How to Scout for Trophy Whitetail Bucks
Finding trophy whitetail deer begins with the science of scouting whitetail deer in your area. As a whitetail outfitter for 13 years in the Midwest, I can tell you for certain that scouting whitetail bucks and keeping an eye on your local herd is the KEY to harvesting monster bucks. Just today on the phone a hunter called me and booked a hunt. Over the course of the conversation I casually said, “While you are here hunting deer with while you are in the woods hunting, my staff and I will literally be out watching other locations with binoculars, spotting scopes, and checking game cameras in order so we can find the hottest locations for you to hunt from while you are here.” At that moment he interrupted, and stated, “I went to a whitetail outfitter in Illinois last year who put us on a farm for deer hunting. I ask the Outfitter what bucks they had been seeing on the farm, and he said, the Outfitter stated he hadn’t been watching the farm.” The hunter then indicated he was absolutely stunned and knew from that moment he was with a whitetail deer outfitter that hadn’t even done any scouting for deer.
The truth is as a whitetail deer outfitter in the Midwest I kind of hate writing this article. It’s like the old saying goes, “A good magician never reveals how he performs his tricks.” Literally with this article as well as others I realize while my intention is to educate and entertain hunters I’m teaching other whitetail deer outfitters just how to do their jobs. Oh well, let’s dive into the subject of how to locate trophy bucks, and how to properly scout for whitetail deer.
TOOLS YOU WILL NEED TO SUCCESSFULLY GO SCOUTING FOR WHITETAIL DEER AND LOCATE TROPHY WHITETAIL BUCKS
To properly scout and locate whitetail deer with an emphasis on trophy bucks, like it or not your going to have to get out your wallet and make some minor purchases. Effective patterning of whitetail deer requires one to have tools, just like a carpenter needs a hammer, or a plumber needs a wrench. I always hate to speak about hunting products as I like to stick with hunt strategies but the truth is you are going to need a few tools. Allow me to suggest a few items you will need.
1. A tablet and a pen.
2. Trail cameras (game cameras)
3. High quality binoculars
4. Time and dedication
5. Hunting ground
Let’s talk about the first three items needed to scout whitetail deer and successfully locate trophy whitetail bucks, as the last two items are not things one can purchase.
Laugh all you want, but for 17 years I have kept a game diary and recorded every deer I have ever seen under every environmental condition present, with times and dates. Do not try and remember simply that you saw a whitetail buck one night and then go after him. Like it or not real trophy whitetail hunting is a science, and to consistently harvest trophy whitetail bucks you have to keep some notes. I would firmly suggest purchasing a game diary from www.advanceddeerdiary.com . They are only around 20 bucks and show you the science of how to harvest record book bucks, and to accurately keep whitetail deer hunting records and stats. I find it more fascinating than even running game cameras as its interactive. To date I have harvested 14 Pope and Young Bucks. To think my father dies when I was a child and literally nobody in my family ever deer hunted until I started. It is with tools like Advanced Deer Diary or proper note taking skills that you will be able to understand how to located and scout whitetail bucks. I can tell you after 17 years of note taking and studies I have discovered patterns surrounding whitetail deer that are astounding. Some things I may never reveal because I would literally be educating my completion or other deer outfitters. Trust and believe note taking is needed to successfully scout for whitetail deer.
