I was violating a whitetail sanctuary. I followed the muddy trail through the tangle of willows, into a draw full of hardwoods, into the heart of big buck territory. I simply did not care.
Trails that stand out
Whether muddy or snow packed, trails stand out in the stark environment of spring before the landscape explodes with growth.
Scrapes from the previous rut are typically still visible in the spring and Kayser makes note of their location on his hunting app.
Entry into this holy of holies was strictly forbidden during bowhunting season. Neither I nor any of my friends would dare enter it for fear of spooking bucks hiding there. Today was different. Spring had sprung. It was primetime for shed antler hunting. Forbidden areas were now open. And scouting them in spring would prove to my advantage come fall. The same could work for you.
Assuming winter has followed a traditional course, whitetails across the country will have had a month or so to rebound from winter stress. The spring bloom brings on some of the most succulent and nutritious feed of the year. Greening shrubs, forbs, and grain fields start whitetails down the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord that fattens them right into fall. By April most whitetails are budding antlers or bulging with growing fawns. They’ve survived winter and can handle the stress of you entering their special hiding places. So get out there. Check out all the best places without fear you’ll spook your deer out of the area. They have all summer to move back.
Before the explosion of summer foliage, you can see useful clues from the past fall rut. Scrapes, rubs and trails should stand out against the stark background. Sketch a map or use a hunting app like HuntStand to mark these. Include trails and bedding sites. Use these plus your knowledge of prevailing winds and typical forage fields to pick out potential stand sites. Depending on your paranoia, you may wish to set up ambushes on the edge of sanctuaries, on trails leading to them, or right in the middle of a core bedding area. If you’re this bold, erect that stand now so it’s old news come October. And when you eventually hunt it, get in early and plan to sit all-day. You don’t want to exit a bedding area when your quarry could be sleeping nearby.
Aside from being able to easily see scrapes and rubs, another reason to be bold with spring scouting is time. It’s on your side. Whitetails will have nearly a half year to forget about your intrusion. So march in and hunt those shed antlers. Hang all the new stands you think you’ll need, one for every wind direction if you want. Heck, you can even place a new permanent shooting house on the property without fear of messing up fall deer. But make it a point to finish your work now. You don’t want to come back in August or even July to add shingles or windows. Work early and give your deer plenty of time to forget about your intrusion.
If you’re extra paranoid about spooking a particularly wary, evasive old buck, relax. Put this in perspective. You are not the only scary thing in the woods. Whitetails encounter danger or perceived danger nearly every day of their lives. A rambunctious squirrel could startle a napping deer into thinking a pack of wolves just invaded the bedroom. Coyotes, bears, bobcats, rural linesmen, mushroom hunters, and simple trespassers just out for a stroll could be scaring the pants off your whitetails while you cower at home. You cannot control the assortment of scares and interruptions in a whitetail’s world so you may as well add to it now. Get your scouting done!
This doesn’t mean you should overdo it. There’s no need for weekly visits. But if you need or just want to see what’s been going on in those hot deer zones you avoid during the rut, get in and check them out. And be done with it. They’ll soon forget the drama.
If you’re still worried, be cautious in your approach. Stay downwind and use scent-eliminating products. Walk softly and slowly. But don’t be afraid to snoop and prowl. Enjoy yourself. Look for shed antlers. Hunt mushrooms. Trim brush and trails. Do any limbing you think you might need, understanding that summer growth could still add more. Hinge young trees to improve security cover. Fertilize food plots or establish new ones. Set trail cameras if you want. Spring is the safest time to make a bold entrance into your world of whitetails, so don’t be shy. Walk right in and make yourself at home.
SHED HUNTING GEAR LIST
HuntStand Hunting App and Map Printing
ALPS OutdoorZ Impulse Hunting Pack
Sig Sauer Electro-Optics ZULU Binoculars
Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer Products
Cabela’s Hunting Headquarters
For more about Mark Kayser and ways to follow him on social media, visit:
Mark Kayser Hunting Lifestyle www.markkayser.com
HuntStand Hunting App and Map Printing www.huntstand.com
Alps OutdoorZ Commander X + Pack www.alpsbrands.com/alpsoutdoorz