Why You Should Be Post-Season Scouting Right Now

post-season scouting deer

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No Rest For The Weary [Hunter]

The end of deer season has come for most of the Southeast, but with it has also come the beginning of the next. Yes . . . I’m tired too. A few weeks of rest doesn’t quite make up for all the 4AMs I put in during the Fall, so it would be easy to sit around and enjoy the spoils of my filled tags until at least mid-Summer. But last year’s tags can’t be reused. I’ll be using brand new tags on completely different deer, and the only way to use those tags is to successfully hunt those deer. This may seem elementary, but to illustrate the importance of post-season scouting, you have to break it down this way. New deer, new beds, new tactics. Granted, the overall scheme behind your strategy may cross over from year to year, but it’s the details that put deer on the ground. And you’ll need all the details to find success in each stage of the season. So, don’t wait to start gathering them up.

Details Take Time

It’s a rare occurrence to find everything you need to know about a location in just one visit. Sure, you may find scrapes, but are they primary scrapes? You may find a couple beds, but are they Summer beds or Fall beds? How often are they used? Not only does it take a lot of time to scout with actual boots on the ground, but our brains often need even more time to process what we saw. It may take a solid week before something you saw finally clicks. Then, you’ll begin to ask better questions, necessitating another trip. And as your brain plays catch-up again, you’ll begin building a more complete picture of what’s going on in that piece of the woods. And as the pieces start to fit together, your strategy for next season will start to form. Around food. Around terrain. Around prevailing winds. Around does. Around pressure. All this takes time, and you have plenty of it right now. You won’t in June. Life happens, vacation happens, work always happens. And as the season draws near, it’ll be too late to go strolling through the woods, bumping bucks and leaving scent everywhere. No, I’m not saying you can’t successfully scout during the season. Sometimes you have to, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t. The season brings enough pressure as it is, especially during the Rut.

Find Rut Hotspots

Ah the Rut. The most magical time of year. It’s the only time of year when bucks of all age classes actively tell you exactly where they are. If you find a rub line from this past season that leads to a nice bedding area, that’s good sign that should be noted. If you find multiple rub lines from multiple seasons that lead to a bedding area, however, pick out a tree for November. These are the things you need to start looking for now. Formulating a plan around annually-active rubs and scrapes now is a much faster route to success than chasing sign as it pops up in October. And keep in mind that buck sign isn’t the only sign to look out for. Food is another. Come November, bucks may not be thinking about food much, but the does will be, which means the bucks won’t be far behind. A lot of food sources from late October and Early November can’t be found now, but you know what can? Oaks. But not just any oaks. Not even white oaks. We’re looking for secluded white oaks, especially those with security cover nearby. That’s a food source worth noting, so you can go back when the time is right to check the acorn yield. As pressure from both hunters and bucks increases during the Rut, does will seek refuge off the beaten path, so it’s good to be aware of hidden food sources like that. And speaking of pressure and food, they run the show come late-season.

Finish Strong

No one likes to eat tag soup, but it’s not so bad having one tag remaining if you’ve got a freezer full of meat and months’ worth of good memories. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we’re staring at every tag we started with, and a few late-season sits are all we have left. Well, if you’ve got at least a few late-seasons under your belt, you know just how hard it can be to tag a deer during that time of year, especially a buck worth a taxidermy bill. There are times when herds will shift, and their food sources, travel routes and bedding will need to be relocated, but relocating a herd in the late-season can be an extremely hard task to accomplish, particularly in areas lacking in good late-season food sources and bedding. The best course of action is to go ahead and think through where you’ll be hunting this coming late-season. Will it be a property you have years of experience with, or new land that’s going to come with a learning curve? Will it be public or private? If it’s private land you’ve hunted for years and you’re well aware of the late-season food sources and bedding, you may not need to go put your eyes on deer right now. However, if your situation is any different than that, not looking for deer and fresh sign right now could cost you a late-season tag. 

Not sure where the deer went after the Rut died down? That’s ok. That’s why you’re putting in the work now. Bumping deer off of food and out of beds this time of year won’t negatively affect your upcoming season. It can only help, giving you valuable intel pertaining to where the pressure and food moved the deer.  Once you find them and come up with a good late-season game plan – taking into account entry/exit, wind, thermals, tree selection, etc. – back out and stay out until the time is right. You’ll be glad you did.

Just Go

There are a million reasons to stay out of the woods right now, and the season just ended so the next seems so far away. But you know as well as I do that the fast pace of modern life seems to make the months fly by, and soon enough, you’ll find yourself getting your gear ready for opening day. So, don’t let this valuable time of year slip by. Get out there and find some deer. And if you haven’t read it, check out the book below. It’s one of the most valuable resources a bowhunter can have. If you’re not familiar with John Eberhart, he was hunting out of a saddle decades before it was cool, and he details his tried-and-true methods for preparing every month of the year in Precision Bowhunting: A Year-Round Approach To Taking Mature Whitetails. It helped me a great deal in understanding the importance of getting out there early, and just how much it can impact your success in every stage of the season. Use the link below to buy. It’s worth every penny.




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