I guess this is the paragraph that will give my age away but in the “good old days” we did not have game cameras or infrared cameras. Literally we used to tie strings to a small wristwatch type of clock across a deer trail. When the string was pulled from the clock then the only information you possessed to scout whitetail deer was what time one animal pulled the string from the clock. I don’t want to reminisce to much however I loved the “good old days” when deer hunting wasn’t so commercialized. The “good old days” is when I learned how to take down monster bucks through pure sweat and toil. I guess the reward in those times just seemed so much more valuable. That’s why some of my oldest trophy deer on the wall are most precious to me. However in recent years today’s modern day whitetail enthusiast has been afforded the fun luxury of high technology game cameras to monitor whitetail deer activity in your absence. Scouting whitetail deer with game cameras is a great thing however don’t think for a minute that successful whitetail deer hunters can solely rely on them for scouting whitetail deer. Think about this for a minute. While I have patterned several whitetail deer with game cameras, and many of those animals being monster bucks, it is literally harder to get a great photo of a trophy whitetail deer than sinking an arrow into one. Why? With a game camera the unit needs to be placed within 10 yards of the whitetail deer, while with a bow all you need to do is get within 30 yards. For those of you that rely solely on game cameras to scout whitetail deer , just think about the fact that while game cameras are effective tools to successfully scout big whitetail bucks, you’d get a greater appraisal of what your farm is holding by watching the sun go down from a distance with high quality optics. Its true! HOWEVER YOU DO NEED TO PURCHASE SOME QUALITY GAME CAMERAS.
We have utilized many game cameras over the course of our history here at IMB Outfitters. Thus far while I realize technology is advancing everyday, I know my money is best spent with Stealth Cam. My favorite model of Stealth Cam game cameras is the Prowler HD. It not only takes photos but also provides video feeds and video clips of the activity in that area. It’s just state of the art. Hands down my favorite game camera of all time. Also they cost under $300 so they don’t break your wallet either. Here is a little info on the Stealth Cam Prowler HD game camera. Scouting has never been more advanced, and Stealth Cam's Prowler HD Digital Video Scouting Recorder with an 8 MP still camera takes the pre-game to a new level. The new trail camera includes 64 MB of internal memory and accepts SD cards up to 4 GB. In addition to high-resolution still photos, the unit captures HD Digital Video at a rate of 30 frames per second with a resolution of 1280x760.
With 54 infrared emitters, the Prowler HD can capture night images and subjects out to 40 feet. It has audio recording capabilities, adjustable video recording times (from five seconds to five minutes) and stamps time/date/moon phase/temperature information on each video file. Contact: Stealth Cam, (760) 450-1006 (760) 450-1006 ; www.stealthcam.net. It is this very game camera that will further assist you in scouting whitetail deer.
One can determine how many game cameras you need based upon how many acres you have to monitor. As a general rule of thumb I firmly believe if you have the funds available that a hunter that wants to scout whitetail deer successfully needs to possess one camera for every 80 acres you have access to. The truth is the more game cameras you have out the more information you are collecting, however and I say this in all due respect to Stealth Cam and all game camera companies around the World. If you get into a routine of checking your game camera to scout whitetail deer too often you won’t have to worry long about using the game camera, because your entry and exit from the timber will leave enough human scent that you will literally drive trophy bucks off your farm. Have you ever met a hunter that checked his or her cameras two to three times per week because they were so excited about deer hunting and scouting whitetail deer they couldn’t stay off the property. This is the hunter will ruin the ground before he or she even gets a chance to hunt it. As a general rule we hang dozens of game cameras throughout many States in the Midwest however we only check them about once every two weeks. YOU CANNOT BE CHECKING YOUR GAME CAMERAS ALL THE TIME AND THINK DEER AREN’T DETECTING YOU. If you have been offended by this statement then I have a resolution for you. Buy more game cameras, obtain more ground and check the cameras rotationally with the commitment of checking them once every 2 weeks. Trust and believe Boone and Crockett Whitetail Deer won’t put up with too much human activity.
Now it is time for your final purchase. You MUST, YOU MUST, YOU MUST, YOU MUST, have quality binoculars. I would rather have an average bow and high quality binoculars than a high quality bow and average binoculars. Remember God gave the great birds of prey excellent and magnified eyesight. For years as a novice whitetail hunter 30 years ago I used cheap binoculars which wouldn’t reveal what size whitetail deer I was scouting because they didn’t collect enough light, and didn’t magnify at a high enough level. It is my personal opinion that a pair of high quality binoculars is money better spent than a game camera. I remember back in 1987 I was watching what I thought was a 150 plus deer in the evenings. (To tell you the truth I though this animal was even bigger than that.) Due to the fact I was watching the deer 3 times a week in the evenings from a great distance with poor binoculars I spent that summer watching a deer that was far smaller than what I thought. In opposition to that statement I have watched and scouted whitetail deer that were bigger than what I thought because I didn’t have the quality binoculars to view them through. Scouting trophy deer or locating whitetail bucks requires you to pack in high quality, high magnification binoculars. If your one of those deer hunters that likes those little compact binoculars to spare you the chore of carrying in a larger bulkier set of binoculars then stop thinking. YOU HAVE TO SEE THEM ACCURATELY from high quality binoculars. While some companies sell $3000 binoculars you need not make that type of purchase.
