Hunting in the off-season

Olympus Digital Camera

Before each hunting season, most hunters spend time in the woods scouting the property they intend to hunt. Food sources are identified, trails are noted and deer activity is observed. That’s all well and good but, in my opinion, winter scouting is also important after the seasons end and spring is a few months away.

If the snow isn’t too deep and the bitter winds don’t blow, I love cruising my favorite hunting areas in late February. With snow on the ground, there’s a lot to see and even if there is no snow, which is possible but unlikely here in the Southern Tier, there’s much to discover. Postseason scouting to me is any time from late winter to early spring. At this time of year, if I bump a deer it’s of no consequence because my presence won’t adversely impact deer behavior since the next hunting is more than seven months away.

What I like about these mid-winter walks is that I can still discern signs from the previous season. Rubs in particular stand out and give me some indication as to where deer likely bedded and what food source they may have headed to the previous fall. I like to walk the edges of crop fields until I find deer tracks. If there are multiple tracks they were most likely made by a group of does or does and their fawns but, a large, wide track made by a single deer most likely was created by a buck. I walk that track back until I find where it came from. This could prove to be valuable information next fall.

Additionally, with snow on the ground, I can even see where deer were bedded to shelter from the winter cold and wind. By careful observation, it’s not difficult to tell a bedding area for does and fawns versus bucks. Does and fawns tend to bed in groups while bucks normally bed singly and have larger-sized depressions. All this information helps me to better understand the property I hunt and could lead to success next fall.

Once in a while I get lucky while in the woods at this time of year and find a shed antler. If I find one it’s usually along or just off a well-used deer trail with low-hanging tree branches. I’ve found sheds in thickets and along small creek banks as well. Finding one gives me a great souvenir and alerts me to a preferred buck trail.

If I’m scouting a new hunting location and decide it shows promise for the fall I find this is the perfect time to evaluate the spot for a good tree to hang a treestand and to clear possible shooting lanes. I like to cut shooting lanes when the weather is colder rather than when it is much hotter and bugs are a nuisance.

Turkey season is only a few months away and my winter scouting forays often lead to the discovery of turkey sign. Scratching can tell me that turkeys are in the area and by carefully examining any droppings I find I can even tell the sex of the bird.

Now that all deer hunting seasons are done for the year I like to take advantage of this downtime to do some post-season scouting. I find much can be learned about the game I hunt and their habits and this can make me a more efficient and possibly successful hunter next year.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Mike Raykovicz, Turkey, Whitetail Deer

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