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A heavily worn deer trail in a hardwood bottom

A heavily worn deer trail in a hardwood bottom

It doesn’t matter where you hunt. It doesn’t matter what you hunt. It doesn’t even matter when you hunt. You are severely limiting your hunting experiences by not sufficiently scouting your property. If you are like me, time seems to pass by quickly and before I know it, it’s time to hunt and I haven’t scouted my land the way I intended. Here are a few ways to go about a last-minute scouting trip and a few things to keep in mind when doing so.

The first thing I would recommend is to use a GPS, a tablet, or even your smart phone and download a mapping app that will provide you with the most up-to-date maps of your property. By checking out an aerial map you can really get a feel for what areas are the most active on your property. Even if you have hunted your property for many years, there is always something to be learned by piecing together aerial maps and your hunting experiences. Also, you can pick out a few areas you feel are wildlife hotspots or the easiest to access and check them out first. This will limit your excursions through the woods spooking every creature with in a country mile.

Be sure to make notes of what places you feel are the bedding areas or staging areas. A staging area is a place that deer usually mill around in between their beds and their feeding areas. Many times a weary old buck will wait until darkness to venture out from the staging area into the primary feeding area, or will just appear right at dark. I’m sure this sounds familiar. The same can be done for wild turkey. Turkeys have roost sites and gobblers have strut zones. They roost at night and if you know where they are roosting at, you can set up within range the following morning. They also have strut zones; particular areas they strut in that maximizes their exposure to hens. Just because it’s August doesn’t mean you can’t also find a roost site and file that away for next April. Also, keep in mind water sources, any nearby agricultural crops, and any sort of hard or soft mast that attracts wildlife in the early fall.

Keep in mind the seasons you are capable of hunting. While attending NCSU a couple of years back, I was rarely able to hunt in October or early November. In other words, I missed the rut entirely in my area. However, I did hunt during Thanksgiving break and the last part of December when the semester was over. I focused my attention on the areas that would benefit me the most during the time period I could actually hunt. The majority of the largest bucks I harvested for four years was during December. Obviously, being able to hunt more was a factor but I also had my areas figured out and knew what the deer were going to be doing during that time. My brother on the other hand is able to hunt more during the early season before the time changes. His scouting is skewed more towards early season food sources and patterning bucks in a bed-to-feed pattern. Both techniques work like a charm.

Not having the time to thoroughly scout your property is not an excuse for having a lackluster hunting season. Take a few minutes to review a map or two and then take off with those particular places in mind. I’m sure it will benefit you in the long run and hopefully you will have your best season ever. Lastly, be sure to send a photo to me when you tag that buck you’ve been after, or that giant black bear roaming your property!

Andrew Walters