I recommend Nikon’s new Monarch. They are high magnification, and gather high quantities of light even in the lowest of light conditions. The Nikon Monarch is a great binocular for scouting whitetail deer. You can located trophy whitetail deer with the Nikon Monarch 12 X 42 binocular. So what do the numbers 12 X 42 mean? How what do the numbers of the binoculars measure or represent? The first number is the power of the binoculars and the second number is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. So a binocular that is listed as being an 12 X 42 is an 12 power binocular with 42 millimeter diameter front lens. The larger the front or objective lens is, the better the ginocular is at gathering light. These high end binoculars have very high quality lenses with some very high quality coatings on them and aren’t expensive. The Nikon Monarch 12 x 42 retails for around $300. I’d trade them for a game camera anytime. The lenses will gather more light than an equal size lens of a lesser quality.
12x42 Binoculars have a high level of magnification and their properties border on being telescopic, which means that they will perform more like a telescope than an ordinary pair of binoculars. They will be better suited for scouting and locating whitetail deer, and or scouting trophy whitetail bucks.
Now that we know what tools we need to purchase to scout whitetail deer and locate trophy whitetail bucks, before purchase of such items you need to ask yourself if your area possess’s trophy whitetail bucks or you have the time and dedication even needed to perform successful scouting of whitetail deer. If the answer is “no” then you need to go shop for an whitetail deer outfitter who you know will do this for you. The reality is that in today’s busy world, couple with the fact most of the biggest deer in the world are harvested with Midwestern deer outfitters you may need to save some money on equipment and simply book a hunt with a quality and affordable deer outfitter like IMB Outfitters, located at www.imbmonsterbucks.com
SCOUTING FOR WHITETAIL DEER AND LOCATING TROPHY WHITETAIL BUCKS
Any great whitetail hunter will tell you that scouting for trophy bucks is something the hunter does throughout the season, however lets first focus on finding trophy bucks during the summer months in preparation for fall harvest. In simpler terms, how do you scout whitetail deer in the summer months in order to set yourself up for the harvest of a trophy whitetail buck?
The answer lies once again in understanding whitetail deer. Any predator on planet earth that regularly feeds upon another knows and understands even if it be on an instinctual level how their prey lives and inhabitats the area. Although a tad tedious let’s quickly review the lifecycle of the whitetail buck.
Every whitetail buck has a home range, or an area that they call home. In the wildlife world this area is know as home range. The home range of an individual white-tailed buck, however, varies by season. One would expect that the range of a buck would be fairly stable for much of the year, only to increase in size during the breeding season. This increase in range would be the result of the buck’s behavior and increased movement in his search for receptive does. Although thought to be true, does this phenomenon really happen?
Summer is a good time to be a whitetail buck. Not only do male deer get along, but packs of bucks run together in beloved bachelor groups. Hunters and managers alike get a thrill every time they stumble across a fraternity of whitetail. These observations often serve as confirmation that their harvest strategies or deer management programs are effective. We all like to see healthy bucks. Bachelor groups, by the way, can range in size from 2 to 3 deer up to as many as a couple dozen.
It is also during the summer that bucks move around a fair amount, but not as much as during the rut. As summer draws to an end, most bucks become less mobile and highly patternable. It is the time immediately after bucks shed their velvet that they become aggressive towards one another and a bit more territorial. By September, hunters will start to see individual bucks visiting the same feeding areas again and again.
