When summer starts to wind down, my favorite time of year is just starting to winded up….FALL! This means pre season deer scouting for me. Not only does this mark the beginning of the hunting season, this means time to brush up on hunting exercises; physical and mental.
Gear. Essential to any outdoors men and woman is the equipment that aids in success. I suppose you could dig a gold mine with a table spoon, but the right equipment coupled with some sound knowledge makes success more probable and attainable. The same concept goes for scouting for deer.
Scouting Fundamentals – Be Strategic
Wouldn’ t it be great if we could just shift from being out of shape to being right able to power up the steepest mountains? Or just hike up to any vantage point and spot that trophy buck right off the bat? that’s Fantasy land!
There are hundreds of ways for hunters and outdoors men alike to make pre season scouting equatable, but it all starts with making the decision to get outdoors. A simple strategic approach will help from this point to successfully finding and spotting game.
- The Right Area: This is the first step in my process. Nailing Down where to go is essential. Don’t get hung up on which particular drainage, or prominent ridge you need to be on, just get an idea of the general area you will be scouting out.
- Recon: Study out the area. A great tool for this is Google Earth. With that said, be careful. Although the satellite imagery is great, it doesn’t always tell the real story for the terrain at hand. Google Earth or a paper map will help you start to get the idea of what resources you have to work with, timber, streams, bluffs, and such.
- Feet on the Ground: Physically getting out there is the #1 way to get and idea of what the deer are doing. The more time that is spent in deer country the better we will understand how they are moving from beds to water to grazing. This also provides vital cardio preparation, which is what I seem to need more and more of each year!
- Timing: Being in the right place at the right time is a huge part of hunting and pursuing game in general. It simplifies to putting in the time. However, picking appropriate times for be out scouting and spotting can be critical to successfully engaging deer. Mornings and evenings are prime time for finding deer out on open mountain sides, whereas mid-afternoon is prime for spotting deer in their beds.
Gear Up – Optics Time
Spotting a buck early in the fall, velvet still on, ignites my passion for the outdoors. What ‘s amazing is that this happens as a result of the fundamentals plus the right gear, specifically
optics. There isn’t a single individual time during the fall that I use my optics more than when I am in scouting mode. This is when I glue my eyes to them.
Without going into brand and style detail, a high quality pair of binoculars and spotting scope will pay dividends in regard to spending multiple hours glassing. With that, I’m not going to review which and what are best here, but rather how to put these tools to work.
Although it’s nice to have binoculars and a spotting scope along, either one on its own would work with these techniques.
- The spot: Find a good vantage point that will allow a lot of terrain to be viewed. Having a good variety of habitats such as timber, bushy side hills, slides and such will allow for optimism opportunity to catch deer out and about.
- Look around: Sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose! Before you put your binos or scope to your eyes I suggest just a brief scan of your surroundings.
- Start close: Start close and work outwards. Sometime working a grid type pattern between land marks can help with glassing large areas.
- Be Patient: Time! Scouting and hunting is all about time. Checking back over an area that was just glassed over will often produce a deer that just walk out from behind a tree or rock. Just because the first round wasn’t successful doesn’t mean the next ten rounds won’t be as well. If it’s a good spot put in the time.
- Focus: Deer are masters of blending in. So many times I have glassed a side hill and not seen anything and had a buddy say, there’s one! When there seems to be nothing there, in under the trees and within the brush, and it will surprise you how often there is a concealed deer bedded down.
- Make a note: If transitioning from binoculars to a spotting scope make a mental note of some stand out features, a rock, goofy looking tree, something near where the deer is so you are able to acquire it again quickly.
Practice Like You Play
Some good advice I once received was “Practice Like You Play”! This is great advice for any preseason activities. I have implemented this logic when it comes to scouting and particularly spotting mule deer.
Being stealthily working into an area where you have done some homework on, and then executing good spotting technique can improve any pre-hunt and “real” time hunt in huge ways. Of course one can rely on luck, and some seem to have luck constantly on their side, but as you prefect and add to these techniques you’ll start to make your own luck!
Have a great one, and get out and enjoy our amazing outdoors.