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Post Season Scouting

January 20, 2010
By Brian Miller, Field Editor
In order to get on track for a successful whitetail season next year you need to begin now. As the season comes to a close and the woods are bare now is the best time to discover what happened during the past season. The details you’re able to discover after the season closes are vital to the upcoming year’s success. What I enjoy most about deer hunting is each year’s success or failure is often within your own hands. Every season can be a new beginning and the opportunity to hunt smarter than the prior year.

Since the season is just coming to a close, most of the fall rut sign is still fresh and available for you to interpret. Rubs are visible and if the buck is still alive fresh rubs will be made. Scrapes and licking branches have not been covered up. Heavy deer activity indicates pockets of unpressured deer and late season food sources. Everything is just waiting to be discovered.

As a first step, sit down with a hunting log book, aerial photos, topo maps and recent memories of the previous season. Thinking back on the prior season, highlight areas where bucks were seen or others hunters and/or farmers told you they saw bucks. Also write down any gut feeling about an area. Write down all of this information on your aerial photo (or topographical map.)

Analyze the terrain features in conjunction with the buck sightings. You’ll begin to see subtle terrain such as funnels, inside corners, fence rows, saddles in those areas. Take the map and circle all the areas of interest. This really gives you direction when heading into the woods. Jump right into those areas, slow down to a crawl and comb over the area. It’s important that you don’t get into a hurry or be afraid to cover the area several different times. I’m always amazed at the different sign you discover when traveling in a new direction. After documenting everything on the map; rubs, scrapes, travel routes, bedding areas and more then move to the next hot spot.

Aerial photos have completely changed the way I hunt but they will only take you so far. You also must put in some hard work and wear out a pair of boots. Many minor details are only uncovered through close inspection. A slight elevation change of 2-3 feet or a change in grass type and height can act as a funnel. The actual thickness of underbrush and lone apple trees are also undeterminable without close inspection. These slight changes in the terrain and ground cover make big differences.

During some years, food sources change and so should your setup. Once the apples are gone from a tree it’s time to move on because the deer have. Mark down all of these different trees when found.

Don’t be afraid to search out those spots that are too small, too far away or just too obvious. Earlier this year, driving along a major highway in Ohio, I saw a huge rack 20 yards off the road. As we slowed down, an amazingly huge deer materialized in a tiny patch of swale grass surrounded by a picked bean field. He slowly meandered across the road and moved across the large picked bean field.

This deer was one of the oldest bucks I’ve ever seen in the wild. His resting spot was only 40 yards from cleanly mowed yard. Who would hunt in a spot like this? And he knew it.

One of the biggest factors often over looked is other hunters. Uncover where all the other hunters will be located and if they are bow or gun. Gun hunters have little impact to a bow hunter. Mature bucks learn to avoid hunting pressure.

When I feel comfortable with the big picture I’ll begin to line up my stand options. This is when I’ll actually pick out the exact tree for my setup. And before the spring I hang stands and cut shooting lanes while the foliage is still down. You’ll need to cut away new growth during the summer but it’s much easier to do this during the cool months. During the winter months, you will not have to deal with hot weather and mosquitoes. Yes, I’ll make the decision nearly a year in advance.

In this fast paced world, your time is not plentiful. This targeted scouting method helps me best utilize the scouting time I have available. Target a specific area of interest and scouting outward from that location. If the sign is not plentiful in your first spot then move on. Not every spot will produce.

Over the years I have begun scouting more then I hunt. During this time of the year I get revitalized and excited as the work done starts unraveling hidden travel routes. And dreams of big mature bucks start to turn into realities when targeting the right spots just days after the season closes.

Article Photos

As a first step for your post season scouting, sit down with a hunting log book, aerial photos, topo maps and recent memories of the previous season. Photo by Brian Miller

 
 

 

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