Deer season is fast approaching. Will you be ready when the time comes? Early season deer hunting will often find deer in their summer patterns and bucks holding in their bachelor groups. This is a great opportunity to wrap your tag around a trophy, but how are you going to find that number 1 “hit list” buck? Observation through summer deer scouting is key. Follow the tips below to make the most of the time you have during summer.

Chances are if you are like many hunters you might not have enough “good” hunting spots, and unless you own a lot of land you either hunt public ground or have to seek permission to hunt private ground. If you have not yet secured ground to hunt on now is the time to knock on a few doors asking for permission to hunt new ground. Things have changed over the last few years and it is more difficult to be granted hunting permission, but it can still be done with a little legwork. Remember all a person can tell you is no. If that happens politely accept the rejection and move on to the next landowner.

Summer Deer Scouting Tips

For those with ground or for those with newly secured hunting land, you need to start planning for the upcoming season. It might be hard to wrap your thoughts around deer season in this heat, but bow season is just a few short weeks away. It is far easier to think about summer vacation than sitting in a tree stand in the fall. Many hunters need to get out of that mindset and start thinking like a deer hunter.

Vehicle Scouting

Get out and put some miles on your vehicle. Bucks will obviously be grouped together in their bachelor groups and will come out to eat well before dark. Travel the back roads and use your binoculars to glass for feeding deer. Be careful to stay far enough back to not alert them of your presence and take down notes as to where the deer are entering and exiting the fields. It is not uncommon to take a drive and see deer feeding in just about every bean field. Also, pay close attention to your food plots from afar if you have any out.

Log Your Observations

It will take good optics to observe deer. You want to be close enough to see where they are moving, but still far enough away that they will not see you. Deer have patterns, and they seldom detour from them during the summer. If a buck is doing something one day, he will probably do it again the next day as long as the weather cooperates, or he is not feeling pressured.

For this reason, a hunting logbook is a great way for deer hunters to keep track of deer movements and behavior. Comparing similar weather along with times and dates of deer movement can help you determine when and where to hunt. Early season deer hunting will find deer holding on to their summer patterns that you are seeing now.

A log should include the date, time, weather conditions (temperature, barometric pressure, and cloud cover, or lack of), as well as the size, location and activity of each deer you saw. Continue to keep a log book throughout the season too. Next year keep a log book as well. When you do this for 3 or 4 seasons you will really begin to notice how weather conditions play a big role in deer activity. Keeping a logbook will make you a better, more successful hunter. The data you have collect will not allow you to know where a deer will be at a certain time of the day 100-percent of the time, but logs will give you a good idea what to expect under certain conditions.

Boots on the Ground

After all your scouting from afar is done and you have a good idea of what deer are living where you will need to get your feet on the ground and do some up close and personal scouting to narrow down exactly what the deer are doing. You might not see the deer enter a particular field or see them leave after dark, you might not know exactly what trail they are taking. However, you should have a good general idea where to start looking and hanging trail cameras.

When scouting always take the same precautions that you would when hunting. Wear rubber boots, your scent free hunting clothing, try not to touch limbs, etc. with your bare hands and use scent elimination spray. Try to do your scouting mid-day to lessen the odds of bumping the deer. These little things are often overlooked during scouting.

Trail cameras are a good scouting tool that many of us rely on. If you are still building your hit list and have not yet graduated to patterning a hit list worthy buck start with minerals or feed. A supplemental attraction is a good way to start developing a hit list during the summer.

If you’re at the stage of patterning a buck worth hunting start hanging your cameras and checking and moving them every other week to learn more about the deer you will be hunting. On grain fields and food plots, figure to out what trails the deer use to enter and exit the field. It is important to note which trails the bucks use, and which one he does use. You do not want to be set up on a doe trail hoping to shoot a buck that might never walk past. You should also consider setting the camera up on a time-lapse mode to survey the entire field or plot for activity. This setting is a good insurance program opposed to setting the camera on just one trail.

There are few things you should do when using trail cameras to help improve your odds of not spooking deer. They include:

1. Spray your camera with scent-elimination spray and use rubber gloves when handling and installing the device. Your scent may spook game, and the salt from hand perspiration is a magnet to bears. Otherwise, you may get one great image of bruin tonsils, but that’s all.

2. Test the camera once in place. Even better, practice at home on a bird feeder or bird bath to make sure you know where the camera shoots and how it operates. You may want stills or video and you must know how to adjust for each. Such projects are great for keeping youngsters entertained in summer months.

3. Finally, invest in quality batteries. In most cases cheap is good, but you want batteries that will last a long time to invest a few extra bucks to purchase batteries that will last.

Putting the Observation to Work

By now, you probably have a good idea as to what the deer patterns are. If you have not got all of your stands and ground blinds in position for the upcoming hunt, now is the time to do so. While you are out there go ahead and cut shooting lanes. If you can get this all done well in advance of the season, you are less likely to disturb their routines.

You do not want to get carried away with your shooting lanes. Too much disturbance and the deer will take notice. But, by making cuts now, the bucks should have plenty of time to get accustomed to the changes. Invest in quality pruners and saws. There is no need to buy a new saw every year when you can spend a few more dollars and have one that will last for several seasons.

You might even consider creating some man-made funnels. Some examples would be to create an opening in a fence if you are the landowner or have permission to do so, mowing a path through tall grass, obstructing one trail to force deer to want to take another. Anything you can do to help persuade the deer to go where you want will help. But, there is no guarantee that they will cooperate.

Bow season is fast approaching so now is the time to act on these summer deer scouting tops and get busy locating deer. You might just find an unbelievable buck to add to your hit list that you can set your sights on when season rolls around.

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Jason Houser
Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.