By Alex Comstock
Spring is officially in the air here in my neck of the woods. This time of the year is a fascinating time to be out in the whitetail woods. The abundance of information you can learn right now can pay massive dividends in future years when it comes to whitetail hunting. What makes this time of the year so unique is a multifaceted ability to see the timber in such a way that it will look in the fall, and it also gives you the ability to walk areas you wouldn't dream of stepping foot in during the summer and fall. With that, there are certain things you can look for when scouting in the spring to become more knowledgeable about your deer hunting area, and to hopefully increase your success level in the coming years.
1. Bedding: In the last couple of years, I have been turned on more and more to figuring out how to hunt bedding areas. Bedding areas can be tricky to hunt, because they are incredibly easy to ruin during the summer and fall. But, this time of the year, you can capitalize on not having to worry about ruining a bedding area, and get into these areas to learn them more intimately. What I am working on now, is to actually identify specific buck beds. Through actual sightings, aerial scouting, and trail camera use, I can easily identify a bedding area. When it gets to be this time of the year, I will investigate that bedding area to see where bucks actually bed (this is the tricky part). When I'm looking for a buck bed, I'm looking for beds that are in the absolute best bedding area, and secluded. Additionally, any type of rub in or around the bed helps me solidify that a certain bed is indeed a buck bed. Then, if I am able to identify a buck coming out of or into the bedding area during the summer or fall, I may know exactly where he is bedding.
Want to learn more about hunting bedding areas? Check out this advice from Dan Infalt by clicking here.
2. Rut Sign: Rubs and scrapes get everyone excited right? Just like everybody else, I love seeing rubs and scrapes, but it is important to know what exactly you are looking for, and what they mean. First of all, when it comes to rubs, I'm looking for not only big rubs, but rubs that are especially high off of the ground. Different people have different takes on what rubs mean, and what you can learn from them, but I like to keep it simple and dumb it down. Big, high rubs mean that there is probably a decent sized buck living in the area. By no means I am instantly going to take and put a stand up right over those rubs and call it good, but they will be in the back of my mind when I am determining where to hunt.
Scrapes are similar to me. When I am out scouting in the spring, and come across an area that is loaded with scrapes, the first thing I think about is that it will be a great area to place a trail camera the following fall or even in the summer. If I can anticipate where a buck will scrape, or utilize licking branches, I will get a camera up in the summer, or early fall, before new scrapes pop up, to see if there is a way I can take advantage of a buck moving in daylight. Odds are that most bucks are going to hit those scrapes after nightfall, but it gives you another piece of the puzzle to work with.
3. Travel Areas: Another beautiful part of this time of the year is that you can see deer trails from last fall incredibly well, especially before green up. I like to not only find major trails, but areas where these trails intersect. When you find these major travel corridors, ask yourself why a deer might be traveling there. Are they heading to bed? To food? Is it an area that solicits daytime activity, because deer feel safe there, or would you suspect it's being used mostly at night? Going out and finding a random deer trail in the woods, and putting up a stand most likely isn't going to get it done. Just like rubs and scrapes, travel areas are another piece to puzzle, and being able to use them to help you become successful is vital.
4. Access Points: Spring is my favorite time to scout hunting areas for access points, whether that's to improve current access points, or you've got new hunting properties to figure out. I urge you to not wait until the summer or fall to figure this out on any property that you know you will hunt come fall. Every year I like to evaluate what I need to work on to become a more successful hunter, and this is a major thing that I think about. Why I like spring as the best time to physically figure out these access points, is because instead of just having to look on google maps, and then give it a try while hunting, you get a chance to get boots on the ground, and see if a certain access point might actually work.
5. Human Pressure: This mainly applies to the public land hunter, or the guy/gal that shares a hunting property with others. If you know where others have deer stands, and where they are hunting, then you know where to avoid. Anytime I find an area another individual is hunting, I try to guess how they will enter and exit their treestand, and how that might impact deer movement around the general area. Sometimes I might try to use that to my advantage, or other times I may just write it off and avoid the area completely.
Conclusion: Spring is my favorite time of the year to do some hardcore scouting. I will walk as much of a hunting property as possible to become as knowledgeable about it as I can. If you're not careful, this portion of the year can fly by quickly without you getting much done. I know its happened to me many a time! Take advantage of the next month before it's too late, and odds are you'll be better prepared for the coming whitetail season.