It seems that every whitetail-focused publication runs at least one story every March or April about how early-spring is the best time to scout for deer. The general idea is that you can cruise through the spring woods and find deer sign from the previous season without having to worry about blowing bucks out of the county.
There are plenty of tactics for this (check out a post on spring scouting here), but the most fun way to do it is to just walk halfway aimlessly through the woods. You’ll naturally end up taking the path of least resistance. And if you walk for long enough, that will lead you to some deer trails you haven’t found before.
I was doing exactly this last weekend, when I stumbled upon what I think could be the “perfect” whitetail spot in New York’s Catskill Mountains. I followed a forgotten hiking trail for about a mile to the top of a steep ridge and found what appeared to be an abandoned old homestead. Through the big timber, someone had slashed an opening (many, many years ago) that spread out for about an acre. Some apple trees dotted the edges of the cut. Thick cover enclosed three sides and there were old rubs, scrapes, and deer droppings everywhere. Two major deer trails cut the ridge straight to the spot.
Through much of the Catskills, whitetail hunters are plagued by old-growth forests and minimal agriculture, which contribute to lack-luster deer hunting. In short, there’s not a lot of high-quality deer food. But this spot, by fall, should have plenty of browse, apples, and even some acorns. I can all too easily imagine a nice buck charging across the ridge to chase does. Besides the deer sign and terrain features, I also like this spot because it just looks cool. If I’m going to spend hours upon hours sitting somewhere, it helps if that somewhere has a decent view. I’ll have plenty of time to contemplate who might have lived in the old orchard and why they might have left.