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Why Scout Deer After Season
 

WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Learning About the Deer and Their Habitat and Trying New Hunting Tactics
Editor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.
As Don Taylor recalls, “One year, all season, I'd hunted a trophy 10-point that fooled me three times the previous year. I was confident at the beginning of the season that I had a trophy buck to hunt, something few hunters would know about the property where they’re hunting. I was able to deliberately lay out strategies for taking the trophy deer, but each time I saw the deer, it darted into thick cover before I could get off a shot. However, at least I had had the experience of hunting a trophy. Once the season and the intense hunting pressure ended, I went back into the woods to see if I could find where the trophy deer had been hiding. As I walked along a route I thought the buck had traveled, I suddenly discovered him—or at least what was left of him—about 50 yards into the thicket. The deer had either been shot or had fought with another deer and lost, because his massive antlers lay in a heap on the edge of his decaying carcass. Perhaps someone on the adjoining property line had shot the deer and didn't know he had hit the animal or had failed to follow up his shot. No matter what the reason, I knew my trophy buck was gone. I also realized I'd have to search diligently the next year to try and locate an animal in his class to hunt.
“One of the biggest advantages to post-season scouting is it gives you an idea of the deer you'll be able to hunt in the upcoming season. If you know where a trophy buck is, post-season scouting often will tell you whether the deer has made it through another season. Even if you don't spot the deer, you may find his shed antlers. Also you may see a trophy on your property after deer season is over. Because deer learn to retreat from hunting pressure, often two to three weeks after the season is over, deer will come out of their hideouts. They realize the danger from hunters is gone. By scouting after the season, you'll be more likely to see where the deer have been hiding throughout hunting season and whether the animals are still on the land you hunt.
“Scouting after the season also informs you of the amount of browse damage, which helps dictate whether or not you need to provide more food for the deer for the coming season. If the honeysuckle patches and greenbriar patches are eaten down, then you know the deer have just about exhausted all available food. You may need to plant more greenfields and/or fertilize the existing briar patches and honeysuckle patches. Adding fertilizer to natural wild plants will increase their ability to produce foliage and grow bigger, which also increases the amount of available food for deer. If the greenfields are eaten down almost to the ground, the deer must have more food to get through the winter. However, if the greenfields are still lush in February and March, then you can assume enough food has been present to carry the deer through the winter. Because most of the foliage is gone from the trees and bushes in the late winter after deer season, the hunter has an ideal opportunity to scout thick cover and out-of-the-way places that may have been difficult or almost impossible to get to in the early part of deer season. Moving into once-heavy cover to cut shooting lanes for the next season is easier before the spring green-up, and while the weather is still cool.
“One of the most-difficult tasks a sportsman has to perform is to test different techniques of hunting during the season. Most of us prefer to go with proven tactics when our chances are good for bagging a buck. However, during the off-season, an outdoorsman can scout and locate deer. Then he can enter the woods with rattling horns, deer calls, scents and lures and test the effectiveness of these hunting methods while the rut is still happening. Also, he can study rutting behavior and learn how both bucks and does interact during the rut. He can use his camera to hunt instead of his gun.”
WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Understanding Where Others Are Hunting
Editor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.

Bob Sheppard says, “I like to scout after deer season because I can learn where the other hunters on my property have been hunting during the season. If you've taken several nice bucks and have a reputation as a deer hunter, the folks on your hunting lease or property will attempt to learn where you're hunting and put their tree stands where yours are. Usually, these hunters don't consider the wind or any of the other factors that make a particular site a good place to hunt on some days and a not so good place to hunt on other days. They'll foul-up the area where you're hunting if they know where you are. Since very-few hunters scout after the season, I can go into the woods and find the best spots to hunt when no one else is in the woods. I also can learn how to get to these places unseen by other hunters. I can move into areas I won't walk in during hunting season for fear someone else will see where I'm going and possibly walk to that region later with the wrong wind condition and spook the deer I'm trying to take. After the season, I can scout without being scouted by other hunters.

