Outdoor Life Online Editor

To be successful you’ve got to scout. Simple enough. But squeezing it in between work, honey-dos and sundry other chores can be difficult. Don’t let a lack of time for serious scouting keep you out of the woods before the bow opener, however. Instead, adjust your methods and plan recon missions to focus on a few key areas where deer sign is more likely to give you the best payoff.

Begin by narrowing the possibilities to two critical areas and the travel corridors between them. In the early season, deer are mostly limited to feeding and sleeping, so home in on areas where those activities take place. Start by walking field and food plot edges; then move into thicker cover and look for water sources, swamps and beds.

1. Narrow the Field
Look for areas where deer enter or exit fields. Irregularities such as inside corners; spots where brush forms a point into the field; funnels formed by thick cover, fences or ditches; islands of saplings and tall weeds; and drainages choked with brush are also great places to hang a stand.

2. Look for Rubs
In late summer, look for rubs on pines and small cedars around field edges and along logging roads between fields. When you find fresh sign, hang a stand that offers concealment and an open shooting lane.

3. Find a Crossing
Check wire fences bordering fields. Hair on the wire indicates a well- traveled crossing. Remember, deer prefer not to jump fences. Look for low wires that provide an opening in the fence for deer to slip through or a depression under the bottom strand. Bucks and does will use these crossings early in the season, making them perfect for an ambush.

** 4. Get Your Feet Wet**
Take an inventory of all the ditches, creeks, depressions, drainages, swamps and ponds in your area. Water provides both a safety barrier for bedding areas and an escape route for deer. Look along steep ditches where deer cross so often they’ve worn down the bank. Deer will use these routes often, so they’re good for both morning and evening hunts.