Summer an important time for scouting whitetails

By Bob Fratzke, with Glenn Helgeland

This is only part of the year-round scouting you should be doing, but it is an important part.

Whitetails have different habits or patterns – in the spring, coming into summer, once the season begins, within the season, right after the season. Continual scouting is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. You know what’s in the area. That does a lot for your confidence, and ought to greatly help your shooting opportunities.

You will find with continual scouting that you will change your habits. You will find yourself continually looking for food sources and weather and cover and telling yourself that deer will do this or that, or won’t do it, and then you’ll go check. The whole thing gets to be a passion more than a game.

Now, in summer, everything is green, fully leafed and growing. Crops are up and, fortunately, the corn isn’t too high yet. This is the time you want to begin evaluating deer in the area you plan to hunt. Evaluate them from a distance and cover as much territory as you can. Don’t mess around in their habitat.

Crop rotation and growth are important.  Crop rotation will change from year to year, and it will have a definite effect on deer and their movement patterns. You need to take note of various crop locations if you’re going to hunt there the first week or so of season, because the deer will still be coming to those fields to feed.

Later, when the alfalfa or soybeans or corn are gone, you’ll be ready to shift with the deer. You can waste a lot of time and mess up what little hunting you will have if you spend much time searching for the deer every time they adjust to a changing food supply or foliage change.

When you know where the crops are and how/where/when deer move to them, you can change your stand location(s) correctly and immediately. One year of scouting won’t give you the best information on this because you won’t have information on the previous year and won’t be able to anticipate deer feeding movement changes. So, to get really specific, you need to work on cumulative notes and experiences, i.e. more than one year.

Crops are different. Deer like some better than others. Because I have the information from past seasons in my notes, I know that a cornfield, for instance, in one location will attract more deer than a cornfield in another location that isn’t too far away. You can learn the same thing, if you work at it.

Don’t wait until crops, especially corn, get too tall. By July 4th, bucks should have a good enough rack to let you know how they’re basically going to look in the fall, and you’d better be doing your looking now. Beans will be ok, but after this time corn generally is too tall and hides the deer. With daylight saving time, you can get out there with good light and do the necessary evaluating.

This works best with binoculars or a spotting scope from a pickup truck. If you will hunt on property where you must get permission to hunt, get permission to travel in certain places during scouting. If you’re on your own land, the principles are the same but you most likely won’t need to cover as much territory.

You can travel farm roads and field paths (with permission). You won’t tear up the farmer’s fields, which is a point in your favor, and you won’t drive in those areas on rainy days for the same reason. Tell the farmer when you’ll be there, so he won’t wonder about the vehicle moving around the back of his land. If something does happen to his field, you’re going to get the blame for it unless he knows for certain that it wasn’t you who did the damage.

If the crops aren’t too high, you can cover at least twice the territory in the evening just by driving and looking, stopping to glass animals when you see them. They will be in their summer movement patterns. You aren’t going to disturb them much, if at all. They might move back into the woods, but they usually will be back out five to 10 minutes later and resume feeding.

The main thing is to cover enough area to know where you have a given amount of good bucks, so you will know where to hunt.

Once the corn gets too high, it covers a good 50 percent of my general hunting area.  Corn is natural habitat for deer. They live in it more than we think they do.

Sometimes you can climb up in an old windmill or an abandoned silo or a tree that is strategically placed to let you see a long distance.  There’s one old silo I spot from once in a while that is fantastic. I can see for a year from it.

Another good area to spot deer is an alfalfa field a few days after it has been cut.  The new, green, tender regrowth must be like candy to the deer.

Trail cameras

How well do you know the area? How can you minimize your scent trails and movement to place them?

Place them where you think they will record the most deer movement, check them infrequently, stay on your ATV when you do check, wear thin acrylic gloves when you touch a trail camera. This is all to minimize alarm factors – your movement, frequency of movement and your scent trail. Cameras that can connect with a computer will let you stay out of the deer movement areas once the cameras are installed, but they aren’t the cheapest things, and I think live-action scouting is more fun. It certainly gets you more involved.

Remember that too much movement through deer travel areas means that you will pattern yourself and push deer into nocturnal movement or move to another area.

You want bucks to be in summer social movement patterns when hunting season opens. You want several stand locations to have stand selection flexibility with winds from different directions, and to help you avoid over-hunting any one area. You want to know where and when deer move, to minimize your travels (and scent trails) through hunting areas hanging treestands as you prepare for the better hunting times to come, such as the rut.

Bob Fratzke is a Minnesota bowhunter who lives, breathes and thinks about whitetails year round. This article is excerpted from the Scouting Year-Round chapter of “Taking Trophy Whitetails,” a 142-page how-to book by Bob Fratzke with Glenn Helgeland. For more details, visit www.targetcommbooks.com

Categories: How To’s, Hunting, Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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