This is especially true for hunters that use game cameras to monitor their feeders, ag fields, and food plots. That is, if there is a spring food plot left to monitor after summer and the local deer have their way with it. During much of the summer, bucks will be picked up here and there on game cameras as they travel around the countryside eating where they may, but after developing hardened antlers it is a whole other story. A buck’s antlers are quite tender while covered in velvet. Not the case once they harden.
Changes is hormone levels in addition to physical changes cause bachelor groups to disband. Bucks flying solo will hone in on stable food sources and form a core area until the rut. During the breeding season, whitetail bucks will, for the most part, expand upon their summer range in search of receptive does. Following the rut, bucks will sink back into their core range.
A buck’s seasonal range increases and decreases based on many factors, but bucks fall into a very repetitive routine between the loss of velvet and the start of the rut. Year-in and year-out, white-tailed deer have a fairly predictable home range that will vary between seasons. Much a whitetail buck’s movements are determined by environmental conditions, food availability, and the breeding season. Whether you are a hunter looking to bag a buck this year or a landowner interested in better deer management, pay attention to the areas that whitetail bucks are using and use it to your advantage.
SUMMERTIME SCOUTING FOR WHITETAIL DEER
As aforementioned during July, August, September, and early October bachelor groups of whitetail bucks hang out with one another and normally are pretty predictable in regard to where they feed. I find in the Midwest that successful scouting for whitetail deer is normally done from several hundred yards away the last 2 hours of light on late summer months. DON’T GET TOO CLOSE. Myles Keller once said, “Don’t scout deer from your hunting stands.” Oh how true this is. Either hang your treestands prior to scouting for deer based upon deer sign or hang them after scouting them and you know where they are. Only the foolish deer hunter climbs into his hunting stand to scout for deer. Why? You are being detected whether you realize it or not. Stay away from the whitetail deer while scouting with high quality optics during late summer months.
By observing and evaluating your herd numbers and bachelor groups of whitetail bucks you determine just what you have to look forward to this Fall. Find food sources that are green and low in height. Soybeans, clover, etc. You need to see them and they want the “green stuff”.
During this time I very seldom hang game cameras on field edges as I am watching the field edges with my eyes and the eyes of my guides. I generally hang game cameras over mineral licks, key whitetail deer trails and or corridors. Let the cameras tell you what is moving in the woods, and you stick to watching the field’s edge. This will minimize your detection. Every predator on the planet has an instinct of knowing to kill has an element of surprise. Anything less than this will only take away that element of surprise because you will be educating the very whitetail deer you are scouting that you are there.
Everything you could possibly want to know about a piece of ground is detailed in black and white. I believe the aerial photo is by far the most useful tool available for scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks, not only to the all-season scout but also to the weekend warrior who doesn't have the free time to scout before the season opener.
Many bowhunters already employ the use of aerial photography for finding buck escape routes, but not every viewer knows what to look for. Take, for example, travel routes. Deer choose certain travel routes year after year based on the innate ability to seek the path of least resistance. These routine travel routes take them around difficult terrain such as deep ravines or sheer embankments. Knowing this, we're able to determine the most likely points of crossing. Therefore, selecting stand sites based on knowing the entrance and exit routes and wind condition is made easier.
Photocopied aerial views of any parcel of land can be purchased for about $2 each at the county Farm Service Agency (FSA), usually listed in the government pages of the telephone directory. If there isn't an FSA office nearby, you can get copies by mail; but you'll need to have the land owner's name, approximate location and township in which his property is located. Most of this information can be obtained from a county platt book, which all FSA offices have. Aerial photos can also be purchased from both the County Planning and Zoning Commission or the County Assessor's offices, which are located in the County Courthouse.
Higher-quality aerial photographs can be ordered by mail from the Aerial Photography Field Office (APFO) in Salt Lake City, Utah. In most cases, one trip to the FSA office will get you all the information you need including the order form. Prints from the original negatives will cost $22.00 for a 24"x24", which includes shipping. Also internet programs like mapcard, bing maps, or google earth are very effective and at your fingertips.
