Summer Scouting for Whitetailson Jul 22, 2012
The next method I use for scouting mature bucks is a computer. Technology has come a long way, and there are many things that a hunter can do to increase his chances for success right in the comfort of his own home. Programs such as Google Earth, aerial photographs, and topo maps are extremely valuable tools. For example, let’s say you get a trail camera photo of a big buck that seems to always approach the camera from a certain direction. You can use an aerial photograph to try and pinpoint where his likely bedding area is. I used this method on a particular buck last year.
His name was Twin Towers, he was on my “hit list”, he was showing up on my trail camera almost every evening, and he always approached from the west. Using an aerial image, I was able to surmise that the buck was most likely walking down a dry creek bed and popping up into the field where my camera was located. I knew there was a really thick area on top of a ridge about 500 yards to the west and that is where I guessed his bed to be located.
Summer-time scouting can reveal a big bucks preferred travel route when used in conjunction with another resource.
To test my theory I set up a second camera that pointed straight down the dry creek bed toward the ridge. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed! He was indeed coming off the thick ridge and making his way down the dry creek bed. I quickly hung a stand on the trail coming off the ridge and even though I didn’t harvest that buck, I did see him twice, BOTH times from that particular stand. As a result, I have since moved the stand closer to where I witnessed most of the movement taking place last year, in hopes that I will seal the deal this fall. However, I still credit the trail cam and aerial photo for putting me in the right spot. Without them, I might have hung my stand somewhere else and never even laid eyes on that buck. In all liklihood, my schemes would have been nothing more than a guessing game otherwise.
The third method I use in order to scout mature bucks is conducting long range scouting sessions near food sources. The ten days of the entire year where a mature buck is most visible are the last 5 days of July, and the first 5 days of August. I see more big deer on the hoof during this period than any other time. First, I like to find a major food source (either soybeans or alfalfa in my area) that a lot of deer are using in the evenings. Then, I set up an observation stand no closer than 90 to 100 yards from where the deer usually feed. Although I won’t be hunting these stands, I use them the same way; only sitting in them when the wind is right.
Getting velvet footage of the deer you are chasing is not only exciting, but it will allow you to review the pictures or video footage and study the individual deer more closely. This is a big help when deciding which deer are shooters and which ones you may want to let grow another year. If you have already studied the deer pretty extensively (through video or photos), you can easily make the “shoot or let walk” decision in the heat of the moment during hunting season.
Long range scouting can teach you a lot about your local deer herd while keeping impact low.
Scouting during the summer also allows you to take note of general deer movement patterns from an elevated position. There is no better deer sign than “observed” movement. I get almost more excited when I get good footage of a big buck in velvet as I do when I shoot one. It is a huge confidence boost when you know for certain that there are good deer in your hunting area and you have a good idea regarding their preferred travel routes. Scouting fields in the evening is also a great way to introduce youngsters or others to the sport. An evening spent watching deer can be an enjoyable family outing.