“I also scout after the season to find out where other sportsmen's stands are and how they've been hunting. I've had stand sites before that I was confident would produce a buck, but I'd hunt the site all season and never seen a buck. Then, after the season, I'd reconnoiter the area and discover a tree stand 100 yards upwind from where I'd been hunting. Generally once you've learned where hunters have hunted during the past season, you can accurately predict where they'll be hunting the next season. Hunters, like deer, are creatures of habit. They most often will hunt from the same tree stand sites or in the same vicinity where they've hunted in previous seasons. When I know where other sportsmen will be hunting, like the deer, I'll try to avoid the hunters. Most hunters will leave their tree stands up after the season, and these tree stands are like red lights to show me where not to hunt. Hunting deer is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The more parts of the puzzle you have, the quicker you can solve the puzzle. Post-season scouting is a valuable tool in learning about deer. The more you understand about deer, deer habitat, deer habits and what other sportsmen on your property are doing and how they're hunting, the sooner you'll be able to find and take your buck of a lifetime.”
WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Looking for Deer Sheds with Bob Zaiglin
Editor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.
According to Bob Zaiglin, “Searching for shed antlers and hunting bucks without a gun when the season is over will help you compile the most-complete information about the whereabouts of deer. Hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also, sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to feed, water, bed and hide from hunting pressure. By hunting sheds, a sportsman may find a rack that will score very high on the Boone and Crockett scale from a buck that may never even have been seen during hunting season. Once the hunter locates that trophy shed and decides to hunt that deer the next season, he must realize he will have to let numbers of small bucks walk past him—if he's going to try and take that trophy buck. By knowing a trophy buck is in an area, a hunter can concentrate his hunting time the next season in the general region where he's found the trophy's shed antlers.
“In the West, I find many sheds around watering holes and along fence lines. Many times when deer are jumping fences, they'll knock their antlers off. Then a hunter can try to find travel trails between feeding and bedding areas along fences where he locates drops. Although each of these places is an easy spot to discover sheds, you must go into the thicker spots if you really want to locate the shed antlers of a trophy buck. One of the problems with locating big sheds in heavy cover is that rodents are more abundant in thick areas and will consume those antlers at a rapid rate after the deer have shed them.
“Although the dream of most shed hunters is to find a matched pair of trophy antlers, very rarely do deer shed both antlers at the same time and in the same place. Some years ago, I finally found more than two sets of matching antlers. Actually, I located five sets of matched antlers. I'm not sure why it’s uncommon to find both antlers off the same deer, but my best guess is that antler shedding is definitely related to nutrition. Perhaps a deer on a good nutrition level holds his antlers longer than a deer that is nutritionally deprived of good food.
“One year, our ranch had good nutrition, but after hunting season, the lands I managed went into a drought. Since the deer were somewhat deprived nutritionally, they shed their antlers more quickly. At least this was the best guess I had as to why I found more sets of antlers together after the season.
WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Understanding Where Others Are Huntingditor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.

Bob Sheppard says, “I like to scout after deer season because I can learn where the other hunters on my property have been hunting during the season. If you've taken several nice bucks and have a reputation as a deer hunter, the folks on your hunting lease or property will attempt to learn where you're hunting and put their tree stands where yours are. Usually, these hunters don't consider the wind or any of the other factors that make a particular site a good place to hunt on some days and a not so good place to hunt on other days. They'll foul-up the area where you're hunting if they know where you are. Since very-few hunters scout after the season, I can go into the woods and find the best spots to hunt when no one else is in the woods. I also can learn how to get to these places unseen by other hunters. I can move into areas I won't walk in during hunting season for fear someone else will see where I'm going and possibly walk to that region later with the wrong wind condition and spook the deer I'm trying to take. After the season, I can scout without being scouted by other hunters.

“I also scout after the season to find out where other sportsmen's stands are and how they've been hunting. I've had stand sites before that I was confident would produce a buck, but I'd hunt the site all season and never seen a buck. Then, after the season, I'd reconnoiter the area and discover a tree stand 100 yards upwind from where I'd been hunting. Generally once you've learned where hunters have hunted during the past season, you can accurately predict where they'll be hunting the next season. Hunters, like deer, are creatures of habit. They most often will hunt from the same tree stand sites or in the same vicinity where they've hunted in previous seasons. When I know where other sportsmen will be hunting, like the deer, I'll try to avoid the hunters. Most hunters will leave their tree stands up after the season, and these tree stands are like red lights to show me where not to hunt. Hunting deer is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The more parts of the puzzle you have, the quicker you can solve the puzzle. Post-season scouting is a valuable tool in learning about deer. The more you understand about deer, deer habitat, deer habits and what other sportsmen on your property are doing and how they're hunting, the sooner you'll be able to find and take your buck of a lifetime.”
WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Locating Dead Deer with Bob Zaiglin
Editor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.

