(The “Mistakes deer hunters make” is a series of several post on this blog over the next few weeks in my new column “Smart Hunting Strategy Tip of the week”. Last week we discussed how important it is to know the habits and behaviors of deer)
In this weeks Smart Hunting Strategy Tip of the Week I will write about what I think is the second biggest mistake hunters make. Scouting! Scouting is the most misunderstood word in the hunting world. For some hunters it means going for a walk in the woods a week or two before the season opens and then hang a stand along any trail that looks good.
Scouting is the most important ingredient to a hunters success. In fact it is so important that I consider it the actuall hunt. If I do my scouting right then all I have to do is to be in the stand at the right time and shoot a deer. It’s not quite that easy but you will understand what I mean at the end of this article.
Proper scouting starts right at the end of the hunting season and never stops until rhe end of season, only the way we scout differs slightly as the season progresses. At the end of the hunting season is where I gather all the basic information I need to get me started on the right foot. Armed with a map, camera, notepad, GPS and pencils in different colors I walk the woods noting everything I find on the map and the notepad. Deer trails are red, food sources are green, buck sign are colored brown and hunter trails are colored black. On a post-season scouting trip I do not have to worry about spooking deer, they won’t remember my intrusion come next fall. But the information I gather will be the most useful to me of all scouting trips. So much so that all future scouting trips are based on the findings of my post-season scouting.
The additional bonus of post-season scouting is that the land lies barren before me. I clearly can see the terrain and structure of the land. The cover, unlike in the fall, stands now clearly out from the surrounding terrain and so do the secondary less traveled buck trails that connect doe feeding an bedding areas. After I have gathered all the information and logged it on my map and in the notebook I start to formulate a game plan for the next season.
As I said, this is the beginning. Scouting never stops, it is an ongoing process throughout the year and the hunting season. It is vital, especially during the changing season of before and during the fall and winter to keep close taps on deer movement. In the summer my scouting is non-invasive. All I do now is once in a while glass open fields from a distance to see what, and how many deer are in the area. That is all I want to know at this point. Some hunters think living practically with the deer and knowing each one personally is the way to scout. The more time you spend in the woods trying to pattern deer you run the risk that deer pattern you.
In the late summer, early fall I am back in the woods checking on woodland food sources and agricultural crops. I am not interested in what the deer do now. I am interested to know where the deer are going to be when the hunting season opens. To know that I have to check up on the availability of the food source. The oak tree that was loaded last year might be barren this year and the farmer may have rotated the crop fields. If I don't check on these things I can’t predict travel patterns and thus I will not be able to hang stands that will bring deer my way when the time is right.
If I do my scouting right and check on the food sources that are available to the deer at the opening week of the hunting season I can set up stands with confidence for the early season. As the hunting season progresses food sources change, influencing deer travel patterns and so does the mounting hunting pressure. As I hunt I scout. On my way to and from the stand I take different routs constantly checking, carefully with binoculars, for changes and new sign popping up. Here a new rub, there a new or reactivated trail. As the season progresses I adjust as the deer do, always trying to keep on top and ahead of deer movement patterns and selecting new stand sites or readjust existing stands as needed.
Scouting is like the work of a profiler. You don't try to figure out what is going on now but what will happen next. Where will the deer be in a few days or a week from today? You can’t gather all that information by scouting only a day or so before the hunting season opens. If you do not scout properly and learn the habits of the deer, you will be left guessing at the deers next move. In other words you will be behind rather than ahead of the deer. As I said in the beginning, proper scouting is the actual hunt. Do your scouting right and the deer will never know what you’re up to because you’re ahead of them. Do it wrong and your hunting success will depend entirely on luck. The common denominator of all successful deer hunters, the ones that shoot every season their deer, is that they are good scouts.
Tags: Deer Hunting Tips, Smart Hunting Strategy Tip Of the Week, Scouting, Post Season Scouting, Deer Movement Pattern, Deer Sign
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