Scouting Quandary: Making Sense of Forage

Am I wasting my time?

It's a question I've been asking myself about once a day for the last two weeks. I've been putting in hours behind spotting scopes and miles between trail cameras, trying to get a handle on pre-season deer movements here in Montana.

But it seems the more I'm out in the field, the more confused I'm getting about the location of certain deer. And I'm guessing I'm not alone in this world of educated guessing about late-summer movements of whitetails.

Here's my quandary: there is so much forage on the landscape right now that deer can easily bounce between hay fields, wheat stands and even the little standing corn in my corner of Montana. Bucks that I saw last week in my alfalfa field are turning up this week three miles away in a neighbor's wheat field.

So… am I wasting my time trying to find deer right now--just days before the Sept. 4 archery opener--or should I be waiting until after harvest, when deer are more visible and the food sources are fewer, and the buck movements become more predictable?

This is harvest season. Farmers are busy converting wheat into grain and alfalfa into bales. So should I wait a few weeks until the landscape becomes simpler, from the standpoint of deer groceries, or should I continue to keep watching deer, with the knowledge that they could be miles away from me when the season opens on Saturday?

Let me know your advice about how much stock I should be putting in my pre-season scouting.