How to Scout Public Land Whitetails in the Offseason

scouting public land deer 1

In a basic bait-and-switch transfer, I’m going to inform you one thing anticlimactic: You need to begin winter scouting public land identical to you’ll any deer floor. Stroll it, make notes, take a look at the previous season’s signal, and attempt to learn the terrain so that you simply’ll be higher ready subsequent fall.

That is all easy stuff and worthwhile for the general public land hunter. However there’s extra to the story if you wish to use your February findings to remain on high of in-season deer motion. On this case, you’ve obtained to first acknowledge an inevitability of public land searching—inconsistency in deer patterns.

That is the precise reverse of a lot of the whitetail recommendation on the market, which not solely hinges on consistency, however actively encourages hunters to do no matter they will to ensure it.

From meals plots and bait websites to plenty of in style habitat improvement strategies, the thought is commonly to create an space that not solely holds deer, however strongly encourages them to revisit it day-after-day, and yearly. Hunters admire this as a result of it makes issues far more predictable, which, not coincidentally, makes issues simpler. There’s nothing flawed with any of bettering land, however this contemporary whitetail mentality tends to bleed into all features of deer searching, even when it won’t be immediately relevant to your scenario.

If you happen to’re a public land hunter, you may’t depend on altering the panorama to make sure constant deer utilization. You must hunt them the place they’re and the way they behave.

The Huge Deer Image
A number of years in the past I had a dialog with Alex Gyllstrom, a Wired to Hunt contributor who additionally works for Whitetail Properties. One of many issues Alex stated throughout our chat that caught with me was, “An actual understanding of deer floor is what kills bucks.”

This may appear floor degree, nevertheless it’s not.

Once you’re speaking about public land deer that may pinball their approach round their residence vary in response to searching stress, having a good suggestion the place they may find yourself at any given time is large. That is the true key to winter scouting on filth that anybody can hunt.

If that the deer ought to be in a particular spot, however as an alternative you discover just a few new hang-ons and a few freshly put in cameras once you slip in through the center of October, it’s time to adapt. There can be different spots that the hunters are ignoring, which can be the place the bucks could possibly be.

It’s not all the time straightforward. However discovering these areas does turn out to be an easier proposition if you happen to’re intimately accustomed to the bottom. That’s one of many causes I attempt to placed on as many miles as doable in February and March. Certain, I really like discovering sheds and concentrations of deer signal, however I additionally simply wish to perceive the taking part in area on which I’ll be searching.

Every creek crossing, each oak flat, each clear minimize, every little thing issues. That data is what helps information in-the-moment choices when the bucks aren’t doing what you anticipate of them as a result of your competitors has invaded final yr’s honey holes.

That is the most important and most necessary step in winter scouting public land. Study it effectively, be taught it extensively, after which begin going a bit extra granular.

The place Two Worlds Meet
If you happen to’ve racked up a number of 20,000-step days in your public land winter scouting, you’re doing effectively. Now it’s time to fine-tune your search to mix in a public land mindset with the identical issues that private-land scouters key on.

The rublines, scrapes, pounded trails, and all deer signal nonetheless seen from final yr is there for the taking. It’s there so that you can discover and plug into your big-picture understanding of deer utilization on that floor. As an alternative of calling it ok once you run throughout a hillside bench that’s affected by rubs, ask your self why he was there and whether or not he’ll be again?

Was he staging there or bedding? Is his utilization of that bench a response to searching stress on the ridge high above and the valley beneath? Final yr’s buck signal lets you speculate on why it’s the place it’s and it lets you file that away for this yr. It gives an awesome place to begin and may be all it’s good to fill your tag this season.

It additionally won’t. This signal might get you shut however would possibly nonetheless require some additional in-season scouting or possibly an on-stand statement to guide you to present deer motion. That is necessary to know as a result of it’s essential to the method. You’ll be able to winter scout your coronary heart out and assume you’ve obtained every little thing dialed, however the searching competitors and the whims of prey animals usually conspire to supply surprising exercise within the woods. Often, an surprising and unwelcome lack of activity, truly.

To maintain that to a minimal, you will need to have a good suggestion of the place to go subsequent when one spot has cooled off-especially if it by no means heated up within the first place. A good way to perform that is by actually studying each inch of your deer floor all through the winter, which is a chance each public land hunter has proper now.

Function picture through Captured Artistic.

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