By Josh Boyd
As deer seasons across the nation begin to draw to a close, the majority of hunters will pack up their trail cameras, store their climbing stands, and hang up much of their hunting apparel for a long idle period.
Thoughts begin to turn to a multitude of additional outdoor pursuits such as waterfowl hunting, ice fishing, and trapping, as deer season becomes but a memory of the passing season.
While any one of these worthy pursuits will indeed scratch an outdoorsman’s insatiable itch to be afield, many deer hunters fail to give due consideration to the value of remaining diligent in their efforts even after season’s final sunset has passed from view.
Even in the absence of an open season, we are never left void of the opportunity to study into the curious inner workings of a whitetail’s world.
Postseason scouting can prove to be of immense value to those that carry on with a purpose. By spending regular time becoming familiar with the subtle nuances of how the deer in the area that you hunt interact with their environment, you are better able to refine your strategy for the following fall.
However, much of your success when scouting during the late winter and early spring months comes down to your ability to do so with a purpose, as opposed to just going through the motions.
Postseason scouting can be closely compared to working a puzzle that when solved, reveals a much bigger picture. Your job is to form a multitude of clues, garnered by your scouting efforts, into a far deeper understanding of the daily habits of deer on a given property.
Find The Bedroom
It goes without saying that deer typically bed in areas of dense cover. However, this presents an immense roadblock for those who wish to seek out precise bedding locations during the season.
Much of the kind of dense cover that is utilized by deer for bedding is avoided by hunters during the fall, due in large part to the high probability of pressuring deer when attempting to trek through such a site.
The months directly following deer season are ideal for scouring thickets, dense wood lots, and overgrown pasture ground for buck and doe beds, as pressure imparted on deer during this time of the year is long forgotten by the start of fall archery seasons.
By locating bedding areas, you are better able to understand how deer in a given area are relating to their habitat. These bedding areas usually feature well-worn trails leading to and from favored food sources and watering holes that will present you with greater insight into daily deer movements, thereby assisting you when attempting to hunt with the highest degree of efficiency.
Pinpoint Deer Trails
Another worthwhile aspect of postseason scouting is that of studying any deer trails in their entirety. During season, it is difficult to traverse these trails without pushing deer along the way. However, upon season’s conclusion, deer trails can be walked and mapped in a way that often reveals new information that can be utilized when hunting the following fall.
Trails, especially those between bedding and feeding areas, are seldom singular in nature, with a number of feeder trails branching from primary routes being relatively common.
Although the location of primary food sources might already be common knowledge, a thorough investigation of secondary trails will often reveal locations frequented by deer within the area that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.
The discovery of these secondary routes can often yield valuable clues as to where deer can be found when their sudden absence is noted on the trail camera.
Contrary to what is perceived, deer seldom abandon their home ranges. Instead, deer will often shift their movements to mirror a change in food availability. Working knowledge of deer trails within an area allows you to refocus your efforts as needed.
Rut Sign Never Loses Relevance
The weeks and months directly following the conclusion of the season are also of much value when seeking out the presence of rut sign. Now, you might begin to question what role scrapes and rubs from the previous November play when attempting to decipher deer movement.
Deer typically make scrapes and rubs in similar areas from year to year; with some scrape lines even being reopened at identical sites from the year before. The knowledge of such sites can be of immense value, as it affords you the ability to revisit these locations in anticipation of the pre-rut the following fall.
The discovery of rut sign during postseason scouting is also of importance because such sign is often strategically placed in high deer traffic areas. While it is true that at times a buck will indiscriminately mark particular areas, the presence of an abundance of scrapes and rubs often gives away the location of key pinch points and travel corridors.
Putting Together The Pieces
By spending a couple of afternoons combing over the properties that you hunt, you can often uncover a myriad of signs that will benefit your deer hunting endeavors for years to come. With each discovery, your ability to efficiently hunt a property grows. As you set in your stands the following fall, watching as a memorable hunt unfolds before you, you will certainly find a great appreciation for the efforts that you have put in.