10 Summer Scouting Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make

By Josh HoneycuttJune 20, 20142 Comments

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

The thrill of bowhunting comes from deep within oneself. It’s not about the kill. It’s not about the harvest. It’s not about killing a trophy. The thrill comes from the journey. And to those who truly understand the way of the bowhunter – the ones that cherish this way of life – they realize the journey is what they live for.

Deer in the Meadow

Scouting from afar is a very effective tool. Get at least 300 to 400 yards from where expected deer travel will be. If you get too close you risk pressuring deer. If you get too far, you won’t be able to identify bucks when they enter the field.

As a bowhunter and whitetail enthusiast, I scout every summer. I put the time in. It must be done in order to be successful. But we must step lightly and stay poised when seeking out mature whitetails. Here are ten things you don’t need to do while tracking down a big monarch this summer.

1. Getting too Close

Scouting from afar is an essential part of pre-season scouting. You can do much of your scouting through trail cameras but getting out there and seeing the action live is priceless when trying to peg down a mature buck. People often get too close to the action. Instead, pick a high vantage point that is at least 300 to 400 yards from the area you believe deer will be. Then get a good set of optics, fill the cooler and enjoy the show.

2. Scouting In The Morning

Scouting during the morning hours will do much more harm than good during the summer and early fall. The best time to observe deer is in the afternoon as they make their way to food sources. Scouting early in the day will likely be a waste of time. And the odds of alerting deer increase dramatically.

A Patch of Land for Deer to Feed

Food is king. Figure out what the deer are feeding on and you’ve won half the battle. Then all you have to determine is when and where they are doing it.

3. Overlooking Scent

Our state of mind when scouting should be no different than when hunting. People are often careless when scouting because they think they aren’t pressuring deer unless they have a bow in hand. Wrong. Being very careless, forgetting about wind and ignoring your scent when scouting is a crucial mistake that is made way too often. Spray down and pay attention to the wind.

4. Invading Bedding Areas

This is quite possibly the worst thing a hunter could ever do. The only time that bedding areas should be infiltrated is during the post season when shed hunting and post-season scouting is being conducted. In other words, unless it’s February or March, stay out of his bedroom.

Scent Control and Trail Cameras

It is imperative to take into account scent control when running trail cameras. Bucks will know you have been there if you don’t. Keep your cameras credible. Don’t ruin an area because of laziness. Remember scent control.

5. Bad Camera Checks

This is a classic example of carelessness. Checking a scouting camera is a science. It really is. It isn’t something that you do on a whim. Checking cameras in an improper manner will push deer out of an area before you ever get a chance to hunt them. Things to consider include: wind direction, scent control, entry routes, exit routes, etc. It is also imperative to check cameras when deer activity is at a minimum. Such times include: the hottest time of day (around lunch), during showers and rainstorms, etc. Avoid bad camera checks. If you don’t, bucks will avoid you instead.

6. Focusing on One Spot

Never focus on one spot. During the summer, bucks are in bachelor groups. There will be pockets of land where deer are concentrated. Deer numbers will be very focused during this time. Furthermore, they will be very visible. It might prove effective to scout another location if you do not see deer after two or three afternoons of scouting. Switch things up if you aren’t having any luck. Don’t just sit on your thumb and hope a big buck walks out. Go find him.

7. Ignoring Food Sources

Food is king in the whitetail world. But it is most definitely so when the velvet is on. Bucks hit food sources like clockwork in early fall. If you aren’t scouting food sources – you’re shooting your stream right into the wind; and its coming right back at you. Focus on the food. Focus on the food. Oh and don’t forget, focus on the food.

8. Avoiding Water Sources

Food tends to be more productive. But water can be a big player too. It won’t hurt to put a camera over a water source or back up and watch one from afar. Water is vital year-round. But it can definitely pull a buck out of hiding during daylight hours when it’s hot.

Trail Cam Photos

The author was able to take this nice Kentucky whitetail by scouting during the summer and early fall. The buck stayed in a confined area the entire year. He killed the deer at the start of the rut but he never would have known the deer was there had he not scouted.

9. Not Analyzing Observations

Scouting from afar isn’t enough. Looking for deer sign isn’t enough. Putting out a trail camera isn’t enough either. At least, it’s not if your goal is to get within bow range of a mature deer. You have to be able to take all of the information and data collected and analyze it. Take what is learned from scouting and effectively formulate a game plan.

10. Underestimating Bucks

This is the absolute worst thing we can do as hunters. Never underestimate a whitetail. They are clever creatures. They learn fast. They know how to detect danger. They know how to avoid danger. They know how to adapt. If you aren’t careful when scouting, and meticulous in your efforts, they’ll pattern you instead.

Josh Honeycutt
Josh Honeycutt is an avid deer hunter. He's hunted whitetails from South Carolina to South Dakota but spends most of his time hunting in Kentucky. Honeycutt has written and created other forms of media for more than 60 media companies in the outdoor industry, including: North American Whitetail, Whitetail Journal, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Deer & Deer Hunting, Rack Magazine, Inside Archery, Game & Fish, Fur-Fish-Game, and others. He's also very active in digital content, specializing in writing, editing, photography, videography, podcasting, and more. You can see how his deer season unfolds each year on Midwest Whitetail and Chasing November.
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