Topo maps are useful tools that give more specific detail of the contour of the land for scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks. I like to think of the topo map as a blueprint, but they're more difficult to read without experience. The first-time look at a topo map can boggle the mind, but within a few hours you can become experienced enough to find your way around. Having both the aerial photo and topographical map in front of you will help considerably. A visual means of locating points of interest and a map that gives specific detail takes much of the guesswork out of scouting from home.
Topographical maps can be obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Information Services Office, Dept. PB, P.O. Box 26286, Denver, Colorado 80225. Other maps are also available through the office such as the state map catalog and an index map of the state you're interested in hunting.
Once you obtain aerial photos and topo maps for your hunting area, so that you can begin scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks you can become the ferret that seeks out all the natural funnels, waterways, ridges, crossover points (shortest distances between points A and B), saddle crossings, cash crop fields, CRP ground and anything else that strikes your fancy. From the topo map, cross-reference all points you can't identify from the aerial photo such as elevation changes, saddles, wetlands or benches; and check these out when you start ground scouting later.
Whether you're hunting a breakline, ridge saddle or any other terrain feature, wind consideration is a must. Planned strategy should always include knowing what stand site is best situated for the wind conditions of the day. If you can't get to a stand without getting picked off, then it's probably best to save it for another day when conditions are right.
When planning a weekend hunt or scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks, I always know what stand I'll be hunting even though several may be hanging in the area. One key advantage of using aerial photos for scouting is having a visual means of locating the best entrance and exit routes for various wind conditions. Interestingly, I rely heavily on the weather channel for an update on the current wind direction and approaching fronts that might affect it. Each morning, I first tune into the weather channel for an update and then cross-reference that information to the aerial photo for selecting the best stand sites for those conditions.
Breaklines come in many different forms. Simply put, they divide or break up the various terrain features of the land. These include waterways, thick mature timbered ridges or possibly a thick new growth draw that was logged or put in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) some years ago. The CRP ground has done wonders for the trophy deer population in many of the mid-western states. Thick new growth has become the security cover big bucks need for reaching maturity. Setting up on the outside edges of a breakline near the entrance and exit routes can be about as exciting as it gets. Hunters that already know this are reaping the benefits. Again don’t just start walking into these areas during summer months too often but begin scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks from field edges.
There are many different forms of saddles, but ridge saddles are of special interest here. Converging ridge points at the high end can be most productive when we learn how to hunt them effectively. Low saddles found in creek bottoms where ridges and gullies converge can be a nightmare of swirling wind currents. It's not that lower elevation saddles are non-productive, but they are just very tough to hunt effectively.
Corners, whether they're inside or outside, are nearly always sure bets for finding a hub of intersecting trails. I call the inside corner the “Inside L”, from these corners I often watch from long distances during early summer to begin scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks that are entering the food sources from this location. All too often our first scouting endeavors begin at inside/outside corners near crop fields. In most cases where fences or treelines form corners, deer funnel around these natural or man-made obstacles when traveling from bed to feed. When you find a freebie like this, take advantage of it. I'm sure we've all read about or possibly know someone that claims to have a "hot" stand that produces every year. It's been my personal experience that many inside/outside corners become these annual producers.
There are about a dozen other topographical advantages I have nicknamed and utilize as an outfitter for deer in the Midwest I simply cannot share. Afterall, a good magician never reveals the secrets of his tricks, especially when other whitetail outfitters are reading this. However I would always be willing to answer any questions if phoned or written by a private party. My intent is to help other whitetail hunters, without empowering my outfitting competition. So it is here I must stop speaking about topographical advantages.
SCOUTING FOR WHITETAIL DEER AND LOCATING TROPHY WHITETAIL BUCKS DURING DEER SEASON
Some hunters scoff at moving stands during the season, but it’s done effectively all the time, and it’s really a necessity if you’re hunting the same tract of land the entire season or are bent on killing the biggest buck in the woods. Scouting comes in many forms during the whitetail season. The successful whitetail deer hunter is always scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks throughout the entire deer season. Anything less would be insanity unless you filled your tag the very first day. The trick is not getting to close to the bucks bed are too quickly or at all. Moving tree stands is necessary, whether it be across the creek or across the county to a different area. This can make the difference between having to a make a trip to the taxidermist or not.
