Here in Wisconsin, the bow season gets underway in just 60 days! If you haven't been out scouting your hunting areas, now is the time.
July is typically a good time to scout because the deer will be on their summer time feeding schedules and they have plenty to eat, which should give you plenty of opportunities to see what they are up to before bow season kicks off in September.
When you head out to scout for deer, glassing them from a distance is important, but it’s also important to get into the woods and monitor food sources, water sources, droppings, trails, bedding areas, etc. to get an idea of where your deer are moving before the season begins.
Here are some tips:
Get an aerial map
Getting an aerial shot of your property is pretty easy, thanks to Google. Topo maps can also be a good resource. It’s nice to have a picture of the property so you can make notes, draw trail lines, keep track of travel patterns, and have a visual journal of your findings.
Keep lots of notes
The more detailed the better. I create spreadsheets with temps, times, what I saw that day and where I saw it. Over kill? Maybe, but it’s helped me bag plenty of deer over the years. My smartphone has become a great tool. With photo and video at my finger tips, plus the ability to take notes on the screen, it’s a hunter’s dream.
Look for deer signs
Find areas with LOTS of deer sign. If there is a lot of sign, it’s probably a heavily traveled/used area. I like to set up cameras in these areas to get an idea of what I’m dealing with, in terms of the herd.
Find the bedding areas
Keep in mind, deer will have bedding areas in various places around your property, so try to figure out where the majority of them are. Figuring out which bedding areas they’re using can become a fun game. They may use a bedding area on the backside of a ridge when the wind is higher than usual. They may bed down on the edge of a grass slew when the sun is shining and the wind is calm. Knowing the bedding areas is important because it’ll help you figure out where to set up for your hunt. Just make sure you don’t walk directly into the bedding areas while you’re scouting.
Follow the food
Food sources change throughout the year. Make sure you locate as many food sources as possible, especially if you’re hunting in a big woods without a lot of farming in the immediate area. This is where setting a food plot could be to your advantage. Same holds true for watering holes.
Look for trails
You’re looking for trails that come and go from bedding and food source areas. These are the trails that will give you the best opportunity to see the deer in your area. Again, setting up a trail cam in these areas is key.
If you’re worried about spending time in your woods prior to the season starting, make sure you’ve got a good pair of binoculars. Find a high point on your property and take a seat. Monitor food sources, watering holes, and line fences for movement. Again, keep notes and mark down the activity on your map. If you like to set up on the edges of woods/fields, glassing for entry and exit points is important.