Taking a thorough walk through the woods is the best scouting tool you have — even if you spook a few bucks
Don’t bump, pressure or spook deer. That’s what every expert, from TV show hosts to writers to podcasters, will tell you.
Me? I say spook them all. But only once. I call it the bump scout, and it is one of the best ways to find a great hunting spot. So, lace up those Danner Pronghorn boots. It's time to work.
Defining the Bump Scout
Hunting a new property can be difficult. Heck, hunting the same property year after year can be tough, too. New property or not, I do one invasive scouting trip per year, during which I’m not all that worried about jumping deer. It works on private land and public land alike, and the intent is twofold.
First, you learn as much about a property as possible. Scour as much ground in one day as you can, starting with the most important locations such as likely bedding and staging areas, and working outward toward food sources, water sources and trail networks.
The second goal is to gather as much knowledge about specific bucks as you can. See a big buck dash down an escape route when you pressed into thick cover? Find a cluster of massive buck beds in a small area? See a mature deer feeding in a staging area at dusk as you wrapped up your scouting mission? This is all valuable information.
But you pressure a lot of deer to get it done. Is it worth it?
Yes it is. Because the research (and my own personal experience) shows that bucks are very loyal to their core area, and especially their primary bedding areas. Recent data from the Quality Deer Management Association proves this. So, one invasive outing shouldn’t spook deer out of the area for good. In fact, most bucks that are spooked will return within a day, if not hours.
It’s also worth it because it’s better to spend a few days hunting in a great area than a few weeks in bad one. But you won’t know where the great spot on the property is unless you find it. And you won’t find it unless you walk the entire place.
So, when is the best time to bump scout?
Best Time: Post-Season (January to April)
I prefer to do this immediately after deer season ends. Foliage is off. Less cover. It’s the best time to see deer sign.
This also allows maximum time for deer to recover from the pressure, even though one trip afield isn’t an issue for most mature bucks. The only concern? It is possible for deer with certain personality types to head for the hills and not return. Whitetails have unique personalities, just like humans.
Second-Best Time: Pre-Season (May to August)
The bump scout can also be done during the summer. It leaves less time for deer to recoup, but don’t hesitate to do it. It becomes a little more difficult to learn a property during this time of year. Scrapes from the previous fall have all but vanished. Rubs become harder to find and read. Beds fade. But there’s still valuable information to gather.
Worst Time: In-Season (September to December)
It’s riskiest to do this during hunting season, but the reward can still be worth it, especially on ground you’ve never hunted. Any sign that you find is fresh, and any deer that you see are animals currently living there.
Get in there. Scout fast. And get out. Or, if you have bow and stand in hand, and you spook a buck from his bed, hang a set on the downwind side, climb up and wait. That buck might just come back that day, or early the next morning. But if it does, it’ll approach from downwind as it scent checks for whatever just ran it out of the bedroom. Account for that in your setup.
Apply the Information
Regardless of when you use the bump scout, apply it to your situation. Don’t do this without a purpose. Spooking deer just to spook deer isn’t a good idea. But there’s certainly a time and place to deploy this tactic. Recognize it when you see it. Then implement it.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.