Many deer hunters out there believe spring and summer scouting is obsolete. They think it isn’t worth the effort it takes to slip on your Mucks or the gas it takes to drive to the farm. In some cases, they might be right. But mid-year scouting is far from worthless.
For the most part, spring whitetails behave similarly to summer whitetails and roughly 40 to 50 percent of summer whitetails won’t relocate come fall. My personal data and experiences (I keep a detailed journal) have shown that almost half of the deer you monitor this off-season will still be there come deer season this fall. Reason enough to spend some time glassin’, eh? Of course, every situation is different and I can't guarantee your experiences will be the same as mine. But it's worth a look.
Some people take their observations and take those things as absolute reality. In most cases, there is much more going on with whitetails than what we see on the surface. Just because you see a deer enter a field via a particular trail this summer, doesn’t mean it’ll use that trail every day. On the other hand, just because you don’t see a deer using that area doesn’t mean there isn’t one close by. They might be keying on different food sources elsewhere in the vicinity.
Throughout the years, I’ve been fortunate to monitor a lot of different bucks over several consecutive years — even in heavily hunted areas. I’ve learned a lot from each of their year-to-year behaviors and habits. Both of which have opened my eyes to numerous things.
I was blessed to watch one particular buck for five straight seasons. As for the property I had permission to be on, he’d spend much of his time there from December to mid-September, but that deer spent mid-September to November elsewhere. His rut range was in parts unknown to me. That said, he’d make two or three short October and November excursions back to where it lived during the summer.
Yes, this buck was part of the (approximately) 50 percent of the bucks that left during the fall. Interestingly enough, nearly 2/3 of the bucks it ran with in bachelor groups during the summer almost always stayed on the property come fall. Also interesting, during the last year of its life, the big buck — finally killed by the neighbor right across the property line — changed its rut range and spent a lot more time where I hunted.
There are two takeaways from this deer and its bachelor companions (and plenty of other similar experiences). One, while some will leave, a good number of the bucks you monitor in bachelor groups this summer will most likely stay. And two, just because a deer does one thing this year doesn’t mean its patterns won’t be different next season.
Oftentimes, people think deer have vanished in the fall when they really haven’t. They’re just transitioning to different food sources and the hunters haven’t transitioned with the deer. Just because a deer isn’t hitting the same camera you’ve had on the edge of the soybean field doesn’t mean that deer isn’t still there. Maybe it’s hitting the acorns that started dropping just down the creek. Maybe there’s a clover patch it’s frequenting up on the side ridge. My point — don’t just automatically assume deer have up and left on you. It’s more likely that they’re just using a slightly different part of their home range (approximately 650 acres for most bucks) now.
Now, if you routinely see a lot of bucks during the summer and hardly any in the fall, there are likely several problems in play. A) You don’t have fall food sources. B) You don’t have quality fall bedding cover. And/or C) You and those who hunt with you put too much pressure on that spot. All of these things and more can cause deer to move elsewhere. Luckily, all three can be fixed with a little work and planning. But that’s for a different article on a different day.
The take-home message here? Spring and summer scouting is completely valid. You just have to know how to recognize its value and benefit from it.