Aaron Spuler is a firearms enthusiast and recreational shooter. Follow more or his work at The Weapon Blog
Do you want to have a successful deer season this year? Do you wish you knew the secrets of hunters that bag big bucks year after year? One common factor relating all successful deer hunters is scouting, and not scouting right before the season starts. Many hunters make the mistake of starting the scouting process in the fall just before the season is about to start. Not only is this poor planning, but it can also cause deer to change their patterns, even if it’s just temporary, and ruin your season. Instead, follow the deer scouting tips below and you’ll know everything you need to know.
Start Big and Narrow Down Slowly
If you hunt a farm or other property year after year, starting big and narrowing down your land choices may not be important. However, if you’re traveling to an unknown area, or just got permission to hunt a particular area, you want to start big and narrow down where you want to be slowly. Use Google Maps and aerial photos to get a good feel for the land.
Remember deer are very predictable animals and travel along well-known paths. When looking for a potential area, it’s important to look for secluded areas that have very little human entrance points. You also want to look for natural deer funnels such as rivers, lakes, fields and areas near ridges.
As deer season grows closer, bucks and does will travel to areas with high carbohydrate crops such as soybeans and corn. If you have access to an area near these crops, you can rest easy that you’ll see at least a few deer cross your treestand’s path.
Scout in the Off-Season
If you want to learn a herd’s pattern, you need to start scouting in the spring, summer, and early fall. In addition to getting out in the woods, you also have to make important decisions and be realistic about your expectations. When making your plan for deer hunting in the upcoming season, you need to have goals, a purpose, and most importantly a schedule. Doing this gives you the best opportunity to learn where deer are bedding, foraging, and traveling during the day. It’s important to mention that hunters need to scout every single year.
Even if you’ve been hunting the same area for over a decade, you need to be dedicated to scouting. The truth is it takes decades to truly understand the animals on a particular property. When scouting remember to answer three questions. Where have deer been? Where are they going? Why are they traveling there? Answering these questions will give you great ideas for treestand placement.
Create a Journal
When scouting, you and your buddies just need your hunting packs. Make sure you have a pen, paper, binoculars, a compass, and anything else you think may be crucial to the scouting experience. It’s important to have a journal, so you don’t have to rely on your memory. Write down everything you think may be important – even if it doesn’t seem important at the moment.
Closer to deer season, start to look back at all of your scouting notes. If you’ve done your research properly, you’ll see clear patterns. Combined with a good feel for the land and you’ll be ready to place your stands in a spot your guaranteed to knock down a big buck.
When documenting in the journal, you want to be aware of certain things such as rubs, foraging areas, sheds, and bedding areas. It’s also important to be able to tell the difference between old rubs and new rubs. Just because you found an area with some big rubs doesn’t mean there are a ton of deer in the area. In fact, they could all be from one agitated buck. Instead, look for an area that has old and new rubs on many trees in an area.
Keep Your Research to Yourself
If you really want to increase your chances of finding a “honeyspot” that’s loaded with deer, you need to do all of the above and then tell no one. Seriously, tell no one. Hunters like fishermen, like to brag about their catches, but sometimes that bragging can ruin their plan. Afterall, the only way to guarantee your plan will work is if you and maybe one or two buddies are the only ones in the stands in an area.
Lastly, when you’re in the woods scouting make sure to be as stealthy as possible. The goal is to leave no evidence behind that you were in the woods. With all of this in mind, you should have a successful deer hunt that will help you fill the freezer and maybe even get you some new wall art in the process.