Benefits of Late-Winter Scouting

I enjoy scouting new areas the most during late February and March. By this time of the year, the deer are settled down from hunting season pressure and everything is pretty much back to normal.

I often see big bucks return to the same areas they left because of heavy hunting pressure. Always keep in mind that big bucks are loners and do not mind being by themselves most of the year. They love to bed where no hunter ever expects to find a deer.

One year, I was scouting in early March and there was a snow on the ground. A very large set of deer tracks caught my attention. The tracks headed towards an area the deer usually do not frequent in this particular woods.

Curious to see where the deer went, I followed the tracks for about a quarter of a mile to a blacktop road.  On the other side of the road was a small triangle of large briar bushes and trees, making the area very thick for winter.

Tracks on the other side of the road took me to one of this deer’s secretive bedding areas. The small triangle of woods used to be someone’s property. I found an old foundation of a house and five or six apple trees about eighty yards from the foundation. The deer walked right through this area and headed straight for a very large area of briars.

As I approached the briars, a deer jumped up and took off to my right. A small clearing through the briars enabled me to see one of the largest six-pointers I have ever seen.

After the buck passed from sight, I took a real serious look around and discovered this deer apparently spent a considerable amount time in this
area. There were rubs on trees five and six inches in diameter. The buck had everything right in one little spot. There were apple trees, honeysuckle and plenty of wild rose for him to feed on, plus heavy cover in which to bed.

I picked out a tree with a small clearing next to it for a possible tree stand for next fall.

When next fall arrived, I was extremely careful when entering his area to scout before hunting season. I waited for a rainy day and slipped into the area for a look in the vicinity of the tree I picked last winter for a possible tree stand.

One quick glance and I knew this was a perfect spot. The buck already had many of the trees torn up and was feeding on the apples on the ground. On opening day of archery season, I hunted all day in my stand and only saw a doe with two fawns.

The second and third day I hunted another area and saw quite a few deer.

On the fourth day, I returned to my stand where the big six-pointer lived. After a quiet three and one-half hours, I heard some branches break to my right.

After a few minutes, which seemed like a half-hour, a deer reached the clearing near my stand. It was that beautiful six-pointer I saw last winter and his rack looked exactly the same.

When he stepped into the opening, he stopped as if he sensed something was wrong, but he could not determine what it was or where it was.

After pausing for a few seconds, he turned to walk back into the cover. Before he reached the heavy cover, I put an arrow through his chest. The impact knocked him to his knees, but he jumped up and ran off.

I remained in my tree stand for about fifteen minutes and then got down to find my trophy. Following an easy blood trail, I walked up on him about fifty yards away.

The rack had a beautiful spread of twenty-two inches and the deer field dressed at just under 200 pounds.

You can read about or talk to any serious deer hunter who scores on a regular basis with big bucks and I will guarantee you they spend many hours in the woods during late winter and early spring. It always amazes me how so many deer hunters, when talking about a person who is successful, always say, “Boy, that guy is so lucky; he always shoots big bucks.”

Believe me, serious deer hunters who score regularly certainly do not depend on luck. They depend upon their knowledge of deer behavior and hunting skills.

There are no shortcuts. You must spend as many hours as possible in the woods scouting and studying deer behavior. When hunting season opens, you should already have your game plan made out regarding how, where and when you plan to ambush that monster buck.

Serious deer hunters greatly admire and respect a trophy buck’s  intelligence. Being totally prepared is absolutely a must.

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