Summer Whitetail Scouting with The Hunting Public
Deer season is inching closer and if you're like us, scouting is a top priority in the summer. It's hot. It's humid. Woods are thick and ticks are relentless. However, this can be a great time to get a leg up on the deer you plan to hunt this fall.
What should I pack for a summer scout?
The number one question we get during the summer is how to keep ticks off. Make no bones about it: Ticks are nasty little creatures born from the fires of hell and they carry all sorts of disease-causing bacteria. Infectious tick related diseases are on the rise and if you’re not taking the necessary precautions, you could be their next victim.
We spray down with permethrin often in the summer months. A product called Sawyers works extremely well. It's best to hang your clothes up and liberally spray it on anything you plan to wear in the field. Let it dry on the fabric for several hours before use. One application should last several weeks. It works so well we rarely find ticks on us during summer.
Good optics almost always come with us to the field. We're often looking at bucks from a distance in summer, so a pair of binos are a must. For more open terrain, a good spotting scope and tripod can also help. The Vortex Diamondback 10x42's are a great choice.
Make sure to bring the right optic for the job, especially if you plan on some long-range glassing.
Seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often folks don't take water on scouting missions. We like Nalgene bottles for this. Just fill them up before you leave and throw some water in the pack. It'll keep you in the woods longer and you won't die of thirst, which is nice.
Never forget your maps or mapping system while scouting. We use the OnX Hunt app downloaded to our phones and save the areas we're scouting to the off-grid feature. This will allow you to continue using the map when you don't have cell service.
Unless you enjoy sticking your foot in a microwave, this might not be the best time for the rubber hunting boots. We prefer super light hiking shoes or boots that are waterproof or dry out easily. Merrell and Keen are brands we've worn in the past and had good luck with. It might also be a good idea to invest in a boot dryer. Sometimes it takes wet feet to get where you need to go, and you can't let your boots stop you.
How does summer scouting differ from scouting at other times of the year?
It's thick, hot, and miserable out. Plus, the ticks and mosquitoes are out in full force. The cover is denser in summer vs. winter and spring, so it makes old sign more difficult to see. However, the old sign is still present, and much can be learned during summer.
Bucks become more visible in open areas toward the end of July. Long-range glassing and observation can be useful during this time. For example: If we're able to spot a group of bucks in late July on public land we're unfamiliar with, we'll map scout the potential bedding areas near those bucks and immediately go in and scout them.
You’re probably thinking, "Won't you spook all the bucks then?" and you'd be correct. The point is, we just aren't worried about it. Season is still several months away and if we don't know the area, we're going in to scout it. The bucks return to the same area often once they're bumped out of bedding, especially in summer. In our experience, it's the constant pressure on a spot that tips them off.
If you bump a deer while you scout, don't sweat it. It's constant pressure that's more likely to cause them to head elsewhere.
What are some of the key things to look for?
The first thing is identifying bedding areas in locations where we feel few people will go. Once found, we're scouting trails around the bedding looking for scrapes, rubs, or funnels close by. The trick is finding a setup just out of sight from the bedded deer. We try to dissect all this information on one scouting trip.
Wherever you're scouting from, try and accomplish as much as you can in one scouting trip to limit pressure on the deer.
What are some typical mistakes you see people making when getting out to scout later in the season?
They don't gather enough information on their first trip in. Most folks scout an area once, then return to hang a stand, hang cameras, or finish scouting it. We believe this educates the deer when you return to the area. We’ve seen our best results by scouting the spot in one day, then backing out completely until it's time to go in and hunt. This puts the least amount of pressure on the spot, while giving you one chance to figure it all out. We call it the "get out of jail free card.”
Yes, you often spook deer out of the bedding when you scout it. Once is usually okay because they’re caught off guard. Think about it: Those deer have been using that bedding area over and over again for most of their life because NOBODY goes in there. They aren't used to people in their safe zone during the day, otherwise they wouldn't be bedded there. Spook them out, get your info, and get out. Let those deer move back in, get comfortable for a few months and go in for the kill come hunting season.
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