How to Scout Deer – Finding Deer Trails FAST!

deer Scouting

Whitetail deer hunting is one of the most popular sports in the United States. You could read magazine after magazine and watch videos over and over that give you a wide variety of deer hunting tips, but the best way to track and hunt these elusive creatures is by applying all of this information in practical settings, namely, the woods. Scouting for deer only takes a few hours of your time and if you know what to look for and pay attention to the signs that are all around you, you’ll be able to find the best places to hunt deer. Scouting should be done all year round and whenever you get the opportunity to during hunting season.

If you like to hunt into the morning and evening only, you should always scout for deer sign when you are leaving your stand and walking to your vehicle in the morning and the same in the late afternoon when you are returning. You’ll be able to get an idea of what type of movement the deer you have scouted out is making when you’re not around. This will also help you decide whether or not you need to change your hunting position.

The more mankind moves into the habitat that is occupied by the whitetail deer, the more they seem to adapt and breed. There are a lot of world record typical and non-typical bucks to be had and many of these bucks have remained elusive enough to simply lie down and let old age take them. That means that hunters today have to become as crafty as the deer they are hunting. It’s an achievement to be able to take one of those trophy bucks and more and more hunters are taking into consideration all of the new deer hunting tips that is being offered.

How to Scout Deer

You have to be willing to scout the woods for all of the deer signs you can in order to find their home range and place your hunting stand in the best place possible. Too many hunters wait until deer season is almost upon them in order to scout. You cannot wait that long. You have to scout out your spot and place your stand in a well-concealed area so that all of your movements are well hidden. You also have to be able to shoot in any direction. In addition to placement, you need to make sure your scent is concealed, so staying upwind is advised. Here are some deer hunting tips that can help you pick the perfect spot for you to bag that trophy buck that you’ve always wanted.

1. Know Where Deer Travel

deer trails

Deer tend to be creatures of habit and they will commonly use the same trails over and over again to go from the area in which they feed to the area in which bed year after year as long as they are not being pressured by hunters. They will always take the path of least resistance that provides them with the most cover.

Deer trails can be separated into two levels:

  1. day trails and night trails. When you find a well-used trail, you need to decide which type it is.
  2. A night trail will lead to open spaces such as fields. The bucks will always travel trails that have more cover than the ones used by the does.

Snowfall is very helpful in spotting deer trails and they will also follow creek beds, which make great escape routes.

1. Whitetail deer will follow the creek bottoms that form shallow valleys with flat land along the banks. Creeks will have everything a deer needs to survive and they are the best places to check at all hours of the day. Pay special attention to forks in the creek as they tend to be hot spots for both bucks and does. Brushy areas and depressions are also good spots for deer to lie in wait.

2. Areas that are known as funnels – or bottlenecks – are good and bad depending on what is around them. Deer tend to run through these funnels but they will be keenly alert when they do. If you intend to use one of these funnel areas in your hunting, you need to make sure that you are well hidden and invisible, but still able to shoot from any direction. About 20 yards from the funnel break is the perfect place to set your stand, giving you a great view of the trail that leads up the break wall. Try to clear the shooting lane a little bit, but not so much that you will reveal yourself.

3. You are also going to want to scout out how a deer moves along open spaces such as fenced in fields.

  • Walk around the fields to see where the trails are the heaviest, or where the deer tend to jump the fences. If the fence is barbed wire, you may find deer hair stuck on them, indicating crossing points.
  • The next thing you need to do is determine where the crossing points are and set up your blind near this travel corridor. Deer are leery of open areas, so if you are going to try and take down your prize in an open field, try to do it at dawn or dusk when they are more likely to cross.

2. Rubs and Scrapes – Whitetail Deer Hunting

Buck Rubs

The presence of bucks is very evident in the rubs and scrapes that you find in their territory. While some rubs are made in the early fall when the bucks are rubbing the velvet from their antlers, others are made right before the rutting season when they are claiming their territory. Rubs are usually made at random, although sometimes deer will rub the same tree before and during the rut. Some deer hunting tips will tell you that the smaller the tree that is rubbed, the bigger the buck and vice versa, but no one has yet to prove this theory.

