tips and tricks to help elevate your scouting techniques, so you can tag a nice wall hanger during the rut.
The first thing you should do before you head to a property to scout is to use some digital tools to your advantage. You can download as well a find a number of maps online or even through apps on your phone. These maps include aerial pictures, topographic maps, even soil, and water. If you can get a basic lay of the land, you may be able to determine better where to begin scouting on the ground.
There is a lot of you can learn from a map, but the most important thing you should be doing is looking for areas where deer will most likely be. It is best to see if you can identify corn fields or a food source, a water source, or even draws and valleys where deer may be traveling or bedding. Also, if you have a really good map, you may be able to see some deer trails. All of this will help you decide where you should start scouting at.
Look For Signs
After you do all of your digital scouting, now it is time to get out into the woods and do some traditional scouting. You are going to want to look for signs of activity, whether it is deer tracks, deer droppings, scrapes or rubs. All of these are signs that deer have been in the area. You must be able to determine if these are fresh signs or if they are old, as this will help you determine if you are in a good spot.
Another sign or thing to look for is a deer trail. Finding a good deer trail may lead you to a honey hole. If you find a deer trail that has a fresh sign you are going to want to mark the area and consider putting a tree stand in that area.
For the big buck hunters, you are going to want to focus on rubs and scrapes. The best thing to look for is a scrape line, this is an area that a buck travels from where it sleeps to where it feeds, and it will make scrapes along the way. Most 1 – 3-year-old bucks will scrape trees that are 1-3 inches in diameter, and more mature bucks will scrape trees that are 4 inches in diameter, the larger bucks will rub trees up to six inches in diameter. This is the best way to tell if you are on a larger and more mature buck versus a younger one. You want to find the rubs that are in a line, as this is an active area, other rubs that seem random may just be random and there are little chances a buck will come back to that spot, so look for multiple rubs.
Hang Trail Cameras
Trail cameras are a great invention that allows you to be an invasive scouter. You don’t have to be running through the woods and leaving your scent all over the place. With the trail cameras, you find a spot that you deem to be good, whether through digital scouting or finding signs on the ground and you place the trail cameras and wait.
Try to pick some quality game cameras, as they come many different sizes and resolution. Some game cameras can even send updates directly to your phone, so you can receive images in real time. The ones that send phone updates are more expensive, but getting those live updates is a great tool for scouting. No matter what, you are going to want to check the game cameras regularly, at least once a week to see the activity. You can take this information and decide if this is a good spot and even determine what the best time to hunt is.
Know when to Quit
While scouting is great, you don’t want to go out and ruin the area you want to hunt in. Make sure that when you are scouting that you are taking the right precautions and trying everything in your power to avoid spooking the deer in your area. If you continue to go back to one area and scare all the deer away, they will move to a new place.
Instead, you want to make sure that you are wearing scent reduction camouflage and using sprays to mask your scent. It may not cover you completely, but it should help to mask your overall scent somewhat. Also, you want to avoid bedding and refuge areas.
Never set your stand up near a bed site or a refuge area. If you are going through and accidentally find that area, it is best to move out and mark it on your map. Deer will leave If they do not feel safe, so it is best to give them their space and set your stands up somewhere between where they feed and bed.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure success during deer season. Taking the time during the offseason and scout properly is one of the best ways to have success. If you use all of your tools, both technology as well as traditional scouting techniques, you should be able to pinpoint deer all season long. Remember to get out there now and start prepping for next season.