“I’ve also discovered some dead trophy deer before while hunting sheds,” Bob Zaiglin notes. “One season, I picked up both sides of a 14- point buck that scored 176 points non-typical on the Boone and Crockett scale. A shed hunter will find that these dead deer will include not only deer that may have been wounded during hunting season, but also some deer that have died of natural causes. Remember, you're hunting sheds after the rut. During the rut in regions with big deer, the trophy bucks usually will be beaten-up badly during mating season. They may have had to fight on a daily or a bi-weekly basis, and the bigger, dominant buck must fight more often to prove his dominance. These big old bucks are not invincible. They may develop an infection after being pierced by the antler of a rival. In this weakened condition, they can be attacked and killed by predators like coyotes.
“A buck can lose as much as 25 percent of his body weight during the rut. The rut also coincides with the worst weather of the year. After deer season in inclement weather, deer will concentrate heavily around food sources. Also, some deer, especially trophy deer, simply die of old age. They have escaped hunting pressure through the years and eventually die of natural causes just like humans do. Too, deer are accident-prone. Sometimes they'll kill themselves by running into a tree or hang up on fences and die. Heat affects deer adversely the same as drought, and whitetails are susceptible to various parasites and diseases. The main reason you find these dead deer when hunting sheds after the season is because you are in the woods at the time the deer generally die off. Shed hunters also may find one of the most-discouraging sights in all of nature - two bucks with antlers locked in combat, both deer dead. When a hunter discovers two locked racks, the first thing he knows is that the sex ratio of the herd is probably approximately one buck for each doe, because bucks fight more and therefore lock horns more often when there are fewer does.”
WHY SCOUT FOR DEER AFTER THE SEASON
Determining the Condition of the Herd with Bob Zaiglin
Editor’s Note: Sportsmen across Alabama know Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, as an avid deer and turkey hunter, and Dr. Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, as a bowhunting instructor. Bob Zaiglin, a wildlife biologist from Texas, has done extensive research in managing and hunting trophy white-tailed deer and is a nationally-recognized expert for his rattling and calling techniques. These three longtime outdoorsmen know the importance of Scouting for deer after the season.

“The best time to lease land or to look for a place to hunt is after the rut,” according to Bob Zaiglin. “If a hunter is considering leasing a particular piece of property and wants to know the condition of the deer on the land, he should be able to walk over the lease and find sheds. If he doesn't discover any sheds, then he must question how many deer are on the lease. The same is true of public lands. If you plan to hunt public lands this season but aren't sure of the condition of the herd is on those lands, walk those lands after the season and search for sheds. Too, sheds will tell sportsmen how well they're doing with their deer-management programs. For instance, if your hunting club is attempting to produce numbers of bucks, but your members don't find very many sheds, something is wrong in your herd. Sheds will also tell you the size of bucks you have on the property and the general condition of those bucks.
“I collect all the sheds I can every year. Then, I measure every shed. Although the data doesn't give me any age criteria, it does give me a bio mass of antlers. I can tell by the sheer volume of antlers I pick up whether I have a number of bucks or a few bucks and whether I have little or big bucks on a property. Something else I've determined from sheds is that I can better predict what size bucks I'll have to hunt the upcoming year. If I find numbers of small, scrappy antlers, then I can project that hunters on that land may not bag very many large trophies the coming year. Alternatively, if I locate some quality racks, I'll know my hunters the following year can expect to harvest some trophy bucks. So collecting sheds helps the sportsman keep his expectations of the upcoming buck harvest within more reasonable bounds.
“Bass fishermen have learned that bass usually are in only 10 percent of a lake's area. Deer follow much the same pattern in the woods. Shed hunters quickly will learn where their chances are best on any piece of property to find a deer. The sportsman who wants to become a trophy hunter and consistently take big deer must learn to hunt all year and carry his gun into the woods only during hunting season. Not enough time is available during hunting season for a trophy hunter to unravel the mysteries of the big bucks. Even if the outdoorsman does determine what the deer in his area are doing, the season may be over before he has a chance to intercept a buck in the woods. Deer have learned to avoid hunters. Most always on any given piece of land, a few certain bucks will continually escape hunters. These deer seem to have a sixth sense about how to avoid hunters. Unless a sportsman is willing to hunt trophy bucks all year, not only may he never find a trophy buck to hunt, but he'll also never develop a strategy for taking that deer. If you truly want to hunt a trophy, the odds of bagging that trophy buck are best for the hunter who makes the commitment to hunt deer all year long. Shed hunting is an integral part of trophy-buck hunting for outdoorsmen who understand what sheds mean, where to look for the sheds, and what to do after they find them.”
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John Phillips

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