Pre-Season Scouting in the Winter

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For years, I did my pre-season scouting in the spring of the year.  It was not until recently that I found that this is not the best time.  The best time to scout an area is in the winter months soon after deer season has ended.
Consider in the spring, the vegetation is new and growing.  Trails that were worn by the deer are likely to be overgrown and masked by the new vegetation.  In the winter, right after the deer season has ended, the trails will be fresh and well-worn making it easier to detect them and pattern the deer. 
Patterning the deer right after the season has ended will give you a better sense of their movements during the season as opposed to the spring which may not represent their hunting season movements.  You may be able to detect their hiding places in the winter by following their trails that would be too overgrown in the spring to follow.
In Kansas, we have an extended season that lasts until January so that means scouting in February.  February is ideal because you can kill two birds with one stone.  Not only will you be able to scout for the deer by finding their travel paths, but you can also shed hunt. 
Shed hunting is fun and makes scouting more interesting. And, besides finding a nice trophy, you will learn something about the deer in that area.  One you will know they made it through the hunting season and two, you will know the quality of the deer in the area.
Use the spring and early summer to set your stand, but do your scouting in the winter.  Not only will it be more reliable, you also do not have to contend with the bugs and poison ivy.


ManOfTheFall's picture

I never really thought of it

I never really thought of it that way. I was like that too. I may not be able to do that this year , but starting next year I will definitely be doing that. For now it's scouting, rearranging, and hanging stands all at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

groovy mike's picture

Post season is the time!

In the post season rubs and scrapes have some of the same benefits, but I always wonder if the buck who made them was killed late in the season.  Sheds tell you that he made it through hunting season!

When you are walking around your hunting area with snow on the ground, you are literally learning with every step you take.  You learn where animals feed from their pawing through the snow to reach browse or mast, and you learn where they bed. The tracks tell you not only where the animals have been but how many have passed and how frequently they do so.  They tell you which direction they travel and whether different species use the same paths or different ones.   The tracks in the snow can tell you what paths get used the most frequently and where those trails converge you will either discover the ideal ambush point for next season.   Besides learning where animals feed and sleep and the travel routes between sleeping and eating, you learn where the animals do NOT go.  If there are no tracks, there has been no traffic since the snow fell.  If you can put all the clues together you will definitely be in a better situation to find those bucks that make it through the winter to next year!

Post season "scouting" really pays off helping to locate deer for next season.  

jim boyd's picture

I agree 100% - there are

I agree 100% - there are several additional benefits... it is a lot less hot... and you get to "see" what the woods look like in late fall and winter condition - when all or most of the leaves are off of the tres.

I will use January and February for scouting and come March, I will be on the tractor working on the plots and also greeting turkey season mid month....

I was on a new lease this year and I hung my stands in mid spring - when I came back to hunt them in august, some were so grown up I could hardly find them much less see anything from the stand once you got up there.

I have a new lease for 2011 also - season ends on 1 JAN and that is when I take posession of the proerty - I am immediately going to put some corn out (very legal) and place some trail cameras on the food piles to try to determine which bucks made it through the season unscathed...

I work a lot with GoogleEarth and will use my GPS to walk and record the trails... and import them into GE - and also mark all of the rubs and scrapes I find to see if that will give me a head start on 2100...

Great tip!

cscott711's picture

Agreed.  Leave spring and

Agreed.  Leave spring and summer for habitat improvements.  Doing your scouting soon after the season is closed is your best bet to pattern deer and understand their movements for the next year.  It also allows you to be more effective when doing the previously mentioned habitat improvements later that year.