The Season Didn’t Just End. It Just Started All Over Again.
Scouting is one of the most important things hunters can do. Studying sign, glassing from afar, and other in-the-field tasks will greatly up the odds.
Scouting for sign—especially rut sign—is a great thing to do during the offseason. The leaves are off the trees still and vegetation is sparse. Tracks and trails are easy to see. Rubs are easy to spot. Might even find a scrape or two that haven’t been erased by the elements yet. The point: Use this opportunity to locate sign. Record on an aerial map all of your findings.
This is also a great time to scout for deer from afar. Deer are still technically using late-season patterns. Remember the areas these deer are using and keep notes for the late-season next year.
Lastly, shed hunt. Not only scouting from afar but also hunting sheds tells you what bucks made it through the season. This gives a preliminary idea as to what might roam your neck of the woods next deer season.
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You can’t kill big deer if big deer don’t live where you hunt. It’s that simple. If the place(s) you hunt haven’t been producing, it’s time to locate a new piece of dirt to hang those treestands. Scout using Google Earth and identify likely hotspots. Then it comes down to some old-fashioned door knocking. Other options include scouting public land or shelling out money for a lease.
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Most bucks already shed their antlers. But deer are deer. Bucks and does eat the same food and do many of the same things. It doesn’t matter whether you get pictures of bucks or does. Just take inventory of the herd and see how the deer are doing. Just knowing the herd is healthy and thriving is reason enough to run those trail cameras on into spring. It isn’t just about trying to get a photo of a big-racked buck.
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Deer are creatures of habit. One habit most all of them have: they tend to follow the path of least resistance. That is why I like to create small food plots in the middle of woodlots. But before planting, I pile brush around the edges except for the areas I want deer to enter and exit the plot.
Another way to accomplish this is by downing trees in two lines through the woods. Leave an opening 4 to 5 feet wide between the two sides. This funnels deer. And one thing is certain: deer will use these paths—or funnels—that are created for them. Hang treestands along these routes to capitalize on newfound travel patterns.
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You can never learn too much. As Jeff Danker of Major League Bowhunter says, “Never stop learning.” That is the single most important thing a deer hunter can remember. Don’t ever stop learning about the white-tailed deer. The day that happens is the day deer hunting becomes obsolete. Loss of interest will lead to loss of passion and opportunities.
Continue to learn about whitetails and odds of success next season do nothing but increase. Deer hunting isn’t easy. Learn as much as possible about these incredibly resilient creatures.
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