By Chris Eberhart

If you are reading this, you are probably into hunting whitetails. And, you probably would like to regularly put your tags on mature bucks.  Now here comes the secret that is really no secret:  Most of the work required to make it happen takes place in the spring.  This is particularly true in areas with at least modest hunting pressure. The things you do the next couple months are pivotal to your success in the fall.

The reasons that spring scouting is so important are many.  The first important element of spring scouting is simply being able to cover every inch of a property without fear of spooking the mature buck that lives there. Sure, the buck might be there, but if you disturb it in the spring there is plenty of time for it to return by fall.  Far too many hunters give away their intentions by busting through the brush a few weeks, or even days, before the opener.

Along this same line of thought; by setting up your hunting spots completely in the spring, deer have plenty of time to grow accustom to any modifications in the form of shooting lanes or directional changes you made by modifying their travel routes.  Do this right before the season and the mature bucks will surely become suspicious and most likely nocturnal earlier than they would have otherwise.

Covering every inch of a property in the spring also means poking through bedding areas, marshes, and other no-go places during season. It is always helpful to know a place intimately. This allows you to learn exactly how deer are using the area, and find and predict patterns that may not be obvious at first glance. Sometimes you might even find a remote, or unusual, travel route that a buck is using.  A few times I have found mature buck travel routes that were contrary to other deer movement on properties in the spring. These unusual routes are probably what allowed these bucks to reach maturity in the first place.

Some people think looking at last year’s sign is meaningless, since the buck that made it might not be alive anymore anyway. That the buck may be dead is true. However, certain conditions and types of terrain caused that buck to select his core area. If a spot attracted one buck it will almost certainly attract another, unless there was some major shift in the conditions, such as a change in surrounding crops, or nearby clear-cut, or even worse a new construction project.

Time is another issue that makes spring scouting so important. There is a lot of time to get things done and you don’t have to rush, or make quick decisions. You can be patient with your work and stand selection, make the right choice, and take time to set up a property for any possible situation. For instance, I have had up to a dozen different trees prepped on a single eighty acre piece of land. I may not even hunt from some of them in the coming season, but if the situation warrants I already have a tree ready to hunt from. Being able to adapt quickly helps during season, and preparing for this contingency is best done in the spring.  You also have time to scout for other hunters, and prepare for the effect they will have on your hunting. Preparing for this is something most people overlook, but critical to deer behavior later. Knowing how other hunters will effect deer movement in your area is a game changer.

And, by setting up trees on all of your properties for every instance, every part of the season, (first day, early season, October lull, pre-rut, rut, post-rut, late season) you can develop a hunting plan for the entire season.  By establishing a plan and having trees ready you won’t have any down time during the season, and you’ll be able to more effectively use those precious hunting hours.  The more work you do in the spring, and the more you prepare, the better your chances will be in the fall. It’s that simple.

There is a lot more about this topic in my book Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way.

- Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com

If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The  Eberhart Way