The deer hunting season has just ended for us here in Michigan and for many of us, this signals the beginning of a long lazy winter nap, but not for me. Immediately following the season is one of the best times to scout your hunting area for the next season. This takes some serious forward thinking, but trust me it will pay off down the road. Now is the best time to fully explore all the areas that you didn’t dare touch during the season for fear of spooking deer. You can push into the bedding areas and find exactly where deer are entering or exiting if you didn’t already know. This is also a good time to mark any rutting sign that you hadn’t seen before. As most of you know, bucks frequently return to primary scrape areas, rub lines and other hot spots the next year. Finding where these are now can help you develop the perfect set up for the next season.

Just moving on to my new farm, I have a lot of work to do this year to learn the land and develop a plan for the 2010 season. This past week I was able to get out in the woods three times before the season ended with my bow and I saw a good number of doe. Unfortunately, with the short amount of time to get acquainted with the area, I was never able to get within shooting range. Nevertheless, between my hunting and a couple trips out scouting, I have been able to learn a good bit about the property that will certainly help me prepare for next fall.

So let me provide you of a brief description of what I did for my first scouting foray on my new land, which hopefully might help you the next time you are scouting a new piece of land.

The first thing I did was use Google Maps to get a high level idea of the lay of the land, whats on the surrounding properties and where I think possible feeding and bedding areas are. For more on this type of scouting, check out my article, “Using Google Maps to Scout for Whitetail Deer“.

Now that I had a decent level of knowledge about the property, I headed out with a few destinations I knew I really wanted to explore. So I hiked out into the 5 degree frozen tundra, howling wind in my face, venturing into the unknown of this  Michigan winter wonderland. My hike took me essentially along the property lines of the farm, as I searched for the main travel corridors the deer use, entrances into bedding and feeding areas and sign of the past years rut. Over the course of the next couple hours Ifound tons of great deer sign, including many heavily used deer runways, plenty of rubs and many bedding areas. The only disheartening thing was that I found a whole lot of other hunter’s deer stands.

I’ve been told that another 2 hunters occasionally hunt the land, but from what I saw there is a whole lot more pressure than that on this property and on the surrounding pieces. On my farm or within bow range of it, I saw 9 different stands. Including one of the better looking funnels on the property, which had 5 different stands surrounding it! I certainly won’t be in that area during gun hunting season, thats for sure!

So for a first trip into the woods I would say I was pretty successful. I was able to explore most of the property on foot quickly and then focus some extra time on the areas that I keyed out by virtually scouting on Google Maps. Much more detail on my scouting methods and findings will be coming shortly. Here are a few pictures of some of the rubs I found to hold you all over…