Scouting in today’s terms has a very diverse meaning. Compared to 20 years ago, hunting has evolved with technology. There are numerous resources available to scout for any hunt. They range from digital apps, annual memberships, blog forums, social networks, DIY, magazines and much more.
Scouting for deer in the west does not begin with trips to the mountains. Getting a tag for your pocket requires a lottery draw or purchasing a tag. There are no more OTC deer tags you can’t count on having each year. Some states offer leftover and undersubscribed areas to quickly get a deer tag. When you do have a tag to go chase in the fall you will want to do as much leg work before hand as possible.
To start scouting for deer. Most people think scouting is filling your pack up with all kinds of goodies and gear to walk over every hill in search of a monster. There are some remarkable digital resources you can access from your desktop or smartphone. OnXmaps, Base map are 2 digital apps that are highly effective at giving you a starting point on states, regions, and units.
These can be accessed all year. The most successful hunters aren’t relying on luck. They start all winter looking for new areas, draw odds, access points, public land, waypoints, springs, etc. These features will give you a solid unit or region to start diving deeper into the area. Because these can be accessed all the time.
You’ll always be able to discover new areas, road or foot access to different areas of the unit during the physical scouting later in the year. Being a digital application gives you ample time to explore and share with you hunting buddies for a more memorable and successful trip. These features cost money to create and demand a small subscription fee every year for the user access. The money is well spent and each year there are new updates and features added to improve your odds.
Again we start scouting long before the hunt. The state agencies have seen the need to offer more information to the people helping fund their government jobs. Their website and tools are also improving each year.
They all publish draw odds for deer hunting. Some states also offer game management plans, unit/region deer populations, new restrictions and proposals. Some also offer a buck to doe ratio which can be very helpful in determining not only your odds but what kind of experience you will have when you hunt that specific area.
One position that is getting more and more public attention is the State’s wildlife biologists. This job has some good information to offer and also give you a direction to what unit you would like to scout. Some are better than others at giving out info about the area. Don’t be afraid to have a list of questions to ask. If you don’t ask, you’re guaranteed not to find out anything.
Spring antler or shed hunting has blown up over the years as more and more people use it for a variety of reasons. Exercise, a break from cabin fever, or to make some money from the sale of the browns and white antlers are a few examples.
A savvy scouting individual would also use this for research on size and quality of bucks in the area. Unless the unit has a large population of migrating deer. The antlers found on the winter range are a good indication that they will be following the snow line up the mountains as it melts. Another overlooked benefit when out shed hunting is learning new areas, roads and type of terrain.
These can lead to new areas for an elusive buck or group of deer that have very low hunting pressure.
I highly recommend learning as many roads and trails of the unit you are going to hunt. The summertime is perfect for getting off the grid and back to the basics of life. Learning where the roads lead to can save you tons of miles and time learning the area by foot.
The most distinct advantage the roads can offer you, is a vantage point to get behind some quality glass. Glassing lets you get a feel for the terrain and number of animals that inhabit it. Glassing also allows you to look for feed that deer would be eating come that fall. Remember that just because there are plenty of deer in some areas in the summer doesn’t mean they will be there that fall.
As fall and winter approach some deer move into a transitional ground from summer range to winter. However, some big boys like to stay away from the crowd in the high country as winter sets in until they have to move out for food or the rut.
If you aren’t in a serious time crunch to hunt an area. The best time to scout is actually during the hunting season. If you get the opportunity go spend time in your area during the actual hunt.
It will give you a clear understanding of what the hunt will be like the following season. Hunting pressure can change the behavior of bucks and deer in general. Much different than summer behavior. It also can show where the deer transition to as the season changes.
If you have a family member or friend that has a tag, I would recommend you help out as much as possible the seasons prior to getting your own boots dusty on your hunt. The more you can see of real time action during the season is the best scouting you can do anytime of the year. Good luck and share your adventures with us.