So how does one scout whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail bucks throughout the entire deer season. Pay attention to the whitetail deer rubs, whitetail deer rublines, whitetail deer scrapes, whitetail deer tracks, crop harvesting, hot does in your area, mast production, game cameras placed about, as described in detail to follow:
Whitetail Deer Rubs
Whitetail bucks make their initial rubs of the season to remove the velvet from their antlers. The behavior typically starts in late August or early September when vegetation is still green and thick. These relatively few rubs are so difficult to find that a lot of hunters don't even bother looking for them. But there are two good reasons to do so.
First, in some areas, waiting until the immediate pre-rut to scout for rubs can lead to sensory overload. You may find, as I often have, that there is too much sign for you to decipher the exact travel route of any particular buck. Moreover, if you put off hunting rubs, pressure might already have altered deer movements by the time you get down to serious business. The fewer marked trees of the preseason or early season may actually tell you more about an individual animal, allowing you to set your stand up precisely where it needs to be in order to score. Rubs are a very productive means by which one can scout whitetail deer or locate trophy whitetail bucks.
Second, the earliest rubs of the season are typically the work of the biggest deer. Dominant bucks begin rubbing first and continue the activity throughout September, even though it may be another two months before does come into estrus. Deer biologists have found that individual bucks make from 69 to 538 rubs each year, with dominant bucks averaging 300 rubs or more. Smaller males exhibit a slower rise in testosterone levels; they seldom begin the behavior until late in October and also do not make as many rubs. In other words, find a concentration of sign early on, and chances are you've found the haunt of a buck worthy of the wall.
Early rubs are often clustered around the perimeters of feeding areas, where other deer are most likely to read the signposts. You may also find them in numbers around a buck's bedding area. But you shouldn't put your stand too close to either of these spots. Instead, seek out rubs along a travel route connecting the two. Don't expect to find obvious sign every 10 or 20 yards. You're more likely to discover only a rub or two that will nonetheless help identify the trail or funnel that a buck is using.
Set up along this travel route, situating your stand closer to the bedding area than to the feeding area (but not too close). This increases the likelihood of your seeing the buck during legal shooting light. Hang it well before the season opens to give deer time to adjust to its presence. Then, during an early bow or muzzleloader season, or even the opening day of regular firearms season, sneak in and tag your trophy.
Whitetail Deer Rublines
While finding rubs is of vital importance there are times during the season wherein whitetail bucks manufacture not just a rub, but a line of rubs. This is a series of rubs which can range in distance from 30 yards to 75 yards apart from one another. When one finds a rubline of a whitetail buck it’s a dead give away that this rub line is a distinct indication of a corridor or a trail or pattern of movement of a particular whitetail buck. Rublines are a very productive means by which one can scout whitetail deer or locate trophy whitetail bucks.
Whitetail Deer Scrapes
When scrapes first gained attention as a significant form of deer sign, biologists and hunters alike were under the misconception that scrapes served as a meeting place for bucks and does during the rut. Biologists now believe that scrapes have a complex purpose that may actually have run its course by the time breeding begins. Whitetail deer scrapes are a very productive means by which one can scout whitetail deer or locate trophy whitetail bucks.
However you have to understand how to hunt scrapes and know how whitetail bucks use scrapes for them to become an important part of scouting whitetail deer. Leading biologists also believe that the scent left in and around scrapes is a means for subordinate bucks to learn whether a dominant buck is available in the area. If so, it is quite likely that the sexual intensity of the lesser buck is suppressed. Subordinate bucks, if they scrape at all, do most of their scraping after the period when mature bucks scrape most intensely.
Scrapes are typically made by whitetail bucks, in the fall to mark breeding territories. A buck will begin making scrapes once they become 11/2 yrs of age. Fall's decresing sunlight triggers the amount of testosterone in a buck's body. The increase in testosterone influences the buck into becoming more territorial, thus begins scrape activity.
