Every year I hear of a new hunter, most often a youngster who with no work and a lot of luck, who wallops a bruiser buck. After a season with nothing more to put on the dinner table than tag soup, I inevitably envy that luck. Then, a few months pass, and I get to thinking about it. While I would love to have a big buck on wall, I enjoy putting in the work. After all, if I just waltzed out, scaled a tree with a climber and 10 minutes later sank an arrow into a Booner, I’d be cheated of the memory of the hunt. Then again, take that same scenario with a story in front of it; consider the time scouting, setting cameras, glassing fields and crafting a plan and I’d gladly let the air out of a monster buck in the first 10 minutes.
While I have a few decent deer taking up residence at my home, I have many more hunts to remember. For every deer I have harvested, my hours hunting totals something closer to 100:1—likely more. After all, the fun all happens before the shot. After the shot, while adrenalin filled, is little more than work. Put in the “fun” before the hunt and you’ll be more likely to put in the “work” during the hunt. Here are a few tips to make your summer scouting more productive.
I am a firm believer in trail cameras and count them as a necessity for any summer scouting program. However, you can’t simply walk a trail randomly posting a camera here and there. You need a game plan. Cameras need to be placed on travel routes to and from food. You may even want to post a camera in the food; particularly if the camera has the ability to transmit the images for remote viewing. Remember, in the summer bucks are still roaming in bachelor herds. While you are less likely to catch a buck on your camera, you may hit the jackpot and score pics of several wall hangers.
Glassing deer isn’t new or hard. I have spent hours glassing farm fields and regularly enjoy an evening digiscoping with the kids. However, spotting deer does not equal harvesting deer. The deer you see in summer may be miles away come fall after the bucks start staking out territory and running off the competition. Spend time glassing; look for food plots or farm fields with good bucks and get to know their patterns. Then, suit up and spray down with scent killer just as your would for opening day. Roam the surrounding area and start mapping out heavily used trails; look for sign, choke points and intersecting trails. If you really want a lesson in whitetails, go back to the same field that evening and see how many fewer deer are in the field. Don’t worry too much. When the pressure is low (summer) deer are used to being bumped by farmers and other wanderers. The deer should resume normal patterns in a day or two.
Bedding areas are typically taboo and I would not invade a person’s home anymore than I would a core bedding area. However, I would skirt the edges of a bedding area; you can acquire a lot of great information about trails and escape routes. You can also get a feel for what you may be up against should you find yourself tracking a wounded deer later in the season. Finding a key entry or egress point is great information that can later be used as a late season ambush tactic.
Make A Plan
After you have gathered all of the intelligence, it will be time to make you plan. The deer and habits you observe in the summer will be greatly different than those in the fall during hunting season. An exception to that will be the habits you see in the days or weeks prior to season. This is especially true for archery season, but may have limited application for the general or firearm season as well.
I cut my G2s in the big woods of the Allegany region of Pennsylvania. In the big woods, you’ll want to key in on mast such as acorns, persimmons and wild apples. Not all species of tree drop their acorns at the same time. Keep records, talk to locals and chats up the boys at the local watering hole for information from a few seasoned vets. While they will not give away their favorite honey hole or lead you to a buck haven, they will typically talk generally about deer just for fun.
Other data of use will be the local farms. Strike up a conversation with local farmers. Ask when they expect to have the corn or soybeans harvested. You may also inquire as to which fields will have corn or soybeans the following year. This may give you some inside information as to the best ground to lease the following year. Beans dry out earlier in the season than corn. Corn also provides much needed cover that beans do not. Personal food plots may not see much action while there is standing corn, but when the stalks drop, it is time to head to your personally provided grocery store.
While you are at it, don’t be afraid to inquire about the local deer while talking to the farmers. There is no better intelligence about what is happening in the local woods than a farmer—unless the farmer also hunts in which case I would not trust what he tells me any farther than I could throw him! After all, I have been known to spin a yarn or two to a fellow hunter in my area…
Without turning your tale into a fish story, share some of your favorite summer scouting tips in the comment section.