The season has ended and many hunters pack it in for the year, missing the post season scouting. Don’t make the same mistake they do.
Shortly after the end of the season is the best time to get out there and scout. Deer behave differently in the spring and summer than they do in the fall and winter. Patterning them shortly after the close of the season will help you understand their winter behavior.
Understanding their summer behavior will not benefit you as much since they are already changing to their winter behaviour when you are in the field. Finding food sources they turn to during late fall, or finding the trails they travel when they feel the pressure of hunters, puts you one step ahead.
So here are four post season tips, or what to look for, to get you one step ahead for next season.
1. Find Their Trails
The deer I hunt seem to disappear during the fall and early winter. The pressure of hunters in the woods make the deer take different trails through thicker brush. In the past I would hunt over the trails I could find in the summer, but found them used significantly less often in the late fall. With the leaves falling, any new trails were much harder to find.
Immediately after the season, leaves are no longer falling and therefore are not covering up any new tracks. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that gets snow, finding new tracks is much easier after deer season than during.
Once I have found the winter trails, I hunt them the next year as soon as the deer disappear. In my experience, this is usually a few weeks after bow season starts. The deer become less visible around the time other hunters enter the woods with their guns.
This leads me to have a treestand that I use early in the season overlooking the summer trails, and a treestand overlooking the winter trails I use once they move to thicker cover.
2. Find Their Late Season Food Sources
Now is the time you can walk around a little more and follow their trails to discover the locations of trees or berries that they like to feed from in late season.
Apple trees that hold their apples later into the fall tend to do so from year to year, so let the deer show you which ones they like to visit.
Berry bushes can be hard to find when everything is green and lush so locating them in the fall by following a deer trail is much easier. It is best to bump the deer now and then in the spring or summer.
By following the deer trail, you can easily determine where they enter farmers’ fields and where their staging areas are. Come next season just off overlooking these areas would be ideal for treestand placement.
3. Examine Their Bedding Areas
If you come across a bedding area in the summer, it is best to look at it from afar. You don’t want to get to close because bumping them so close to the season can push them from the area. After the season has closed, you can get a little closer. You don’t want to stand in the middle of the bedding area, but get close enough that you can see the details.
What you want to look for are several different sized beds. This will show it as a doe family bedding area. The smaller beds are obviously used by the fawn, while the larger for the doe. Bucks will have beds off in the outskirts of these areas, not right in with the others.
Bucks will have a few beds facing in different directions so they can play the wind. If you come across only a few beds facing in different directions without any smaller beds, it is likely you have found a buck bedding area.
4. Take Advantage of Leaving Less Scent
Because you are wearing more layers of clothing, including gloves and a hat, your scent will be easier to cover. Make sure you wash your clothes in a scent-free laundry soap and get in there.
You still want to be careful about bumping deer, but there will be fewer consequences if you do. More time for them to return to their regular travel routes.
Next time the other hunters are packing it in for the season, grab your binoculars and trail cameras and get into the field. Then when your able to find those late season deer next year and they are not, you will see the benefit of post season scouting.