Summer scouting for whitetail should be an integral part of any avid deer hunter’s routine. Depending on how and when you scout, the process can be either beneficial or detrimental to your winter hunt. Some hunters would say the goal of good summer scouting is to pattern your whitetail’s movements so you have a better idea where that big buck is going to be when winter comes. What some of these well-intended hunters fail to realize is that deer movement patterns change with temperature, food sources, breeding, precipitation, fawn rearing, and other factors. Many of the deer you see in late summer and early fall are gone by November, and you will be hunting a brand new herd without realizing it.
One of the most important and hard lessons to learn about summer scouting is not to over scout your area. The increased presence of humans in your hunting area over extended periods may alter the herd’s movement patterns away from your property. The key is to get in, get what you need, and get out without disturbing too much of the area. Trophy bucks tend to be older, and very skittish. They did not survive multiple hunting seasons by hanging out near human hunters.
Scouting your area on foot and recording where you find deer sign will help you understand where the deer are traveling. Footprints and feces will tell a lot about your herd. An experienced scout can tell you how fresh tracks are as well. It is good practice to engage in this type of scouting during mid-day, while whitetails are bedding down away from food sources and travel routes. Never intrude upon a bed area during mid-day when deer are possibly there. Instead, scout out areas on the ground where deer are not present. Try to avoid detection; you are there to pattern the deer, not the other way around.
Early season trophy kills often happen when bucks travel from their bedding area to their food sources. When you scout, look for trails where bucks traveled previously and try to find fresh sign, and if you are lucky, large rubs. Rubs, if you are new to deer hunting, are marks on trees where bucks have worn away the trees exterior with their antlers. Bucks do this for a number of reasons, either to rub the velvet off their antlers, to mark territory, or to practice sparring other bucks. The earliest rubs of the season are typically the work of the larger male deer. Dominant bucks begin rubbing before smaller bucks and will continue the activity throughout the season. Smaller males exhibit a slower rise in testosterone levels so they seldom begin this behavior until late in October and do not make as many rubs. Chances are, if you have rubs in your hunting area early in the year, you could have a real monster traipsing around your forest.
The payback you get from successfully scouting your hunting area is massive. It may be the difference between getting nothing at all, and getting that empty spot on your wall filled with a real trophy. Successful scouting occurs when the hunter effectively uncovers deer sign throughout the annual lifecycle of the whitetail deer. Even though deer movement changes throughout the season, you should still search for the same sign all year around. However, that sign may be in different locations as deer movement changes. Don’t leave your trophy harvest up to guessing. Learn successful scouting techniques if you want to bring home that monster buck this year.
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