These 3 late season scouting tactics will get you ready for next season.
As deer season nears to a close several hunters are packing it in for the winter months. They might try harvesting one or two more does for the freezer or try for that elusive giant that seems to be skirting daylight hours. Whatever the case may be, there are late season scouting tactics that could prove helpful for next year’s season.
Seek Out Bedding
A tactic that could make the entire difference in your deer season next year is locating bedding areas. Because much of the flora has lost its spring density deer are more limited to where they can bed – unless you created several bedding areas by hinge cutting in the off season. However, knowing where these bedding areas are could be dynamite for the rut, especially doe bedding areas. Additionally, this knowledge of bedding areas will provide a head start for locating buck movement during the late season next year.
Know the Food
Depending on the crop year depends on where whitetails congregate throughout the season. If orchards are present on your land then that might be the early season food of choice. If you planted clover then deer might prefer that throughout the summer and early fall. There are so many options it really takes knowing what your deer herd prefers. Also identifying what’s naturally growing on your hunting parcel will you give an idea of what deer eat on a day-to-day basis.
This year in southern Virginia we had a large white oak acorn crop. Deer, especially mature bucks, did not need to move as much because the acorns were literally feet from their bed. The hard part was figuring out which bed they were in. The catch 22 was that a neighboring property timbered several acres three years ago, and just this year the secondary succession was perfect for deer bedding. Needless to say it was quite the chess match.
However, if you don’t have a bumper acorn crop where are the deer focusing their feeding movements? Is it a cut corn field? Could it be alfalfa or brassica? It could be any or all of these. What’s pertinent is that you find what the deer are feeding on in your region. Up until this point this season, deer still are not feeding on the brassica which they have enjoyed in the past three years. It might just take another month or so before they shift to this. Unfortunately, it might be a month too late. Know what your deer feed on when, and it could be the difference of harvesting or not harvesting a mature buck this winter.
Find the Travel Routes
Late season can be tough because many deer become nocturnal and wait in staging areas until it gets dark. Find these staging areas, hang a stand, make sure the wind is in your favor and wait. I’ve witnessed deer hold up right inside a wood line until dark. I’m sure many of you have witnessed this as well. The reason is because deer have been pressured by hunters all year and are more wary of predators.
Simultaneously, you can begin looking at these funnels and pinch points for clues to next year’s season. Observe where these deer are moving and ask yourself, “why are the deer being funneled this way?” Is there a terrain feature? Is it the wind? Are there drainages that are impossible for the deer to cross? Search these out and take advantage of where it forces the deer. Sometimes in the winter it can be easier to identify these funnels, drainages and crossings because the leaves have fallen and line of sight is clearer.
Whatever your goals are for late season hunting, make sure to take every advantage to scout for the next year as well.It could be the difference.