Its that time of the year when the nights start to cool and early bow season starts to swim in our minds. In honor of the upcoming season I decided to give a few tips for scouting pre season and early season whitetails.
- Find the pattern
The great part of pre season and early season whitetails is they are predictable. You can usually find the older, more mature whitetails feeding during the low light hours in the fields so take advantage of it. Spend some evenings after work glassing fields and figure out the pattern that the deer are using coming out on the field. This will help you narrow down the areas to hang game cameras. Pre season glassing is also a great way to learn see some of the deer in your area that aren’t even on your land. This will help you get an idea of what you may have traveling over to your land during the rut when you have a hot doe run by.
- Hang some cameras
Once you have gotten an idea of the trails the deer are using to enter and exit the fields its time to slip in the area and hang some cameras. Try and put a few cameras on the main trails that look heavily used and one or two on some trails that appear to have lighter deer traffic. Without getting coverage of these lighter areas you may never know a certain deer exists if they are loners and nocturnal. Remember big deer are old and big for a reason and every deer has its own personality. Also keep an eye out for possible staging areas. These areas are often overlooked and can be optimal places to harvest mature deer hanging back until dark before entering the field. . This portion is one of my favorite parts of scouting. Its like you turn into a kid on Christmas morning and you cant wait to open your present when you go to retrieve your SD card. Its like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
- Hang a stand
After getting an idea where the deer trails are that you will possibly want to hunt Its time to hang a stand. Stand placement is often not thought of carefully enough when it comes to branches for cover and wind direction. Its nice to be able to look back in kept journals or past weather history to see what direction the prevailing winds have been out of during the first two weeks of season and determine your set by these findings. I like to find a tree where I will be within shooting distance of a heavily used trail and this tree should give me a clear view of the field I am hunting for the first few days of season. This will give you the ability to see what you may have missed during pre season glassing and further your patterning of a possible shooter.
- Be ready for change
Although pre season is a great time to pattern a deer you’re after there is always the chance he will change patterns before season arrives. Make sure to scout hard close to opening day to make sure you don’t miss something. If or when the deer of your dreams tries to throw you for a loop be ready with your own game plan. I recommend having a game plan in mind for likely scenarios and have my equipment ready for it. The Lone Wolf Assault tree stand and Lone Wolf climbing sticks are my go to set up for this. I am able to get everything set up and be ready to hunt in 10 minutes and am able to do so quietly. If there are no decent trees around don’t be afraid to try ground hunting. When giving ground hunting a shot make sure to pick a well concealed area that gives you the ability to get an arrow through without a deflection. Finding this ideal area is often harder than it sounds but will be worth the effort when the one you’re after comes by and you are undetected.
- Not a lot of deer sign? Give it a shot
There are times when you may be hunting a piece of property that is new to you for the first time and you might not have enough time to glass the fields. Heck maybe there aren’t any fields to glass and you have to rely on your cameras. In these situations it can sometimes be hard to find active deer sign. Don’t lose hope just yet. Certain areas in the woods may have a lack of telling grasses or weeds that show the deer trails that we are used to seeing. Use your noggin and look for natural deer funnels and likely deer usage areas and hang your cameras. You will often be surprised by the number of deer using these areas and the quality of the animals. If you are struggling to find decent areas look for some standing barbed wire. Some of my favorite hunting areas have old barbed wire fencing that is still hanging. Follow the line of barbed wire until you find a low spot or an area that is all the way to the ground. This will be almost a guaranteed funnel that will give you the perfect pinch point.
Hopefully a few of these tips will be useful for you in the upcoming scouting and early season. Remember to have fun while you’re out there even if the mosquitos are about to carry you away.