By Mark Kenyon
You know that feeling. You’re driving down the road, enjoying the breeze and some good tunes, when all of sudden your eye catches a tell-tale shape out in the crop field. An orange-ish body, a tall fuzzy rack, an instant adrenaline rush.
At almost no other time of year are big mature bucks more visible during daylight than during these late summer weeks when bachelor groups of velvet bucks congregate in open food sources, packing on the protein before fall. And because of that, we’re now in the midst of one of the best times to get out there and scout those bucks. Whether you’re looking to identify late summer patterns for your early archery opener, or just trying to determine what bucks are in the general area – now is a great time for long-range deer scouting. Here are six tips to help you maximize your big buck sightings during this magical time of year.
1. Find the Right Spots: If you’re hoping to observe summer deer feeding in the evenings, which is your best bet for observation this time of year, you need to make sure you’re looking in the right places. That means, first and foremost, that you need to find the food that your local deer are keying in on. In many agricultural areas that will mean soybean fields, alfalfa, clover and other food plots, or any other number of green summer forage. If you don’t have ag in the area, key in on recent cut-overs or other relatively open fields of natural browse. Once you have food, the next most important factor will be finding those areas that are also relatively undisturbed by people. A long winding soybean field tucked back into the woods and far from the road will likely result in more daytime sightings than a tiny field right up close to houses and traffic.
2. Bring The Right Optics: When you’re scouting deer at a distance, you better be prepared for those long distances and have the right optics for the job. A high quality, high magnification binocular or spotting scope can make a world of difference when trying to watch bucks several hundred yards or farther away. I personally use a pair of 10X B1 Maven binoculars and they do a great job for this kind of scouting.
3. Pick Your Times: If you can get out and scout every night in the summer, that’s awesome – but most of use have to pick our times a little more carefully. You can maximize your summer scouting success by timing your long-range observation nights in correlation with cold fronts, precipitation, or even moon phase. All of the weather related factors that increase deer movement during hunting season can increase daylight activity during the summer. So look for those evenings with cooler temps, or a high barometric pressure, or when your overhead/underfoot or rising/setting moon times coincide with that final hour of daylight. Having one or more of these factors in your favor might just get the big guy out on the field a little earlier. You can read more about properly timing your summer glassing sessions by reading “Summer Cold Front Scouting” by Jeff Sturgis
4. The Drive-by: If you’re scouting a larger general area by vehicle, lets say to try and determine the general quality of bucks, you might want to try the drive-by tactic. Plan out a route that will take you past as many high quality summer food sources in the area as possible, and then do a preliminary drive past these fields about an hour or a little more before dark. At this time, you’re likely not going to see many mature bucks already out, but there probably should be does and fawns feeding. Identify those fields with the most deer already out, and then prioritize those spots for a last light return. Many times these areas that had early deer movement will also be where a mature buck finally feels comfortable enough to appear just before dark.
5. Rolling Stops: If you are scouting from the road, be careful to avoid the brake slams. I’ve been guilty of it often and it’s almost always bad. When you spot deer off in a field, especially mature bucks, rather than slam on your breaks to look at them – keep on driving until you get out of their sight. Then, quietly turn your vehicle around and edge back up into sight. If you do this right, you can position your vehicle in such a way that hopefully the deer will not notice you, but you’ll still have a visual.
6. On-the-Ground Access: If you’re going to actually get on the ground and hike back into a property to observe an area, be careful to approach it similar to a hunting situation. Plan an access route that won’t spook deer and make sure you’re wind isn’t blowing into bedding areas. Of, you’ll also need good wind wherever you decide to set up and watch, so try and practice quality scent control as well.
Do you have any other advice for better summer velvet scouting? Let us know in the comments!