Scout Those Deer All Year Around


Looking at Charlie’s cellphone, one cannot help but realize how technology and good old-fashioned ground-pounding can aid in taking that deer next season. Deer hunting in the 21st century has come a long way.


Hunting season is upon us. Modern technology allows hunters to observe their quarry all year long with the use of trail cameras. Some cameras can even connect to cellphones and computers, so hunters can monitor the activity on a specified piece of land.


The hunter who consistently takes big bucks year after year spends hours in the field, reads all he/she can find about the animals, and makes effective use of trail cameras to pattern their activity. They do not overlook any opportunity to learn.


In the case of white-tailed deer, big bucks have different feeding patterns, and travel different trails in summer and early fall, than later in the year. In response to hunting pressure, deer change their travel patterns at the opening of deer season.


Tracks lead to either feeding or bedding areas. Deer will move toward bedding areas in the morning and toward feeding areas in the evening. This tells you where to focus your hunting during those periods of the day.


Bucks make rubs along the trail on the side of the tree they is facing. This is another clue to which direction he is moving on a trail. Seldom does he use the same trail both coming and going to the feeding/bedding areas.


Later the rut activity makes for more changes as they drive off rival bucks and seek out the does still in estrus.


Bucks maintain these habits until late winter, when feeding habits force them to change in concert with the change of diet from browse to grasses.


Sign found by the scouting hunter in spring is sign of most importance in pursuit of a dominant buck. Post-season hunters can get a clear picture of where they will be in the fall by scouting a deer’s home area.


By making field notes, you can map the planned hunting area. Expertise in map making is not a requirement. You just have to be able to find the same terrain in the fall. Mark wooded areas, swamps, sloughs, ridges, scrapes, rubs, bedding areas, feeding areas, water, doe trails, buck trails and where you sight game. The use of a GPS unit helps by using waypoints in the same manner.


You can be among the first to get the latest info on where to go, what to use and how to use it!

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For those wanting a more accurate map, local governmental agencies often have maps for sale at a nominal price. They portray roads in the area. Add some of the things mentioned earlier, and some additional items might include changes in terrain, such as small valleys with bluffs on each side that funnel deer activity. Creek crossings often are full of sign as animals depend on the water sources. Small ponds, stock tanks and creeks become regular watering holes for all wildlife.


A benefit of post-season scouting is that signs found are from animals that have made it through the season and the winter. They should be still around the next fall.


Due to the lack of vegetation late in the season, the amount of sign is not as clear as is the case in late summer. Rubs are a bit hard to find, as they are aged and difficult to distinguish from those of previous years. Scrapes are easy to spot. Mark them for future reference to see if they are refreshed.


Fresh rubs in an area with older ones leave the impression that the deer making them has been around awhile. Deer return to old scrapes from one year to another. Once they begin to use them, they will return to refresh them every 12 to 48 hours.


Scrapes usually are located along field edges where there is a change from one type of vegetation to another. They are almost always beneath an overhanging branch that is about 4 to 5 feet off the ground. In making the scrape, the buck leaves his scent on the tree by depositing his saliva as he licks or chews the branch.


If no suitable tree is available, deer make scrapes next to saplings and leave a rub on the tree itself.


Rubs serve two purposes. They aid in getting the velvet off of antlers during the early season. Later, they mark the buck’s territory. The territory is the buck’s breeding ground. The best prospect is an area with both old and new scrapes and rubs in large numbers. The chance of a big deer being there is good.


Deer tracks tell hunters of the presences of game. A single track of an animal wandering aimlessly through the woods is not one that needs recording. It is the track of a feeding animal, and one not likely to use the trail again. Tracks of lots of deer indicate a major trail going to or from feeding and bedding areas. Such trails should be recorded and checked frequently for activity. Check the tracks for size.


If tracks are large, mixed with small ones, then you are looking at a trail used by does and fawns. Check the area to the side of such trails for large tracks running in the same direction, but not on the trail. Bucks usually leave these tracks. Bucks like to stay near the does, but seek heavier cover.


By setting up stands to use the appropriate trails at the time of day indicated by the sign, hunters increase their chances.