A few scouting trips before hunting season can provide you with productive spots come opening day.
You know the guy, the one that’s in your circle of hunting buddies that consistently harvests quality whitetails. It doesn’t matter if the rut was poor for virtually everyone else or if the weather was uncooperative or drought had a negative effect on food plots – this guy lets nothing stop him. Every year he fills his buck tag.
Everyone wants to know his secret. You’d eat your hat to discover his trick. But that “trick” is just a commitment to scouting the whitetail woods all year long, especially during the early season to get a jumpstart on deer movement. If you’re looking to up your game, get in the woods – and stay there.
“Experience has taught me that early season deer hunting success hinges on pre-season scouting expeditions,” said Dan Perez, CEO of Whitetail Properties. “That big buck that gave you the slip last year is still in the woods. You can pattern him now as he’s in his early-season routine, before bachelor groups break up for good and the rut begins to approach.”
Locate the Deer
It’s best to pinpoint an early-season area that will consistently result in buck sightings. Perez said he locates the bedding areas on his property, and that’s a good first step for you. If you find signs of a buck bedding area, you’re likely well within his core area. Quality Deer Management Association studies have shown that core areas are around 60-80 acres, and bucks will spend around 50 percent of their time there. Ensure you’re taking care not to jump any deer as they’re bedded down. If you do, back out and don’t revisit the area.
Once you found the bedding area, locate the food sources nearby that will inevitably be close by. Typically, you can find trails leading straight from bedding areas to food sources. In the early season, be on the lookout for hard mast like acorns, and also persimmons and crab apples.
Once you’ve nailed down where the bucks are and where they’re traveling to, you can set up a blind. It’s best to stay away from bedding areas, but rather hunt trails leading from them to food sources. Stick to heavily used trails, especially those that converge.
It’s important to not let the deer know you’re in the woods so close to opening day. In other words, use as much as stealth as possible to enter and exit the woods undetected. Practice scent control anytime you’ll be afield and take care to minimize touching branches or trees.
Once the season starts, keep up your scouting routine. Remember, the successful deer hunter got to where he is through time spent in the woods. Do that, and you might become the talk of the local sporting goods shop.