By Mark Kenyon
We’re finally getting some warm weather up here in Michigan and the months-long blanket of snow is quickly disappearing. For us whitetail addicts, this melting of the snow means it’s time to get serious about spring scouting.
Last spring, we interviewed Dan Infalt on The Wired To Hunt Podcast about this very topic, and that episode has become one of our most listened to and applauded episodes of all time. Folks who listened to it, loved it. Why? Because Dan Infalt is a high-pressure/public land DIY big buck killing legend and his tactics can work for the average guy/gal, no matter where you hunt. That said, today I’ve pulled out five of the most important insights Dan shared in this podcast episode to help you get your spring scouting started off on the right foot. And if you want more information, I’d highly recommend you check out the full podcast episode here.
1. Start with maps: Use aerial and topographic maps, either online or physical maps from someone like Hunterra, to identify likely locations on your property for high deer activity – like bedding areas, funnels and feeding locations. Then, once you head out to scout on the ground, you can spend your time most efficiently checking those areas first.
2. Get out just after snow melt: When the snow melts, a whole new world of deer sign is uncovered. Scrapes, deer trails, and beds from the past fall can all be seen again in great detail, after being preserved and covered by the blanket of snow. Now’s the time to get out and take note of this sign before it’s covered up again by new spring growth.
3. Identify bedding areas: The most important sign to identify, according to Infalt, are beds. Use the maps we mentioned earlier to identify likely bedding areas and then once you’re in the field you can double check your hunch. On your maps look for ridge-lines and points, islands or fingers of high ground in marshy spots, and areas of thick cover. When you get on the ground, search these areas for oval impressions on the ground that indicate a deer bed. If you see a number of beds together in a small area, this is likely doe bedding. If instead you find an individual large bed, placed in an ideal location, this is most likely a buck. Infalt believes that understanding buck beds is especially important if you hunt heavily pressured or public land, as mature bucks in those areas won’t travel far from their beds during daylight.
4. Get to know buck beds: Speaking of beds, take special care to learn the details about individual buck beds. As mentioned above, a single large bed is a good indicator that this is a buck bed, but other characteristics of buck beds include rubs in or near the bed and some kind of back-cover like a downed tree or boulder. As Dan Infalt says, bucks will bed in a specific place for a specific reason – and you need to keep that in mind when you look for beds. A buck will typically bed in a certain place because it offers advantages that allow him to use his senses of sight, smell and sound to protect himself from danger. For example, an ideal buck bed location in hill country might be off the end of a point where he can see down into the valley below and smell anything coming from behind with a wind blowing over his head. When you find a buck bed, Infalt recommends you get right down in that bed and think through what that buck could see, hear and smell, and how that buck is likely coming in and out of the bed.
5. Plan your set-up: Infalt believes that a big mistake a lot of hunters make is to identify buck bedding areas and then leave them without making a plan. Instead, once you identify a bedding area, identify where you can set-up just out of sight/sound/smell of a buck bedded there and then go find a tree. Map out how you could access a stand there and what wind directions you would need. If possible, get your stand hung, but if you’re not going to be able to hang a stand before the season, try and prep the tree as best as possible. Another thing to keep in mind is something Dan refers to as satellite bedding. The dominant buck in an area will often times claim the most ideal bedding location, but other bucks may come in wanting to bed there as well, and instead have to settle for a lesser location nearby. If you don’t locate these satellite locations prior to the hunting season, you could try to access your hunting area and spook these satellite bucks, which would in turn alert the dominant buck of your presence as well.
Want more scouting and high pressure/public land hunting advice from Dan Infalt? Check out the two very popular podcasts we’ve done with him, linked below: