Follow these tips to find your opening-day buck.
Like any deer hunter, you can search for tracks, rubs and scrapes the way you always have. But if you really want to up your odds this year, get creative with these new twists on preseason scouting.
1. Take a Hike
Most hunters fail to take full advantage of all the land they have to hunt. Let’s say you have access to a 300-acre block of woods. You probably hunt only 100, or even 50, of those acres. You bust a deer in your spot every once in a while, so you’ve gotten comfortable. You stay put.
Don’t. It’s time to hike every inch of your property. Divide the habitat into a grid of 20- or 30-acre parcels. Hike the perimeter of each parcel first, then work your way into its core. Carry an aerial photo and jot down your discoveries-a fence gap where two trails converge, a steep bluff that deer must walk around, a white oak grove heavy with nuts and so on. Look especially hard for thick, out-of-the-way holes where bucks will hide when guns start booming.
Signpost rubs from previous years should also rev your motor. One September day, I walked a draw not far from a stand I’d been hunting for years. The drainage had always looked good, but I had been too lazy to check it. I didn’t hike far before I found 10 old rubs the size of fence posts. I slid in there one November day and nailed a 140-incher.
By the way, I have never seen another hunter in that draw, which is generally the case in these harder-to-reach areas. Even if you do find a tree stand, that can work in your favor, too. Keep looking in that direction if you hunt nearby. One day the other hunter might push a buck your way.
2. Take a Spin
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in scouting your land that you neglect to consider what’s happening on adjacent properties. That’s a huge mistake, since what lies beyond those fences can dictate much of the deer movement in your area. Drive the perimeter of your hunt zone. Glass ridges, draws, creeks and fences that run off the surrounding properties onto your spot. Travel corridors that lead to and from crop fields should really catch your eye. A week before gun season, scout those funnels on your side of the fence. If you find fresh tracks, set up for a buck that is feeding, chasing does or fleeing pressure.
**3. Glass Early **
Many people glass for deer around food sources on late- summer evenings, preferring to sleep in on weekends. Don’t give in to this temptation. Go watch for bucks moving in foggy creek bottoms, cutting across weed fields or skulking along swamp edges. Pattern a shooter moving from crops or acorns and back to his bedding area and you might do something that few others manage-score big on a morning hunt during the first week of archery season.
Eye on Buck Whitetail expert and videographer Mark Drury set up 10 Wildlife Eyes on his farm last fall. The deer cams look like film or digital models, only they utilize Mini DV camcorders. At 1 a.m. on November 1, a giant buck tripped one of the cameras and proceeded to rip a scrape for 15 seconds. Drury studied the video clip, snuck in with a stand, hunted for a week and killed the 194-inch 10-pointer. The Wildlife Eye with a Sony HC20 camcorder retails for $899; the housing alone (you supply a compatible camera) sells for $349. (877-956-5746; kolpin.com)