Ask any deer hunter with an empty tag and you will hear that to be successful, you have to find deer. Here are four deer scouting tips to help you be successful in your hunt.
You can’t shoot what you don’t see. That is why it is so important to scout for deer and deer sign. Determine where the deer are so you can set up your blind, stand, or know where to stalk them. There are several things to keep an eye out for. These include deer sign such as rubs, scrapes, trails, bedding areas, and food sources.
1. Scout for rubs, scrapes, and trails.
Get scent free and only as close as you need to. Bring your binoculars and glass field edges looking for broken limbs which can be a sign of a scrape. Often rubs are located on field edges as well so keep those eyes open. If you do find a rub, determine how old it is. Some rubs are re-used year after year, while others are used very rarely.
If it is not fresh, look in the area for any others which are. I have found multiple rubs in staging areas, each only used once or twice per season. If you go into the woods and have to get close to the trails, try to do it as little as possible. If a deer smells your scent too often he will avoid the area. I like to scout right before it rains as any scent I do leave behind will be washed away by the coming rain.
2. Find the family bedding areas.
Locate the bedding areas and determine if it is a doe family bedding area, or if a big old buck is lying down. This may be hard to determine in late summer so do the best you can. Several different size beds facing in different directions will show that it is a family bedding area. The size of the deer can be estimated based off the size of the bed so look for several different sized beds.
If there are only two or three beds in thick cover facing in different directions, it is most likely a buck with different beds placed so he can play the wind. Remember he will want to be able to pick up the first faint whiff of estrus in the wind. Deer use the same bedding areas from year to year so if you have to check it out, do so right after the season has closed. If you bump them only once, they will return well before next season.
3. Get to know the food sources.
Don’t just locate them, get to know them. Become familiar with what farmers are growing in the fields and plan based on their harvest. For example, beans dry up sooner than corn so a corn field will appeal to deer until later in the fall. Likewise, find and schedule the natural food sources.
White acorns drop sooner in the fall than red acorns. Watch the wild apples as some will drop by late August while others can hang onto the tree until snow. The important part is to study and get to know what is in your hunting area so you can predict the deer’s food sources throughout the season.
4. Utilize trail cameras.
You can do all the planning you want, but nothing will offer as much information as a good trail camera. Set one up over a feeding source or trail and it will be invaluable in patterning them. You can find out times, frequencies, even size of the deer that frequent these areas.
Do not check your trail cameras too often or you will spook the deer, and your trail camera will start coming up empty. Some suggest checking the camera once a month while others say a maximum of once a week. It has been my experience that even de-scented and very careful, once a week is far too often. I don’t even like to visit once every other week unless I have to. And again, try to schedule your trail cam visits to immediately before it rains.
By scouting for and locating these sign, and patterning the deer through the use of a trail cam, it will be much easier to determine where to place your blind or stand. Hopefully these deer scouting tips will help you be successful in your hunt.