A New Look at an Old Hunting Ground

January 16, 2016:
by Josh Mace,

Did that number one buck, on your "Hit List", move just outside of your shooting distance? What a good time to scout hunting areas with snow on the ground. Travel routes, beddings, and feeding areas will be easy to locate!  

Late season scouting is one of the best times to scout and record deer movement.  The reason for this is because the snow is on the ground and the deer will seemingly draw maps of their travel routes from bedding to feeding areas and vise versa.  If you are using this method of scouting for one of your seasoned hunting spots that Ol' Hoss Buck never came into your range, you will finally see his ghost trail or travel route. [ghost trail, a trail mainly used by mature bucks that parallels the main travel route, usually a few yards to either side.]  Once you find the major travel route where the majority of the deer have been walking, you may want to start walking off to either the right or left of it. You may run into a trail with a single set of tracks, if you have fresh snow.  For the cases when you haven't had any fresh snow, you may have a couple sets of tracks. Look at the tracks closely they all should be pretty well uniform, meaning they are from the same deer. As you follow these travel routes keep in mind he is going the same general area as the does and younger bucks but may be taking the scenic route.  A mature buck does this because through time he has learned how to recognize safer routes of travel and how to steer clear of coherent dangers. Along your walk you may come across buck rubs, busted off small twigs and branches about eye level maybe higher, (possible sign of an old scrape) old bedding areas, small feeding areas, and if you are lucky enough you may even find a shed antler or two. 
Finding all these signs together and in close proximity means you are more than likely in that bucks safe zone. "Your in his house now!" A buck may have a couple safe zones in their core area. Remember there is no text book answer for the size of a bucks core area or how many safety zones he may have in the area.  The core area varies greatly from the time of year, food, water, region, deer's age,  and other elements.  For example, a buck is in rolling farmland may have a core area of a square mile he has everything to be sub-stained in that square mile. Now take the same buck and put him in the mountains, his square mile may have gone to three square miles just for the simple fact he has to go that far to find everything he needs to be sub-stained. Upon finding these areas, I would either have a GPS with me to mark the spot and your route in and out and save it for future reference.  Don't worry if you don't have a GPS, with a map and compass you can achieve the same goal.  This takes me to another scouting tool that I use called a " Trail Cam".  I use these for taking inventory after season has closed. I will find the buck's core area, then find his safety zone and place a camera in, what I believe, is the center of his safety zone.  I may leave it there for days, weeks, maybe a month depending on were it is located.  Leaving a trail camera out for a longer length of time, will give you a more accurate inventory of your deer.

Well I hope this method of scouting will get you that shot on a buck that has eluded you in past seasons. Remember take only what you need and nothing more, and leave the outdoors better than you found it. 

       "As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God"  Psalm 42:1