Straight from the pages of our book, here is some timely advice:
Skill 094: Spring Into Action
If you have just one chance to scout before next deer season, do it in March. There’s no other time when so many clues about local deer behavior are laid so bare before you, and spooking bucks is a nonissue so far in advance of fall. For many of us, March is a time when snow is here and gone–and sometimes here again–and in this muddled transition from winter to spring lie the secrets to what deer are doing right now and what they were up to last fall.
WHEN THERE’S SNOW, LOOK FOR:
TRACKS: Nothing gives you a better big-picture view of how deer use your property than following their hoofprints in snow during the off-season. Changing food sources affect deer movements to a point, but terrain and cover primarily dictate the ways in which deer navigate the landscape, and these factors mostly stay the same all year. Now is the perfect time to identify funnels, pinch points, and other travel patterns.
BEDS: Mark every bed you find on a GPS or map. Spring bedding areas may not be used in fall; on the other hand, they may. So be sure to add them to your inventory.
RUBS:** Rub lines reveal specific routes taken by bucks during the hunting season. As long as the snow isn’t deep, last fall’s hashed trees will be plain to see. Follow every rub line you can decipher, making note of ambush points. Watch for clusters of rubs, too, which indicate an area that gets a lot of use.
WHEN THE SNOW MELTS, LOOK FOR:
****SCRAPES:**** Last fall’s scrapes are plain to see now, too, and it’s important to categorize them quickly. Small scrapes and those near food sources were made at night or on a whim. Instead, focus on large scrapes and concentrations of scrapes located in the timber, under a licking branch or branches. Pick out and mark a good stand tree and keep it in mind for next fall.**
SECONDARY TRAILS: Mature bucks don’t leave rubs and scrapes everywhere they go, and they commonly travel off the beaten path. Keep an eye out for faint trails that intersect main trails near a food source or that veer just off the obvious runways. I walk every minor trail I can find, and inevitably discover a covert route I’ve been missing for years, even on familiar ground.
FALL BEDS: **When the snow is gone, the best way to find last fall’s buck beds is to follow a rub line away from a known fall feeding area. You’ll typically see lots of sign in or just off the grub and fewer traces as you progress. When rubs start growing more abundant again, you’re close. Once you find clusters of savaged saplings, you’re there. Look for faint oval depressions and old droppings to confirm. Then, again, mark them on a map or GPS. ****