What can we do to increase our chances at harvesting a monster buck out of state this year? I hunt multiple states every season, and its the legwork you do in the off season that can greatly impact your success on out of state hunts! It’s really not much different than scouting for a big buck back home, but since most of us have limited time, we should have a game plan before hitting the woods to make the most of out scouting expeditions. I’m not going to go into detail about what state to hunt or finding a place once your there, that’s another subject, but I am going to concentrate on explaining what I look for once I have a specific out of state property in mind.
First things first, I want to get a look at the aerial map of the land I’m going to concentrate my efforts on. Nothing can help you more when it comes to deciphering the big picture than an aerial photograph. Bingmaps.com is my favorite internet site for observing the properties I’m hunting, and I always make a copy of the map to carry with me in the field. This is going to give me a great starting point for my scouting, which is basically the same as back home. I’m going to be looking for big sign, mainly large rubs and scrapes, in all the traditional spots. I’m going to concentrate on field edges, fence lines, thick cover, and pinch points that funnel deer movement while Im looking for clues to a big bucks whereabouts. If there’s a big buck living on the property, he’s going to be leaving some big sign behind, and you need to find it. Of course, our main goal will be to locate not only the sign, but bedding areas, food sources, and travel routes marked by big buck sign.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, you need to have an idea of when your going to be hunting the area so you can narrow down your search. If you are planning an early season hunt, you have to know where the bucks core areas are in relation to the food sources because thats what its all about early. I like my chances on a specific animal during early season, when I know he’s going to be very predictable in his travel pattern. If I plan on making my trip to this location in September or October, I’m going to be concentrating my scouting efforts on locating good ambush spots along the early season travel patterns heading for food. I will also try and locate bedding areas, and save these spots for the end of my hunt, diving right into a bucks bedroom as a last resort.
If I know my trip is going to be later in the season, say mid November, I’m going to concentrate on finding the best connecting areas between chunks of cover, especially any type of funnel. When the rut is in full swing, the bucks will be traveling between does, so I know I will need to be spending as much time on stand as possible then, and in the best travel corridors I can find. These spots are easy to find on an aerial map, and the more big buck sign in these areas the better.
Something else to keep in mind when it comes to hunting out of state is this, the more time you spend hunting an area the more you learn. I have been hunting Illinois regularly for the past 9 years now, and have learned alot over the years about the property and the local deer herd. One block that I’ve hunted in particular seems to produce great bucks on a consistent basis. It’s a classic travel corridor that connects a large block of cover to a bluff that runs for miles! Theres always big buck sign on this particular tract of land, it holds a fair number of does and with it being a natural travel corridor, it has all the makings of a great rut spot. Since its so far from home, I normally don’t get the time or the opportunity to locate and scout a specific animal in this area. I love to hunt specific deer early, but I started concentrating my hunting efforts here during the rut a couple years ago and man has it paid off!
If you only take one thing from this column remember this, when it comes to scouting out of state, concentrate your efforts in areas that will be productive during the time of the season you plan to hunt!