Scouting: the Actual Hunt

This may seem ridiculous, but in preparation for whitetail (buck) hunting I scout up to 31 times per year.

In spring just before leaves begin sprouting I scout 2–3 days, mainly searching for fresh mature-buck-sized tracks 3-1/2 inches or more in length and fresh mature-buck-sized droppings ¾-inch or more in length to determine where bucks 3-1/2 years of age or older are living in my hunting area, making later scouting easier. At this time I also search for browse areas (made evident by lots of ragged white tips on branches of woody shrubs and saplings) where my deer will begin feeding beginning the second week in November.

At least 2–3 weeks before a hunting season, I scout during one or two 3–4 day periods, mainly to check for evidences of feeding in graze areas (current grassy and acorn feeding areas), select and minimally prepare, if necessary, five stand sites and approach trails for the first 2-1/2 days of the hunting season (primarily around feeding areas with access from two wind directions) and check cruise trails, used beginning day three of the hunting season to search for very fresh buck signs (next stand sites).

Beginning on day three of a hunting season, until I take a buck I scout non-stop four times per day: 1) on the way to an intended stand site in the morning, sometimes changing stand sites upon discovering new fresh deer signs, 2) on the way back to camp via cruise trails between 11 AM and noon (most important), 3) on the way to a stand site in the afternoon and 4) on the way back to camp after dusk in the evening.

The rest of the time I hunt: sitting on my backpacked stool, using new (previously unused) ground level stand sites almost every half day and occasionally watching unsuspecting antlerless deer (great decoys), yearling bucks and 2-1/2 year-old bucks (sometimes taking one) while waiting for a big buck to appear, which generally happens sooner or later.

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