By Bob Humphrey
For serious deer hunters the season never ends. Even when we can’t hunt them we’re still looking for them and trying to unravel the mystery of their habits. For some, spring turkey season is merely a stop-gap between seasons. For others it provides a great opportunity to scout deer when you otherwise might not be in the woods.
Sheds - Maybe I just don’t try hard enough but I seem to find more shed antlers when I’m not looking for them, often while spring turkey hunting. Sheds can tell you which deer made it through it through hunting season and more importantly, where they like to hang out. If you find one don’t just tuck it in your vest and move on. Make note of where you find it. Then take a few minutes to look around for more, and study the area for potential stand locations.
Sign - Buck sign stands out as well in early spring as it does in the fall. Scrapes and rubs are an even better indication than sheds as to where the bucks like to hang out. Jot locations down in your notebook or record them on your smart phone. Later, you can plot them on a map and look for patterns.
Hotspots - Over time hunters develop a search image for deer. They train their eyes to pick out patches of brown and white or the horizontal line of a deer’s back; and they recognize them long before their mind comprehends what they’re seeing. The same is sometimes true for hotspots. Experienced hunters seem to gain a sense for the type of places that make great deer stands, even in the absence of obvious sign like rubs and scrapes. It may be a travel route created by habitat or topography or a dark, dense thicket where the big bucks like to hide out.
The best thing about spring scouting is that you don’t have to worry about disturbing deer because you won’t be hunting them for another five or six months. That’s also the worst part, but the sign you find might make the wait more enjoyable.