Scrapes are made by a buck scraping away leaves and ground vegetation with his front feet exposing bare ground. The scrape is usually positioned 4-5 ft below an overhanging branch, that the buck rubs with his forehead leaving his scent. Bucks also chew on the branches leaving scent from saliva. As they go through these steps he also urinates down his back hocks onto his tarsal glands and into the scrape, also leaving scent.
When a whitetail doe encounters a scrape, she will urinate among other things to allow the buck to know what stage of the breeding process she is in. Many does and other bucks may leave their scent at the same scrape, leaving the buck to decipher the deer moving through his territory.
Reading whitetail deer scrapes:
Lack of scrapes may indicate an out of balance buck to doe ratio. In an area where there are too many does or less competition among bucks there will be less scrape activity. Usually the bigger the scrape, the bigger the buck. There are times however a young buck will work on an existing scrape. Young bucks will make a scrape and not return, many times because of larger deer in that area. This why scouting for whitetail deer is so important during the season.
Larger bucks will do a majority of the breeding and frequently create scrapes and revisit them regular using a winding trail. If you find a scrape in a high traffic area, with many deer trails, it may be used by multiple bucks, this is a good hot spot to hunt.
Hunting scrapes with use of mock scrapes:
In 2009 Hunter Specialties provided IMB Outfitters with a vast array of products to conduct a study on how effective mock scrapes can be for scouting whitetail deer and locating trophy whitetail deer. We implemented scrape drippers with doe in heat urine, scrape drippers with dominant buck urine, and overhanging limb glandular scents. We actually constructed many mock scrapes and kept stats on the experiment.
We found that whitetail bucks where much more aggressive to responding to scrapes that the deer had already made that we poured dominant buck urine into, and then sprayed overhead glandual scent onto overhanging limbs. The doe in heat urine, for some reason or another didn’t produce near as high success rates, outside an occasional buck that was cruising through the area and got curious, whereas the dominant buck urine and overhanging limb spray would draw mature bucks in from distances of over 200 yards.
As a hunter you need to locate doe bedding areas and primary food sources. Look for multiple scrapes near these areas. Dominant bucks usually make multiple, larger scrapes and will typically refreshen these regular.
The best location to set up a mock would be a funnel between bucks bedding area and does bedding areas. Once you locate these areas this is where you want to make your mock scrape. You may also want to set up on an existing scrape, but don't get close enough to pressure the deer.
Mock scrape construction begins with your own scent control. Use rubber sole boots with scent control on the bottom and wear rubber disposable gloves, so not to leave human scent. Hang your scrape dripper 6-7 ft above the ground with a branch below at 4-5ft. Now using a downed branch or your ratting horns, make a scrape directly below the dripper, so it will leave the scent in your scrape. Do this again 2-3 times in the same area and make the occasional rub on a near by sappling with your horns or knife.
This indicates to whitetails a good buck has moved into the area. You may even have a buck take over your mock scrape or make one 5-10yds away. I usually give this 1-2 days to sit, come back pour some hot doe scent into the scrape, then set a stand 30-40 yds away. Hunt this stand steady for 2 days, you'll be surprised at the attention whitetails will give these scrapes if you can place them in areas you can access without disturbing the entire woodlot to get to.
Reading whitetail deer tracks:
In the Fall of 1996 I was hunting an area that I knew was holding some great deer in Pike County, Illinois. As odd as this may sound some hunters possess an instinct about them wherein they can “feel” an area. Just that feeling of knowing the area is good irregardless of what deer sign may or may not be present. Having found an area like this I began to attempt to quietly scout whitetail deer and locate a trophy whitetail buck. Despite the fact the area had virtually no rubs or huge scrapes I found a trail crossing a small creek. I checked the trail and found some of the largest deer tracks I have ever seen in my life. I quickly and QUIETLY set up a treestand location and waited for late evening whitetail deer movement. Out of nowhere came 4 shooter bucks right down the path, cross the creek, and I missed the shot. Here was a situation where reading whitetail deer tracks enabled me to scout whitetail deer and locate trophy whitetail bucks.
