Scouting a property to potentially hunt can begin at any time with the help of the Internet, a few modern trail cameras, some legwork and a keen eye for detail. This can be accomplished in three efficient steps that will have minimal disturbance on the local deer.
First, use the impressive perspective of the Google Earth app to study the habitat diversity of the property. Scan for areas that would be suitable for both bedding and secretive feeding, then highlight the nearest water source. Watch for the paths of least resistance among these areas, which could also serve to keep wary bucks hidden from view.
Once you’ve identified an area worthy of a closer look, it’s time for some bushwhacking. Wearing scent-free rubber boots, strategically hike the property looking for signs of deer activity. I bring along binoculars for scanning distant edge habitat, and my smartphone or handheld GPS for marking waypoints when I find rubs, scrapes, trails and beds.
In my backpack, I also carry my trusted trail cams, which I’ve cleansed of foreign odours, and a pair of pruning shears. When I locate a scrape or an area of high deer traffic, I set up a camera. In all, I will place three cameras around a property of about 200 acres for two to three weeks to assess the composition of the local herd. Be sure to prune back any small branches directly in front of the lenses to prevent swaying foliage from triggering the cameras.
If you choose not to use trail cams, the next best strategy is to make note of the sizes of the tracks in the scrapes, as well as the sizes of the rubs. If the tracks are longer than a rifle cartridge and the rubs are more than four inches in diameter, they were made by a mature buck. Still, the clear advantage of trail cams is photographic proof of what the bucks actually look like, and how many different deer frequent the area.