Scouting is such an important aspect of hunting. Usually, you’ll find that the very best hunters keep at it year-round. The more you know about the animals and their habits, the better off you’ll be during season. For example, during early season you’ll often see groups of bachelor bucks. This is incredibly important when it comes time to hunt. If you see one buck from the group and make a stalk, you can assume the others are either hidden or already bedded down. If you know the big buck you’re looking for usually hangs out with that group, it’s a good idea to pull out the spotting scope and pick the land apart looking for your deer.
Although all of our lives are busy and we can only set aside so much time for hunting and scouting, it is key to go into opening day with a lot of knowledge. This can be your very best chance at a big buck or bull. He’s had absolutely no pressure, and during early season can be very patternable if you’ve put in the time ahead of season.
Make Scouting Fun
A great way to make yourself get out scouting is to take a friend, kid or whoever along to just watch and hang out. When I bring the family, we usually watch from a distance to be a little more comfortable. You can set up on a hill, from your truck or anywhere further away from the action. We also don’t typically scout for hours, just head out during the peak movement, which is either early in the morning or the last hour or so before dark. What’s good about this is it’s usually a little more action packed, shorter and more fun. We oftentimes bring the pups along, some snacks and make a fun evening of it together.
Have a Plan
Know a good place off in the distance from where you expect deer or your game to be. If you’re going to be in closer, always take into account the wind and do everything possible to not spook the animals. Scouting should be done from afar and be non-invasive to your hunting locations. If you don’t have a good way to watch from afar, try sitting in your hunting blinds to watch, but do it just as if you were hunting. Don’t go in for just the last hour either; get it early enough to not spook game. Hunt the wind, spray down and put some trail cameras out for another scouting tool. We can only be in one place at one time, but with all the amazing trail cameras out there now (if it’s legal in your state) you can get a ton of information from a variety of locations even if you’re too busy to get out there as much as you’d like.
Get the Right Gear
I usually like to bring a sturdy tripod, my spotting scope and a pair of binoculars. I find it easiest to scan areas for deer with the binoculars, then once I spot something of interest, I grab the spotting scope. The scope is very helpful if you want to zero in on the exact spot deer are entering or exiting a field, for example. You can get a close look at trees, terrain, etc. Later, make a plan for new stand or blind locations.
There’s an App For That
Another great way to mark locations or inspect terrain you may not be able to see due to heavy cover is through hunting apps for your phone. I heavily rely on HuntStand to look at property lines and ownership info, see updated satellite imagery and keep track of my trail cameras. Every month the satellite imagery is updated so, for example, if you need to know what type of crops are on the property next to you and can’t see over, now you can check it out. This also works to see if areas are flooded or just the lay of the land on a neighboring property. So many times I’ve sat on stand and wondered where the deer are coming from or why they funnel down this certain spot. With this satellite imagery you can really get a feel for neighboring property without ever stepping foot on their ground.
Trail cameras are amazing scouting tools, but it’s easy to forget where you put them. Hunt Stand also makes this super easy with their trail cam tool. You can log the location, name and date for every trail camera you put out. This feature is also an easy way to show your family or hunting party where the cameras are and what pictures you’re getting from each one.
Basically, if you need scouting information, HuntStand has you covered. They show the wind speed and direction, weather forecasts, moon phases and sunrise and sunset times. You can also mark sightings and harvests, tell people which stand you’re hunting within your group and even measure out the acreage for food plots, fields, or neighboring properties.
In the end, scouting is a priceless tool that doesn’t cost anything other than your time. If done right, you can really cut down the amount of time you spend in the field making you more efficient and deadly just by putting in some hours before the season arrives.