Although it can be extremely hot and humid during the summer months here in the mid west, the dedicated hunter can accumulate some valuable information from June through September to help him score on a monster whitetail! I start on the subject of summer scouting and the best locations I’ve found for keeping an eye on local bachelor groups. Let's take a look at the very low impact, two step approach I use to monitor these deer.
The first step to this tactic involves using what I call “ summer observation stands”. Once I’ve determined which preferred food source the buck I’m after is using, it’s time to hang a stand as far away as possible from where the deer are entering and using the field, but close enough to observe their movements. These observation stands are usually 150 – 200 yards away, further if possible. Even though season is months away, I don’t want to disturb these animals at all! I’ve even gone as far as to set up right next to a road, in a backyard, or in a barn or some type of structure to stay undetected. Easy access and exiting these spots is crucial without tipping the deer off to your presence! A good set of binoculars or a spotting scope are important tools for this type of scouting, along with a mesh bug jacket or Thermacel for pesky mosquitoes! The key to this tactic is observing the behavior of the animal your after on this particular food source just in case you end up hunting him here. You need to know what trails are used to enter and exit the field along with the corresponding winds, and where your stand needs to be located in order to take advantage of the situation once season opens. Another key factor is figuring out how to get in and out of your stands without alerting the deer in the area. Animals will be in the field feeding when you get down after dark and before you climb in for a morning hunt so you have to avoid bumping deer that are on their feet at these times.
The second part to this summer strategy involves the use of trail cameras. If you’re not taking advantage of this technology you are missing the boat! I don’t believe anything has had such a significant impact on the hunting industry and increased a hunters chances of success like trail cameras have since the invention of the compound bow! A team of hunters can’t gather as much information as one trail camera can! Most people just don’t have time to sit in there observation stands 30, 40 or even 50 nights a summer like I have before, so trail cameras can be there when you can’t, gathering crucial information for you 24/7! I spoke in previous columns about my use of mineral sites in a bucks core area during season, but in the summer I establish secondary mineral sites in close proximity to summer food sources. I normally establish these mineral sites within bow range of chosen stand sites, reason being I want to know exactly when a buck is passing “within bow range” of my stand “during daylight”! Once season begins I will purposely stay out of these stands until all conditions are perfect or until I get a daylight picture of the buck I’m after. There’s just no sense in going in any earlier and taking a chance on bumping the buck you are after. All but one of my 7 biggest bow kills were taken the first time I sat the stand, the odd one was on the 2nd sit. Also, In states where it is legal, these minerals have a two fold purpose of attracting deer and aiding in antler growth!
Over the years, my summer scouting has led to harvesting all of my biggest bucks during the first month of season, before most hunters even get very serious about things! This is a deadly tactic for helping to figure out your quarry’s patterns, months before season opens! Next week I’ll discuss the best days this summer for catching the biggest bucks out in the beans before dark and what we can do now to prepare for the season opener!