Ok, so I know we are a long ways out from deer season 2015. But if you’re as crazy a hunter as myself, then I know you are wanting to get back in the field already, just as I am. I’ve heard lots of mixed reports about 2014 season, and it seems like some people struggled to drop the tines and fill the freezer. I was fortunate enough to have a very successful season last year, and I owe it to my spring scouting and land management. Remember there is always something you can do to improve your chances of closing the deal, even when you are nine months away.
Scouting means a lot of work and plenty of time and energy, so be ready and come prepared. First things first: once deer season closes, I like to get out of my woods and fields as quickly as possible to let them use my land as refuge during the long winter months. By leaving them undisturbed, I find that come spring time I am holding more deer to establish summer eating habits and bedding areas for the upcoming year. And yes, I also follow the sanctuary theory which I will discuss in an upcoming land management blog.
Now that spring has arrived, the importance of walking the land you’ll be hunting this fall cannot be emphasized enough. Walking the land is required for good scouting. You need to cover the land- I mean really grid that property! You can never be sure of what has happened from winter and spring storms, and there’s always a chance that a predator’s presence has caused paths and beds to move. Trees might have fallen, and rivers and creek banks might have shifted, all of which is creating new routes and pinches. If you can get out in the snow, you can easily find paths and high traffic areas. A hard frost works great in the woods too, as the leaves will turn up for easy identification of deer highways and bedding areas. Frost also means means that bugs and undergrowth won’t be in the way of your scouting, which is always a plus!
If you’re having a difficult time scouting, the first thing you need to do is take a deep breath! I cannot stress enough the importance of dropping to a knee, looking at the land from all angles, and exploring new visual scanning speeds and focus fields. Stopping and adjusting your point of view/ocular focus area can often allow you to see what’s been hiding right under your nose.
Another way to ensure you maximize your scouting season is through the use of trail cameras. While I imagine most of you wish walking your land and prepping for hunting season could be your full time job, chances are many of you have to actually put in 9-5 somewhere else. Trail cameras can be your eyes in the field even while you’re at your desk or asleep in your bed. A network of trail cameras spread out across your land allows you to see all the action, and locate potential new areas to set up blinds, monitor movement patterns and bedding areas, as well as get a feel for some of the great deer you’ll be seeing come fall!
When looking for a camera, pay close attention to battery life and night time features. You’ll also want to be sure to review the different storage sizes, Wi-Fi capabilities, and ruggedness. Just like land, no two cameras are exactly the same, so be sure you have one that meets all your unique needs. I can tell you personally that bargain trail cameras are a waste of time and money, and a source of many frustrations. Spend the few extra dollars and get a trusted brand with the features and high quality images required for scouting. When shopping for a camera, remember that this device can mean the difference between a full freezer and long, deer-less weekends in the cold come fall.
Having already spent some time walking your land, you should know of good areas to place the cameras. Remember: when deciding where to mount a trail camera, always mount the cameras lower than you think! Even if you’ll be hunting from an elevated blind or stand, a lower mount on your trail camera will catch the eye reflection of both deer and critters alike. So even if you don’t get a great look at the animal, you might be able to see that somewhat was lurking off in the distance. And once you have a chance to review those first images, you’ll start seeing changes to the deer patterns, and how you can best hunt/hold deer on your land leading up to the season this fall.
With some time spent walking your land, and a network of trusty trail cams up in the field, you can rest assured that you’ve had a productive spring that will lead to a fantastic hunting season come fall!
What are your tips and tricks for scouting this spring? Let me know in the comment box below!