© By Othmar Vohringer
Winter is a bleak time for many hunters. Deer hunting seasons are closed for most of North America and the hunters sit in the camp until spring. However, there is no better time to scout than right after the season closes and during the winter.
You may ask what benefits scouting now will provide six or seven months from now? Let me tell you. One of the biggest benefits is that you do not have to worry about spooking deer. With all the leaves of off the trees and the vegetation died down makes the landscape, trails and other deer sign plainly visible, where you couldn’t see 20 yards in the fall.
It’s a great time to be out and fill in all the missing pieces of the deer movement puzzle that you have missed in the fall. Now is also the best time to walk at will wherever you want and really get to know the layout of your hunting area or checking out new hunting land. For the majority of us who hunt on public land post-season scouting as another benefit. Hunter sign and routes are still clearly to see this time of year. Given human nature the hunters will use the same routes and stand locations again next year. Deer know about human habits and therefore will use the same escape routes they did this year. A smart hunter knows that on public land the other hunters influence deer movement patterns not the deer.
Deer movement is based on four factors, food, cover, structure and terrain. The more you can find out in the winter about the four factors of deer movement the less you have to scout in the fall, and that in turn will increase your hunting success. The less time you spend scouting during hunting season the less chances are that deer can pattern you.
The purpose to post-season scouting is to find all the key locations, bedding and feeding areas deer use and then based on cover, terrain and structure figure out what travel corridors they use at any time during the hunting season. With that knowledge you will be able to predetermine key stand locations for the upcoming season long before deer use a given area.
Food is the key to all deer movement, so your post-season scouting should always start with finding the food sources. Don’t just concentrate on the main food sources such as oak and agricultural crops. Look also for other food deer prefer to eat in your area such as honeysuckle, persimmon, wild clover or whatever high nutrition snack it is deer like to nibble on in your area. The next step is to figure out what time of year a particular food is available to the deer and then from that we can determine, based on available cover, terrain and structure how deer get to these places.
When I head out for a post-season scouting trip I carry a small camera, pen and notebook, a topographical map of the area and a GPS with me. It’s time to walk. I start by walking every trail. I want to find out where the trails are coming from and where they are going and with what other trails they intercept. As I walk along the trails I mark the route in my GPS, make notes of all the sign I find and may even take a few pictures as memory aid. It’s amazing what you can learn about deer movement and you hunting area in just one day of post-season scouting. The knowledge you gather will pay big dividends in the next fall.
Recommended related articles:
The Four Factors Of Deer Movement
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