Hunting, scouting or both?

Tom VeneskyWhen I joined my friend Dave Smith and his red tick hound, Jake, for a night of old-fashioned coon hunting last week, I found myself scanning the trees for masked bandits and the ground for something else.

We hunted a hollow that runs perpendicular to an expanse of farm fields. A small stream split the hollow and strips of corn fields abutted the woods – giving the racoons a travel corridor and food source all in one place.

Throw in the ancient oaks that lined the edge of the field, and this was a coon hunter’s heaven.

But this hollow was a place I was also very familiar with because of the years I spent hunting turkeys and deer in the fields and woods.

Considering the fall turkey season was a week away and I would likely spend a day or two here hunting deer in the rifle season, raccoons weren't the only thing on my mind.

So while Dave and I walked along the small stream tracking Jake on the GPS, I also kept an eye on the ground looking for turkey scratchings and deer sign.

There was plenty.

When my light wasn’t shining in the tree tops, I swept the ground looking for evidence of deer and turkeys.  An old logging road yielded a couple active deer scrapes, complete with tracks in the fresh dirt and droppings scattered nearby.

And under a stand of oaks we found turkey scratchings that were a day or two old.

Even when Jake leaned up against a hemlock tree and vigorously barked at a raccoon he chased into the canopy, I did a brief scan with the light and found turkey droppings on the ground, indicating they had been roosting here.

Sure, the purpose of the trip that night was chasing raccoons, but I also parlayed my time in the woods as a scouting trip for the upcoming seasons. The turkey sign and deer scrapes mean a return trip to the hollow is warranted.

Whenever I hunt, I often find myself scouting as well for the next season. A late-October coon hunt is also a time to scout for the fall turkey and rifle deer seasons. A day hunting turkeys in November is also a great time to keep an eye out for bear sign and furbearer activity.

After all, it won't be long before bear season rolls around as will the peak of the fall trapping season.

And when I do hit the woods for bears, I'll also watch for buck rubs, deer trails and bedding areas to help me pinpoint potential hotspots for the rifle deer season.

I feel as though I never get enough time in the woods, so those days that I do get out I make every minute count. There's no better way to do that then with a little multi-tasking –hunting and scouting at the same time. It can make for a successful day for not only the present, but the near future as well. 

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