Scouting for deer

Purposefully finding and predicting where deer will travel is the essence of deer hunting. In order to regularly accomplish this, participants need to understand basic deer biology and be able to apply this knowledge in the field. Understanding basic deer biology can be accomplished as an academic exercise that can be learned indoors using the myriad of resources available. The basics of scouting can also be learned indoors, but the application of this knowledge can only be accomplished outdoors.

Most consistently successful deer hunters spend at least as much time scouting in advance of the season as they do actually hunting. In fact, if their scouting activity results in accurately predicting where deer will be, their hunt may be over fairly quickly.  

Enclosed are numerous resources to teach the indoor section of your program. However, we recommend that this information be paired with a field session to look for deer sign. The field session can be conducted as a group activity in any location where deer may be present. However, we recommend that this session be conducted with their guide(s) or mentor(s) at the site where they will be hunting. If the latter scenario is selected, it is important to briefly review the scouting material that you have gone over in class with the guide(s) or mentor(s) that will take people out in the field.

We also recommend that the guides and mentors not just take their mentee to a pre-selected spot; the mentees should be actively involved in the scouting and site selection. This is a learning experience; NOT a “guided hunt.”   

In some instances, the recommended resources lend themselves to group activities and facilitated discussions that focus on “remote scouting.” Remote scouting can pinpoint high probability areas that deserve a closer look and verified with on-the-ground scouting.

Resources

5 Big Buck Hiding Spots Hunters Must Not Overlook

Even in today’s world of quality deer management, with the many great food plot mixes and minerals and other factors that help produce big bucks, it is still difficult to harvest a buck 150-inches or better.

The world of whitetail deer hunting is full of myths and mysteries, but I once heard that only 1 in 10,000 bucks reach the 150-inch class. I tend to believe that statement. Most buck hunters are fortunate to harvest one or two 150-inch or better bucks in their entire hunting lives.

Where Deer Hide -And Why

Deer season's over, and you struck out. Perhaps the ridge you've hunted for 20 years turned as deerless as your freezer. Or during scouting you found a woodlot trampled like the Chicago stockyards, but in November only one scrawny doe walked past your tree stand. Or the bucks you glimpsed during bow season took a Florida vacation before .270 time.

Where Can I Go Hunting?

When I first reveal to people that I am a hunter, far and away their first question tends to be “But where do you go?” They aren’t asking because they’re trying to cajole me into giving away my favorite deer spots. They’re asking because they are genuinely puzzled by the notion that there could be quality hunting a reasonable distance from our metropolitan area. As city dwellers, hunting can feel far removed. And for city dwellers who don’t spend their weekend galavanting around the backcountry, the wilderness can feel downright mysterious.

Art of Mapping Deer - Barriers

In my previous article, I discussed how water can act as a natural barrier, but there are many other barriers to deer movement worth discussing. The great thing about barriers is they are fairly easy to identify on a map and deer movement along barriers is very predictable. Remember, deer will skirt the edges of barriers often taking the path of least resistance from point A to point B. This makes barriers highly desirable places to hunt, especially when bucks are cruising during the rut.

Whitetail Deer: Sign Language

Scouting for whitetails is like piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You start with a clean slate of, say, 200 acres, you scout the area for deer sign and then you put it all together. "Breeding rubs," like the one this awesome 12-pointer (right) was captured making, are key clues. Tracks, beds, scat and scrapes provide other pieces to the puzzle. But before you can add all of these things together, you have to be able to interpret what each sign is telling you.

Gerald Almy's Guide to Scouting for Whitetail Deer

Skill #1: Recognize Deer Magnets on a Map
RIVERS A large river will channel deer trails along its edge as they follow the contour of the drainage. Find dash marks that show a riffle area. This is a likely crossing point and a potential stand site.

RIDGES Traveling over the peak of a ridge exposes a buck to danger, so search for dips or "saddles" on the map where he can cross and stay hidden. The juncture of several ridges is another likely place to find a trail.

HOLLOWS Gullies leading from high daytime beds to lowland feeding areas are potential travel routes.

Scouting For Hunting Success

A high percentage of hunters scout incorrectly or not at all. With that these hunters defeat themselves of hunting success long before they even set foot into the woods.

Assuming you can shoot and that you have a deer population to hunt there are only two factors that determine hunting success: proper scouting and luck.