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Have you ever come home empty-handed after a long day out in the deer woods? I know how frustrating that can be – I’ve been there. Based on my years of experience and extensive research, I’ve found useful scouting strategies that have drastically improved my success rates during hunting trips. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the top 10 deer scouting tips guaranteed to make your next hunting trip more successful than ever! Are you ready for some inside secrets? Dive right in!
Understanding What Deer Scouting Entails
Deer scouting is a skill that takes planning and time. It’s about knowing where the deer are, their habits and their food sources. Modern tools like GPS units or mobile phone mapping apps like OnX can help, but you also need old-school wisdom.
This means using knowledge from past hunts to notice things like tracks, beds in grassy spots and places worn down by deer paths.
If you want to increase your chances of harvesting a mature buck this deer season, you need to figure out exactly where a mature buck is, his habits / travel routes, and patience. This is where scouting comes in.
Top 10 Deer Scouting Strategies
As a seasoned hunter, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks when it comes to scouting for deer. These tips have increased my success rate over the years and I hope they do the same for you.
Know When to Start Scouting for Deer
So when should you start scouting for deer? Honest answer, it’s a year-round process and you should be scouting every time you are in the woods, driving around, or chatting with people.
Anytime you find yourself in the woods keep your eyes open and take note of any deer sign that you find. Just about everyone these days has a smartphone. Apps like OnX are great for taking note of deer sign you may find while in the outdoors. Its as easy as dropping a pin and typing a few notes.
Use Apps like OnX or Google Earth
We have already covered how OnX can be great for taking note of any deer sign you may find but apps like this are also a great tool for helping you find a starting point on unfamiliar ground.
When hunting new or public ground, I use these mapping tools to find “Areas of Interest” so that I have a starting point for my boots on the ground scouting. The satellite images allow you to see what areas are wooded and agricultural while finding transition zones between different types of habitat.
Whitetails are commonly referred to as “edge animals” meaning they use transition zones between different types of habitat to travel from one area to another. By finding these areas on the map before I head to the field, I am able to cut down on the amount of human pressure on the deer while scouting and save myself from unnecessary walking.
Scouting with Your Ears
Okay, I am sure I will get some heat for this tip but if it works it works. What I mean by keeping your ears open is pay attention to what people are saying. A lot of people just cannot help but talk about the big buck they saw on public land or that they saw driving down the road. Listen in to these types of conversations and you might gain insight into where a good buck is hanging out.
If you have the opportunity, talking with your local UPS or Postal driver is a good way to find deer. These people are constantly on the road driving and could tip you off to where a good buck is.
Boots on the Ground Scouting
Once you have located areas that you think will have deer its time to put your boots to the ground and check the area out. Look for sign like deer trails, old and new rubs, scrapes, and tracks. Take not of everything you find while scouting so that you have it to look back on during the season and future seasons.
When you start to find deer sign, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what the deer are doing and how they are moving between bedding and feeding areas. Also think about how you would enter and exit the area so that you minimize the amount of pressure on the deer while you are hunting.
If the area I am scouting shows promise and has potential I will start to look for possible stand locations. I prefer to do it while I am already scouting so that I don’t have to make a return trip and risk spooking more deer.
Scouting From a Distance
While scouting during the summer, early season, and late season, glassing fields and food sources can be an effective scouting strategy. This will also aid in taking inventory of what bucks are using the property while having little to no impact on the deer.
By glassing a field from your truck or observation stand you can gather information like, what time and where deer are entering the field. Once you have this information you can plan your hunt accordingly and will have a good idea on where to hang your stand to increase your chances of a successful hunt.
I have the most success using this scouting technique during the early and late season when bucks are on the bedding to feeding pattern. I like to glass with a pair of binoculars from my truck or an observation stand several hundred yards away from where I think the deer will be. Once I find a mature buck to hunt and have a good idea how he is using the field I will go in and hunt him using a mobile tree stand setup.
Scouting with Trail Cameras
Using trail cameras is another effective scouting technique for deer. They can be your eyes while you are at home or work and provide valuable insight on how deer are using the property.
I like to use normal trail cameras on field edges and areas where deer are somewhat used to humans, and I will drive my ATV or truck right up to them when I check them. In my experience the deer seem to be less alerted by the vehicle than if I was to walk in. I don’t worry to much about getting daylight pictures on these cameras and use them to just see what deer are using the property.
For the more remote areas of a property, like bedding areas or transition areas, I prefer using cellular trail cameras. By using these cameras I only have to disturb the area once when I hang it before the season starts. These cameras help me figure out where and how a buck is using the property during daylight hours.
A tip for using cell cameras is to use a solar panel so that you done have to worry about the batteries dying.
Locate Food and Water Sources
Locating the food and water is also crucial when scouting for whitetail deer. A deer needs three things; food, water, and cover.
Figuring out food sources the deer prefer during different times of year is critical while scouting. For example here in Kentucky where I hunt the deer are typically feeding in the soybean fields during the early season but as soon as the soybeans start to turn they change food sources. By learning these tendencies you can stay a step ahead.
Locating water sources while scouting can also make for great hunting locations. Water sources can be anything from a pond to a stream or river that doesn’t go dry. These types of water sources can make for great tree stand locations in the heat of the early season and during the rut.
Look for Buck Sign while Scouting
While scouting take note of any buck sign you come across like rubs, scrapes, tracks, and droppings. Its important to look for this type of sign in the off season and during the season.
Finding old rubs and scrapes during the off season can provide information on how bucks like to use and move through the area. In my experience deer will often follow similar habits each year. By finding last years rub and scrape line you may have found a good location for the upcoming season.
If you find this type of deer sign during the season use a mobile approach and strategically hunt the freshest sign you find.
Deer Scouting Tips for Beginners
The number one tip I would give to a beginner or someone just getting into deer hunting is don’t be afraid of failure. The best teacher when it comes to deer scouting and hunting is mother nature itself. Get out there and don’t be afraid to try new things. Figure out what works best for you and build your hunting style based off that.
How to Scout for Deer on Public Land
All of the tips we have covered can be used when scouting public land. Check your area and public land hunting regulations to make sure that you can use tools like trail cameras and make sure you are within the law.
For public land scouting specifically I have found that its important to stay fluid and mobile. Public lands will often receive more hunting pressure than private lands which could change how deer use the area. By staying mobile and constantly scouting while afield you can easily pick up on these changes and adjust your hunting strategy accordingly.
In my experience of scouting public land one thing is always the same. I always find the mature bucks the areas that are not receiving hunting pressure and where they have everything to their advantage. Look for areas that are off the beaten path and hard to access, like deep in a thicket or marsh. The majority of hunters wont go through the effort of hunting these areas. Overlooked areas, like next to the parking lot or road, can also hold big bucks.
Don’t forget these tips when you’re scouting deer. Using them can help you on your hunt for that big buck. Also don’t forget to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. So, grab your gear and get ready to go hunting! May your aim be true and your harvest plentiful!