“The devil is in the details,” we have heard this old saying over and over. It holds true in deer hunting just as it does in most other aspects of day to day life.
Right now is the perfect time to pick up a few more of those details to help put a tag on that trophy buck next season. Hunters are given only a short time each year in which to chase and bag their quarry, so it pays to be ready.
Good hunters and outdoorsmen try to learn something every time they step in the woods. It can be anything from which direction the wind generally blows, to which side of the ridge gets the first rays of the morning sun.
Getting out and about in your hunting area this time of year can yield a wealth of knowledge and best of all it comes with little risk of spooking that target buck into the next county.
Even if you aren’t targeting a certain buck there is a ton of information to be gleaned from your neck of the woods that will help you next season.
All the sign those rutting bucks left last year is still there and ready to be seen and put into the memory banks for future use. This time of year, trails are easily seen and followed to connect the dots between rubs and scrapes that were hot and fresh last November.
These same trails will help tell the observant hunter which direction the buck was traveling and possibly even where he was headed to or from. Following well-worn trails will likely lead you to bedding or feeding areas which is definitely important information to have when picking that perfect ambush spot for next season.
Another bonus to scouting this time of year is in most areas the ground is soft and moist, or even snow covered at times, which means tracking deer is considerably easier than in the hard dry leaf covered fall. A watchful eye can easily pick out a big set of deer tracks and big tracks often belong to big deer, big deer often have big racks, and that is something hunters really like to see come deer season.
If you spend enough time scouting this time of year you might even find a shed antler off one of the bucks you were after last season. Finding a shed antler not only gives you proof that the big deer was everything you hoped he was, it, also, tells you that he made it through the season and will be there to be hunted come fall.
One big difference between post season scouting and pre-season scouting is you don’t need to worry too much about spooking deer out of the area you are hunting. This time of year, deer have generally settled down from the pressures of hunting season and will tolerate a little intrusion without completely leaving the area.
If you happen to bump into that buck you were after you might get a chance to have a good look at him. You can, also, take the opportunity to check out his tracks and, hopefully, pick out his tracks out on the next muddy trail you cross. This will give you a better idea of where his travels take him.
So, while you wanted to minimize time romping around the woods last fall during fully engaged hunt mode, now is the time to get out and explore your hunting area. Walk across that next ridge, or follow that trail around the bend or through the thickets. See what the woods have to tell and learn from it.
All of this information should go into the memory banks to be processed over the long off season. Use the information to pick out spots for tree stands or hunting blinds, or even trail cameras this summer to narrow down where that buck is calling home.
Another wise old adage is “Fortune favors the prepared,” there is no better way to prepare than to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and pick up every detail left behind from the past season.
— Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor Columnist for Civitas Media. He can be reached at [email protected]