Despite recent arguments about how to determine how to tell a whitetail buck track from a whitetail doe track to accurately scout and track down trophy whitetail bucks, first know that it doesn’t take a biologist to figure out a mature whitetail buck is simply heavier and larger. This means a heavy deer should leave not only the two front split tracks but also two round circle impressions behind them made by the animals dew claws. Normally unless your standing in a mud hole only a mature buck will leave dew claw prints. Here’s the deal. A wise man once told me if it barks, and chases cars its probably a dog. Use some common sense here. If your looking at a 5 inch long track from front point to dew claw impressions it’s probably a monster buck. You’ll know a great buck track when you see it. Normally does do not leave dew claw impressions. Dah, I say to all those that would argue this point. It sure isn’t a fawn or a button buck leaving a track like that. Hope that last remark on scouting whitetail deer wasn’t too offensive but for crying out loud, this isn’t rocket science. Scouting whitetail deer tracks can be vital.
Know your area food sources as they change so you can successful scout whitetail deer and locate big whitetail bucks. Agricultural crops constitute more than 50 percent of the whitetail's deer’s year-round diet in the Midwest. Native foods that make up a minor part of the deer's diet include woody vegetation, particularly buckbrush and rose, with lesser amounts of dogwood, chokecherry, plum, red cedar, pine, and a host of other species. Forbs, particularly sunflowers, are important, while grasses and sedges are used only briefly in spring and fall. Although whitetails can obviously subsist entirely on native foods, they apparently have a preference for farm crops, which constitute the biggest management problem in agricultural states.
If your hunting the Midwest the formula for treestand relocation is pretty easy. Early season you want to concentrate on green agricultural crops like soybeans, alfalfa, and clover. Avoid the corn until its cut or harvested but as soon as it is harvested get to those corn field edges in the evening. A recently harvested cornfield pays huge dividends. The key in between harvest of crops by farmers is to absolutely know the difference between the different species of oak trees in your area. Be able to identify different acorns and continually scout for oak trees that are producing acorns. Staying one step ahead of colonies of oaks that are dropping acorns is vital to scouting whitetail deer and relocation to harvest trophy whitetail bucks during October especially.
Whitetail Does in Heat
The successful whitetail hunter keeps an eye out for does that are at the peak of their estrous cycle. If you run across a woodlot that is holding a hot doe believe me you’ll know it as the bucks will be chasing her everywhere. Stay atop your game in this area and scout whitetail deer to locate trophy whitetail bucks by knowing when you have a hot doe in your area.
The estrus period, where a doe is most fertile, only lasts about 24 hours. This is why it is important to scout whitetail deer and look for hot does in your area. The doe will stand still for the buck rather than run away from him the moment he tries to come very close to her. She will now tolerate that the buck mounts her. After breeding the buck will stay with that doe throughout her estrus period before he goes off to find a new estrus doe, commonly referred to as “doe in heat”. Bucks breed several does in a very short time frame. Not all the does come in heat at exactly the same day.
Scouting Whitetail Deer and Locating Trophy Bucks With Game Cameras During The Season
No matter how much scouting you do for whitetail deer you will have alien bucks you have never seen before enter onto your property as a direct result of hunt pressure, crop rotations, and knowing that biologists claim whitetail buck can travel up to 9 miles during the rut. Because of this in order to scout whitetail deer effectively you need game cameras so you will know what has entered into your area.
Placing cameras over rutting sign lets you discover where specific bucks are at any time. A buck photographed repeatedly at one or two sites is going to be there for some time. Because bucks return to the same rubs and scrapes each year, this knowledge can be used to develop a plan for the next year. On the other hand, a buck photographed only once is likely a "floater" caught passing through the area. He is a much more difficult animal to harvest. But you may be able to work out a general time frame of when he moves into your hunting territory.
As you can see successful whitetail hunters continually scout for whitetail deer. Summertime scouting is vital, however continuous year round scouting is crucial to continuing to place yourself or others to intercept trophy whitetail deer.