Ask most deer hunters and they’ll tell you that preparing for the hunt is nearly as fun and exciting as the hunt itself. The best deer hunters across the country are in pursuit of punched tags nearly every month of the year. No, they won’t be packing their weapon to the woods during the months outside of the actual hunting season, but the work that goes into planning and research is no less serious. Preparing for whitetail encounters below our stand is what drives us. It’s a never ending quest that carries us through the spring and summer months until fall arrives once again. And love it or hate it, today’s technology has made the way we scout, plan and prepare dramatically different than what it was a few decades ago. The deer scouting tools we now have at our disposal have changed the game, no doubt. Here’s a look at 6 deer scouting tools every whitetail hunter should own. They are the tools that will make you more productive and efficient when it comes to your deer scouting this year.
Stealth Cam PXP36NG
Fortunately, despite the boom in deer scouting tool technology, trail cams have continued to get better and better while their price tags have grown smaller and smaller. The camera units that once cost $300-$400 don’t even come close to the quality and features you find now in cameras that sell for $150-$200. The PXP36NG is a good example. This slick new camera from Stealth Cam offers .6 second trigger speeds in a 20.0 megapixel camera. The quality is impressive to say the least.
It has an 80 foot range to ensure you get the shot. The camera also makes setup quick and easy with 6 quick-set program settings and HD video recording at 5/10/15/20/25/30 seconds, with audio. Like other cameras, the PXP36NG features the time, date, moon phase, and name data on each photo.
Other features include: time lapse mode, a durable hinge with security mount, rapid-fire burst mode with 1-6 exposures per triggering, LCD programming screen, an SD card slot allowing for up to 32GB, test mode, and a handy in-door user interface. The batteries store nice and easy in the door.
Better yet, the camera comes with 8 AA batteries and an 8GB SD card, all for $149.
www.stealthcam.com / $149
One of the handiest deer scouting tools to come along in a long time is the onX Hunt app. This sophisticated mapping technology will save you a ton of time before you ever actually put boots on the ground. The app gives you access to everything that’s been mapped in the last 50 to 100 years.
How does it work? You create the map you want with the features you want on public or private land, wilderness areas, national forests, trails, streams, etc. – and then your smartphone’s built-in GPS tracks you on top of the map. No cell reception required.
While getting lost may not be your biggest fear while hunting whitetail deer, trespassing should be. With onX loaded on your phone, you will never have to worry about stepping foot on the wrong property. You won’t be struggling to find portions of the fence that has seemed to vanish over the years.
The app will make you a more effective hunter in a number of ways. For one, you can keep tabs on all of your stands by marking game sightings, shot opportunities, where game was seen, etc. Over time, patterns will develop, better allowing you to set stands strategically based on actual deer movement you have observed. You will also be able to determine the best travel routes to and from your stands based on the topographical map in the app. Lastly, you easily spot funnels, pinch points, etc. from the app as well.
www.onxmaps.com / Elite Membership – $99 a year
Wicked Tough Hand Saw
I rarely ever head to the woods for a scouting trip, or hunt, without my hand saw. No matter what I’m doing, or where I’m going, there always seems to be something that needs cut down, trimmed up, or removed. My favorite saw is the Wicked Tough Hand Saw from Wicked Tree Gear.
The blade is as tough as they come, making short work of just about anything you care to tackle when it comes to cutting branches and limbs. Heck, I’ve used this saw as a hammer more times than I can count. As the name implies, it’s an incredibly tough saw.
The Wicked Tough saw features a cast aluminum handle, hardened locking hardware and the Wicked Sharp blade, all backed by a lifetime warranty.
www.wickedtreegear.com / $29.99
HME Reflective Wing Tacks
Stepping away from the high-tech gear, I always like to keep reflective tacks in my pack for making quick reference markers for finding a treestand in the dark. Yes, your GPS or smartphone app can get you to the tree. But what if something fails? What if you forget your device, or batteries have died? I like to have an old-school solution in place that’ll get me where I need to be no matter what. I also boat in to hunt a number of spots along the lakes and rivers. These reflective tacks are a great way to mark my approach by boat.
Some of the best tacks on the market these days are the Reflective Wing Tacks from Hunting Made Easy (HME). They have multiple features that conventional flat tacks don’t offer. HME designed their tack to have a larger grip area so they can be more easily placed or removed. Another great feature is that the reflective wraps around both sides of the tack allow you to see the reflective tack whether you’re entering or exiting your treestand. In other words, you only need to place half the amount you would if using a flat-faced tack. The last, and possibly the most important, feature is the reflective material. HME has sourced one of the most reflective adhesive material available. This feature will allow you to space them farther apart and still be able to easily locate your treestand in the dark. You’ll get 25 tacks per package, so a couple packs should keep you covered for quite a few trails.
www.gsmoutdoors.com / $4.99
HME 4-in-1 SD Card Reader
One of my favorite deer scouting tools is an SD card reader that allows me to view and save trail cam images directly to my smartphone.
I’ve used several from Stealth Cam over the years and rarely head to the woods without one anymore. It’s the tiniest tool in my arsenal, but it’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to running trail cameras. I love this tool because it allows me to quickly check, save and store photos on my smartphone without having to take the SD card back to the house to load to my laptop. I can quickly take inventory in the field, save photos, delete the images I don’t want, and then stick the SD card back in the trail cam and keep moving. It’s a very handy deer scouting tool.
A new SD card reader option for 2018 is the 4-in-1 SD Card Reader from HME. It allows you to view trail cam images on any device. It supports OTG Android Devices, Apple iPhone or iPad via the free PhotoFast app, as well as standard USB connections on PC, Mac or tablets. It offers Micro USB, Lightning, USB 2.0 and USB-C connections and is compatible with SD / SDHC / SDHC / SDXC / MMC / MMC 4.0 / Micro SD / Micro SDHC / Micro SDXC / CE / FCC / RoHS Standards.
It also includes adapters for all connections for use with phone cases, which is a nice, frustration-free bonus.
www.gsmoutdoors.com / $29.99
Sitka Mountain Approach Pack
Sometimes your scouting efforts call for a backpack, and sometimes they don’t. But how many times have you found yourself in the woods wishing you’d have brought a pack with you to stash trail cameras, tree steps, antler sheds, mushrooms any many other things you pick up or drop off along the way. That’s why I love the ultra-light Mountain Approach pack from Sitka. I can literally roll the thing up in the palm of my hand and stick it in my pants pocket. It’s incredibly compact, so you can always have it with you if you need it in a pinch, yet it’s a backpack sack with a ton of space.
The Mountain Approach Pack was designed for quick and quiet scouting runs, or for putting the sneak on game in tight quarters where you want the bare minimums. It truly is the perfect pack for spontaneous missions, with highly water-resistant seam-taped and roll top closure keeping your gear dry when unexpected squalls roll through.
www.sitkagear.com / $69
Deer Scouting Tools – Conclusion
Make the scouting chores a little smoother this season with the tools mentioned above. I think you’ll come to rely on these deer scouting tools as standard equipment for all your whitetail plannning and preparation for hunting season.
Be sure to comment below and let us know what your favorite deer scouting tools are. Especially the ones you won’t leave home without.