Best Time To Scout For Deer and New Hunting Spots
In March of 2005 I did something I never did before.
I went scouting for deer sign to find a new hunting spot for the following Fall. The snow had just melted and all the deer sign from last year’s rut was still easy to see on the ground since the new green-up had not yet started. I found some deer beds in a thick area just outside of an industrial park. It was on the edge of a dense 20 acre autumn olive patch that was tough to move through even with no vegetation growing yet, and worse yet in the summer.
I found a well used deer trail going through matted down swamp grass due to the snow, between 2 doe bedding areas under groups of autumn olive bushes. There was only one tree in the area big enough for me to hunt from with my treesaddle.
It took me 3 hours to completely get it ready to hunt next Fall. Cutting a couple shooting lanes and blazing an access trail through the autumn olives and leaving a few reflective tacks along the route to get me back in there 7 months later without getting turned around in the dark, was some of the hardest work I ever did while scouting for deer.
I told myself I was not going to hunt this spot until the seeking phase of the rut no matter what. This spot was not a route going from bedding to food, so early season was not an option. This was inside a bedding area so I probably only had one chance after which that spot would be ruined the rest of that year. (We’re talking mature bucks in MI… not their east-going cousins in IA.)
All I needed was a north wind. On Oct 27 the wind was NW. Close enough…I’m going in.
At 2:30pm I crawled on my hands and knees through my access trail because the summer growth almost completely closed it up. I would have never found my tree in the dark.
There’s no way I could have taken a hang-on or climbing treestand with me through that stuff. I would have alerted every deer on the property with the noise.
When I finally got to my tree, all I had to do was put in the bottom 5 steps, and start climbing with my treesaddle which I was already wearing.
Once I settled in, my anticipation was very high because I knew I had done everything right and according to plan so far.
Just before 5pm I saw a mature buck coming out of the bedding area to the west and moving through the now tall swamp grass to the other bedding area. It was a chip shot with my bow at 12 yards and he only went 40 yards. It was so thick I couldn’t see him go down, but I heard him thrashing.
The first mature buck of my life, and it’s only because I did my scouting and prep work in March and thanks to John Eberhart for writing about the best time to scout for deer in his book.
Here’s the reasons why this would have never happened had I not scouted this area in March or early April:
- If I waited until after greenup, I would never have seen the obvious no-brainer deer beds and deer trail.
- I would have never attempted to enter that spot with the heavy vegetation and thorns on those autumn olives.
- There’s no way I would have gone in there in the heat of summer and with skeeters sucking me dry.
- If I waited until a cool day in September or October, the vegetation is still up, and I could have boogered up the area for mature bucks so close to the hunting season and turned it into any other sanctuary in MI that has been compromised for mature bucks to feel safe from the army of MI hunters.