Many whitetail hunters do the majority of their scouting during the off-season or just before start of the deer season. The knowledge gained during these times is essential in putting the pieces of the puzzle together in order to harvest a mature buck or a freezer filling doe during the fall, but sometimes the areas you’ve located before the season don't produce like you had hoped. In order to ensure success in this situation, you must incorporate some in-season scouting tactics.
For many years, I spent countless hours in the woods before the season trying to figure out feeding areas, bedding areas, and the travel corridors between the two. During some seasons, the information I gathered during this time would lead to some great stands during the following season. Other times, I would be left watching the action from a distance due to circumstances that I couldn't figure out. After a couple marginally successful seasons, I decided it was time to begin scouting year round. I quickly learned that aspects of the woods change from year to year. Oaks produce sporadically, crop fields rotate, or trees fall and block trails. Without doing some scouting during the season, some of these could go unnoticed and leave a hunter wondering what happened to all of the great sign he or she saw left behind from the past season.
When doing your in-season scouting, take the same scent free precautions you would take before preparing for a hunt and make sure to do it during mid day when whitetails aren't as likely to be on their feet. I prefer to do the majority of my scouting during the season after leaving the stand in the mornings. More than likely, you will know what the crops are on the property you are hunting, but it is often times easy to neglect neighboring properties. You won't be hunting over these food sources, but they can still impact the movement on the property you’re hunting. You may also be set up in a spot that was loaded with sign from the season before only to spend many wasted hours hoping for a deer to pass by. By doing some scouting, you may quickly learn of an obstruction on the trail leading into the area you are sitting in. Without doing some investigating, you could spend many more lonely hours in the spot, relocate to another area, or move the obstruction and hope the deer return to their prior movements.
I like to concentrate on finding food sources and bedding areas while doing my scouting. Most oak trees don't produce acorns year after year. What was a dynamite spot last year could be terrible this year because of the lack of food in the area. I’ve sat near oak trees that make the cool fall mornings sounds like its raining even though it's sunny. Deer after deer parade into the area. Just this past week I sat in a spot that was good for at least a dozen deer every sit last season, but saw zero deer that first morning. When I got down I did a little walking around and didn't see a single acorn on the ground nor in any of the oaks along the hillside. So I set off from there to find some acorns. I spent over an hour searching for an oak that was producing. Finally after walking many, many acres, I stumbled upon a hilltop with a handful of acorns on the ground. I marked it with my GPS and came in the next morning. Within the first 30 minutes of day light, I had two does for the freezer. Without scouting the day before, I would have never known about the spot, and by making sure I was scent free, I was able to walk through the area without leaving scent behind that would spook the deer the following morning.
In order to ensure your success this season, spend a little time doing some in season scouting during times deer aren't normally moving. We all know how important scouting is during the off-season, but sometimes the sign you see during these months doesn't always lead you to the right areas come fall. By taking the proper precautions, in season scouting can greatly increase your odds of filling your tags this fall.