Scouting for Whitetail Deer
One of the most highly visible pieces of deer sign is the deer trail. Deer trails are worn paths that are made by constant use as deer travel back and forth throughout the woods. Deer hunters can use these trails as a starting point when trying to decipher which direction deer are traveling and when.
However, special care must be taken not to leave any human scent along deer trails. If so, deer will easily pick up on this and as a result, change their travel patterns.
Deer will typically choose their travel paths based on cover, hunting pressure, the lay of the land, and sometimes wind direction. When trying to decide where to set your treestand, consider where the deer are bedding and feeding and simply set up in the highest odd location in between. A mature buck’s often preferred travel route can typically be found in heavy cover. Immature deer are less likely to use such areas as primary travel routes unless pressure is very high.
Deer droppings mean one thing…deer are in the area. Deer normally deficate wherever they feel most relaxed and comfortable. Therefore, when you find an area with a great deal of fresh droppings on the ground, this could be an area of interest.
Many deer hunters will dismiss the importance of deer droppings, but they are a vital component to the overall deer puzzle. In the spring and summer months, deer will be feeding on watery vegetation which will make their droppings moist, light in color and clumpy. During the winter, deer will be feeding on much drier food such as scorns and branches and twigs. This will make droppings much darker with a somewhat dry texture.
Overall size of the droppings can determine sex of the deer. Large droppings typically come from a buck, and smaller from does and fawns or immature bucks.
A whitetail deer’s hoof print can provide a wealth of information.
The track of a mature buck is usually much larger than that of a doe. On average, a mature buck will have hoof prints of 5-1/12 inches in length or longer. This is typically one inch larger than an adult doe. A buck with a tip-to-dew claw measurement of 6 inches or more is thought to be a 300+ pound deer. It is also said that an adult buck will leave distinctive drag marks when walking as a result of not lifting their feet as high as smaller deer.
Typically, smaller deer will meander throughout the woods, Whereas, an adult buck typically walks in the direction it wants to reach; the straight line being the most likely line of travel.
Deer Bedding Areas
The one area deer feel the safest is in their bedding areas. This is mostly likely due to the fact that bedding areas are in the most secluded, well hidden areas; areas that are hard for predators to reach.
An even though it is thought that deer sleep, they in fact don’t’ sleep for very long periods at all. It is more like resting, rather than sleeping. This prevents them from being attacked
by predators while sleeping.
Hunting deer in and around bedding areas is perhaps the most difficult area to kill them because they are so highly tuned to their surroundings at this time they notice the slightest disturbance. Try setting up on deer trails leading to and from the bedding areas rather than hunting directly in them.
Scouting in the snow is a good way to locate bedding areas. During the deer rut, bucks will seek out doe bedding areas so remember where such spots are in your hunting area. Hunt the fringes of bedding areas as not to disturb the deer. Heavily scouting bedding areas is best done during the off-season when disturbance will be a non-issue.