By Mark Kenyon
For many of us, our hunting season has just ended and we’re enjoying a welcome respite from the cold and snow. But guess what? If you’re that serious about deer hunting, your season isn’t over. It’s just begun.
One of the most important portions of the 2015 deer hunting season is upon us, post-season scouting. And if you want to fill your tag this coming fall, you’d best not gloss over this period of time. Post-season scouting is critical to developing a game plan for the fall, but too many people are too tired, too cold or too lazy to take advantage of it. Don’t be that guy or girl. In the coming weeks I challenge you to bundle up, grab a map and pen, and head into the woods. The work you do now will be directly reflected in your hunting success 10 months from now. That said, here are four considerations to keep in mind when embarking on your post-season scouting efforts this year.
1. Take advantage of snow: If you have snow on the ground, take advantage of it. With this white carpet on the forest floor you’ll be able to see travel patterns, popular food sources and bedding areas better than at any other time of year. Take note of these things now and use this information next year when you get into the late season again and deer return to similar patterns. Another useful exercise is to walk a food source until you cut a particularly large track that looks to be from a buck. Then follow that buck track back into the cover and analyze how he travels and where he came from. There’s a lot to be learned from a bucks route to food and where he bedded.
2. Buck beds: A piece of sign that I’ve recently come to place a large significance on is buck beds. If you can identify buck beds in the late winter or early spring, you’ll be very well positioned to develop an October hunting strategy based on those beds. I personally was able to do this very thing last year, identifying a buck bed in February, placing a few stands to hunt near it in May, and then hunted that area in October. That plan resulted in me getting a shot at a 6.5 year old buck. The exact buck I believed was using that bed. The only way I could have pulled this off was through post-season scouting and then adding that information to the accumulated puzzle pieces of observation data I’d been collecting over the past two seasons. Not sure how to find a buck bedding area? Make sure to watch our recent video 5 Tips For Identifying Buck Bedding Areas .
3. Rut sign: When scouting in the post-season, another of the most important things to keep in mind is rutting sign. Rubs and scrapes are easily seen in the late winter, before green-up, and this information from last year can typically be applied to future years. Where rubs and scrapes popped up last year, there will most likely be rutting activity next year. There’s a reason a buck spent time in those areas during last year’s rut, and they are the same reasons why a buck will spend time there during future ruts. Identify these puzzle pieces, and use them to clarify your strategy for next season. Another key for me, especially on new properties, is to look for large rubs. Typically, big rubs are only made by big deer, so if you can spot some of those big thrashed trees, you’ll know there was a good one in the area.
4. Keep records: Getting out and scouting this time of year is priority #1, but if you do the scouting and then forgot about everything you learned before next season, it’s essentially wasted time. Don’t let that happen! This year when scouting, bring along a map or notebook and pen, and take notes on what you see and where. These records will be invaluable in the future as you plan stand locations and hunts.
Want more info on post-season scouting? Check out the even more comprehensive article I put together last year for North American Whitetail, titled The Whitetail Addicts Guide To Post-Season Scounting