Now is the time to scout your deer hunting ground. Look for rubs and scrapes from last year. Chances are these areas are used year after year. Start planning for the 2017 season based on what you find from last year. The following four tips should help you scout more effectively.
1. Obtain maps and aerial photos of your hunting area
Maps and aerial photos can cut your work in half. Look for natural funnels which force deer to pass by certain areas. Any section of woods with an hourglass shape is a good place to begin scouting. Deer, especially mature bucks, will generally hang as tight to cover as possible while traveling. Hunt in the “funnel” to intercept traveling deer. Certain areas that often produce funnels are water edges and roadways. Look for areas where two corners meet as well. Google Earth is a great way to obtain free photos of any property you plan to hunt.
2. Locate water crossings
I often hunt along the edge of a good sized creek. From my stand, I regularly watch deer cross at the same spot. Deer prefer to cross where they can keep their feet in contact with the bottom. Try to find shallow crossings, and hunt there.
The edge of the creek I hunt separates a dense woods and an agricultural field. Deer cross the creek from the woods and hang-up around my stand as they scope out the field they’re planning on entering to feed. With their attention focusing on the field in front of them, I am at a major advantage.
3. Clear brush now
There is no reason to wait until next year to clear brush and limbs from a projected stand or blind location. If you can see brush or limbs need to be cleared while there are no leaves, then they will definitely need to be cleared once the foliage grows back. By clearing shooting lanes now, you may only have to slightly prune the area in the summer or fall. The less you have to disturb your hunting area close to the beginning of the season the better.
4. Locate other hunters’ stand locations
This may be the most important tip of them all. If you are hunting a piece of land which hosts more hunters than yourself, then you need to know where these people are spending their time. Many hunters will either leave their stands up all year or come back for them in the spring, but even if the stands are down you can often find another’s treestand location by locating trees with sawed off branches or cleared shooting lanes. Try to figure out how these hunters are entering and exiting these stands. Knowing where others are at is important for safety, but also keeps everyone out of each other’s way and happy.
A smart hunter uses other hunters to their advantage. Figure out where you can locate yourself to allow others to push deer to you. Look for places to hunt down-wind from their locations and know the escape routes deer will take away from those stands.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your efforts to prepare for next year’s deer season. But remember the most important tip of all is: Don’t rely on luck alone. Get out there and examine your property. I hope you have that “ah-hah” moment which leads to your success next year.
See you down the trail...