What you do now may pay off in the long run.
We know it may still be the dog days of summer right now. Perhaps you are more concerned with catching a few more giant bass than you are about whitetail deer season. However, the time for some deer scouting is now. Because hunting season and the rut will be here before you know it and those big bucks do not care if you are prepped or not.
August is a good time of year for deer hunters to begin final preparations for the upcoming seasons. Finding travel corridors and selecting stand locations now will often pay off come October and November.
Today we have some scouting tips that will help you pick and choose what you should focus your preparation and scouting efforts on as the summer starts to get closer to conclusion. Trust us, it will be worth the extra efforts.
Get that last-minute glassing in.
Not every hunting area is ideal for this, but late summer glassing can help you gain valuable insights into what they deer may be doing this fall. It can give you insights into early season travel routes, how deer are utilizing clearcuts, and pinch points for those early season archery hunts. Because no matter how well you think you have that food plot covered with cameras, there is always something you may miss.
Get a high-powered spotting scope to stake out these feeding areas from a distance because that is likely where the deer will be during the early season. Sometimes that is the best way to catch a big buck off guard.
For many hunters, glassing is the most important early season scouting you can do because it alerts you to where the deer is right now rather than waiting for it show back up on trail camera. Sometimes a buck may change his fall stomping grounds to a completely different area than that agricultural field he hung out in all summer. Sometimes the only way to know this and adjust your stand site accordingly is to go out and search out the buck for yourself.
Slow down those trail camera checks.
We get it, most whitetail bucks are starting to near full growth of their antlers this time of year. It will not be long before they start shedding velvet. It can be extremely tempting to over-check your cameras in the offseason. You can usually get away with a few more checks in summer scouting than you can during the season too. However, as we get into August, it pays to start checking less frequently. I check mine once a month at most throughout the summer.
While the wait can be agonizing, you might be surprised at how many more mature bucks show up on camera with reduced pressure in the lead-up to the fall. Especially if hunting pressure is high from surrounding properties, or even on public land if you can find a tucked-away hiding spot few others are checking.
The simple fact is that a reduced human presence is going to lead to more deer movement in the area. Which is what you want heading into bowhunting season. For those bucks to feel safe and secure. I have noticed a significant increase in mature buck sightings the last few years simply by reducing the amount of time I spend in the field checking my trail cams in the lead up to deer hunting season.
Find and note the acorns.
With the popularity of food plots full of clover, persimmons, turnips, and other deer delicacies, many hunters have forgotten about hunting oak trees when the acorn crop comes in. However, a quick survey of any oak tree usually reveals the deer trails and other sign that indicate heavy use even when other food sources are available. When the acorns start dropping in September and October, these trees can be real hotspots.
This is an especially good tip for a new property you are hunting or public land since most public access areas do not have food plots to concentrate the deer. Instead of looking for old rub lines and other buck sign in a new hunting area, look for stands of white oaks with easy access to bedding areas for your treestand or blind setup. These food sources are more vital than you may think and hunting them has become something of a lost art.
Get those stands and blinds placed now.
It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many hunters put this off. We know that placing a ground blind or treestand during the heat of August is a most unpleasant experience. If the heat does not sap all your energy, the bugs will likely eat you alive. However, the sooner you get those stands up, the more quickly the deer can get used to their presence. This may be difficult, especially if you are in a new area and you are going off old deer sign from last year's rut to make your stand selections, but it is usually worth the extra effort.
Trust us, there is a lot of peace of mind leading into the season when you know you have your location for opening morning secure and ready to go. If you do not already have your locations picked out and ready, what are you waiting for? We are more than halfway through the month already!
Take stock of your hunting clothes (and wash them!)
It may seem early to start worrying about your clothing for the season, but you will have more regret if you get to the night before opening day only to discover a new hole in your pants you missed last season. No one wants to make a late-night run to Walmart to hastily pick up new camo from the rack that may or may not be ideal for the conditions you will face the next morning.
If you are into scent control, August is a perfect time to wash your hunting clothing because you can air dry it outside before sealing it in a container or bag until the season starts. Trust me, it is hard to prep hunting clothing the week before the season without resorting to using the dryer, which poses possible scent contamination risks. Speaking of scent control, that rolls into our next scouting tip.
Use stealth on your scouting trips.
Many hunters go into their scouting expeditions with all the subtlety of a monster truck. They drive a huge ATV or pickup back into their hunting area looking for sign. In August, that is a good way to blow some deer out of the area. About the only exception is if you are regularly doing work on a food plot and the deer are used to it by now.
In most cases though, being lazy and disregarding stealth can hurt your hunt more than it helps. Wear rubber boots to help mask your scent. Take along a bottle of cover scent to give your trail cams a good spray after checking them. Most of all, keep things quiet as you move through the area looking for sign. Get the information you need to make decisions on where to set up and get out. Do not linger around the area. Ideally, the deer will never know you have been there. It may seem extreme, but the most successful whitetail hunters out there fill their freezer with venison every year because they know that every bit of human impact can make a difference and influence deer movements once the season starts.
Double check your rifle or bow sights.
I need to make a trip back out to the gun range here soon because my most recent trip revealed a gun hunter's worst fears. My scope got knocked out of alignment at some point between my last hunt last year and the mid-summer when I most recently took it out. If you are like me, you hate the process of sighting in, which is why it is a good idea to get it over with early. Nothing is quite as stressful as trying to squeeze that into your schedule the last few days before the season starts. Although it is not a bad idea to go fire a three-round group before your hunt to make sure it is still sighted in.
In any case, get some of the final adjustments for your rifle or bow dialed in now while the weather is still decent. We recommend doing this with every weapon you plan to use during the season. Don't neglect that late-season muzzleloader. Because it is going to be way easier to sight it in now than it will be in December and the temperature at the range dips into the teens!
Do not rely solely on scouting data from August, stay observant!
Our last tip is to not rely solely on the sign and clues you find in August for your hunting decisions all season. Once the rut hits and the bucks are pumped full of testosterone, anything can happen. They may abandon their early season haunts completely in favor of an entirely new area. You must constantly be observant for clues every time you go out hunting. Remember where the rubs and scrapes are, so you will notice when a new one appears. Keep an eye on standing corn and beans. Sometimes it does not get harvested until much later, potentially affecting deer movements.
Scouting in August is a great time to glean valuable clues and ideas to utilize later in the season, but do not just make one trip and then lean on that info all year. Things change in the woods. A new pinch point may form due to flooding, or perhaps a storm hits after August that downs a bunch of trees creating a new bedding area. Recognizing these changes in the woods through the season and acting quickly upon them can sometimes help you bag a big buck when all other efforts have failed.
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