Forests that have a lot of hardwood trees that include pine and cedar, they will always use one of these types of trees to rub against. Rubs are very easy to spot in the woods and the numbers of rubs you find usually give a good indication of how many bucks there are that are located in the woods. Make sure you use the current year’s rubs as landmarks when setting up your stand. Last year’s marks will not give you a good read of the bucks in the area.

Scrapes, on the other hand, are a much better indication of how much deer activity is in the area and where you should set up your deer stand. Deer will reuse the scrape year after year and they can be found not only by the marks on the tree but also by the marks on the ground and the licking branch – the branch the deer scrapes above the tree. While many traveling bucks will make these marks, they always return to the same scrape. Knowing where these scrapes are during the entire year will help you find the best place to set up.

3. Clearing Your Shooting Lane

Once you have found the best spot to set up your deer stand or blind, you are going to want to clear out the shooting lanes around it. The best time to do this according to some hunting experts is during the winter and spring prior to the hunting season. It can also be done as late as two months prior to the seasons start. Make sure you bring a small pruning saw with you when you go to the site to clear out the debris that is in your way.

  • If you clear your shooting land in the winter, return to your spot in the late summer to fine-tune the lane and prune all of the new growth on the branches.
  • Leave yourself some cover, but not too much. You won’t have time later to cut shooting holes through the branches.
  • Always minimize your scent by wearing rubber boots and gloves and if you have to, use a scent cover-up. You do not want the forest denizens to know you are there.

More deer hunting tips: two weeks prior to the season opener, head to your blind or stand and clear out a few different paths to it.

4. Know What Your Deer Like to Eat

Knowing what your deer like to eat and what their feeding patterns are is part of a deer hunter’s success. Most deer prefer to feed someplace close to where they bed and in the fall they tend to bed down a few hundred yards from their food source. Soybeans, alfalfa, corn, clover, acorns, and apples are all foods that deer love. Their trails will typically lead to some of these sources, such as large stands of oak trees. As the food sources change through the course of the year, so will the travel routes and bedding areas. This is one of the reasons why hunters should scout all year round.

In addition to knowing those few particular foods that have been listed, hunters should remember that deer will eat food in a specific order of preference: sweet, bland, sour, and bitter. You should be aware of where these types of foods are also located. Deer also love salt and plants that are growing in fertilized dirt. These areas are rich with minerals that they crave in their diet. Keep a sharp eye out for any of these types of the area as well so that you can get the best of both worlds just like your deer.

5. Where they Sleep?

When whitetail deer hunting, knowing where your deer like to bed down is probably the hardest part of pinpointing a large deer herd. Sometimes walking a deer trail is the only way to find a bedding area, and you may actually run into one of these beautiful and elusive creatures as you do. Finding bedding in the winter is a bit easier because you can follow the deer’s tracks in and out of the area in which they sleep. Deer will bed in multiple areas and not just one, so don’t limit your search to the first place you discover.

Deer will look for places to bed down in that will give them the most concealment and coverage. Thick grass, brush piles, deadfalls, and natural mounds are all places in which they will settle down during the height of the day. Bucks will bed in places that allow them to look down on where the does are bedded and where they can watch out for predators. They tend to favor grassy patches and thickets in the middle of a field or close to a road. Since deer never sleep for long periods of time and are always aware of what is going on around them, you will want to place your blind or tree stand on the trail leading to and from the bedding area than right on top of it.

6. Watery Areas

Water is the other thing that deer like to keep close to their bedding area. Lakes, rivers, ponds, swamplands – even a puddle from a decent rainfall – are all places in which you find deer. These places tend to be the first and the last spot is stopped when traveling and rutting deer will frequent watering holes more often due to their natural breeding activities. Having your stand or blind near a watering hole could wind up being a good payoff for the patient hunter.

7. Deer Droppings

When whitetail deer hunting the deer’s feces are a good way to discover what your deer are currently feeding on. If the droppings are dark, moist, clumped pellets, they have probably been eating a diet high in apples and other soft food. Dry, lighter pellets indicate a diet high in acorns. Large and small droppings that are found fairly close together indicate a doe with her fawns, and a single pile of large droppings indicates a buck. Once you have an idea of what they are eating, you can then focus on the many feeding areas close by for more signs of heavy deer travel.

If you don’t remember any of these deer hunting tips when you are out whitetail deer hunting in the field, then remember one thing: keep your scent to the absolute minimum and you may still get that trophy buck.

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