Start Scouting for Deer in the Spring
Day 2: How to Know if Your Land Has Trophy Bucks
Editor’s Note: Deer hunters who hunt like the pros and who bag deer each year have scouted extensively. For a pre-season scout plan to be effective, you must pinpoint not only where the deer will be feeding and bedding during the opening week of deer season, but also where and what the deer will eat once that food supply is depleted.
Often hunters don't harvest trophy bucks, because the lands they hunt don't home any trophy bucks. To know whether or not the land you hunt on has a trophy buck, begin to scout, and search for shed antlers in the spring. Bob Zaiglin of Uvalde, Texas, a wildlife biologist, reports, “If you diligently search for shed antlers, beginning in the spring and continuing through the summer, you can get a reasonably-good picture of the number and size of bucks you have on your land prior to hunting season. If you fail to find any big antlers and only see small basket racks, then you may learn you're hunting for a trophy buck where one doesn't exist. But if you locate several large antlers, you can assume that a big deer is on the property you hunt.”
A place often overlooked where you can see deer before the season is naturally-occurring and/or man-made mineral licks. When temperatures soar, deer develop a need for salt and minerals, which they may find at springs that have come up from the ground and brought mineral deposits with them. Another productive place to spot deer before the season is old smokehouse sites where meat once was preserved by the use of hardwood smoke and salt. As the salt pulled the juices from the meat, the solution of salt and animal juices ran into the ground and drew deer to them when the old smokehouses rotted away.
Also in the summer by watching farm crops, food plots and pastures near the land you hunt, you will see bucks sporting velvet antlers come out into the fields just at daylight and at dark. Although most eastern hunters don't use spotting scopes like western hunters do, you can drive through croplands on roads and see deer and determine antler sizes, if you'll use a spotting scope with a window mount. If no roads lie close to these croplands, set-up a tree stand 100- or 200-yards away from a feeding site. Take a tripod with you into the tree stand, and mount your spotting scope to study bucks from afar.
To learn more about how professional deer hunters locate and hunt big deer, buy John E. Phillips’ latest book, “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” available for $2.99 at www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks.