- Whitetail Scouting | Scouting Big Bucks | Topo Maps, Food Sources, Shed Hunting & Rut Scouting
Whitetail Scouting | Scouting Big Bucks | Topo Maps, Food Sources, Shed Hunting & Rut Scouting
By: Dylan Hayward
Scouting for deer has always been one of my favorite things to do. Especially when I’m looking at a new property that I have just gotten permission to hunt, or some new public ground. My friends would always make fun of me for how I search for mature oak trees, look at deer poop, and analyze different tracks.
Nowadays, it’s so easy to just put out trail cameras with some corn and take that at face value.
But you’ll never get the whole picture from just trail cameras alone.
In fact, most of the mature deer that I’ve killed were either never on camera, or only appeared a couple of times. I found the ideal signs for a mature buck through scouting.
Reading Topo Maps For Deer Scouting
There are tons of apps out there that will show you a topographic map of the land that you’re hunting. OnX is a good app that will highlight some topo features that indicate great whitetail habitat.
Using topo maps you can quickly pick out funnels that deer might be using, benches on ridges that big bucks love to frequent when cruising for a doe, and what most people would call a hub, which is where several ridges join together which indicates an absolute hot spot for deer as all of the trails come together.
Whitetail Deer Food Sources
You’re not going to have a perfectly maintained food plot or ag field on all of the properties you hunt, so it’s important to be able to find other natural food sources that will attract deer.
Fruit trees are an obvious green flag, as deer love to eat apples, pears, persimmons, etc. however, these are pretty rare to stumble upon on most properties.
Oak trees are a great tree to look for, especially the white oak.
Acorns are acidic by nature, so deer prefer to eat ones with the least tannic acid, which happens to be from the white oak. You can easily identify a white oak by it’s lighter colored bark, it’s lobed leaf edges, and the longer oval acorn that it produces. If you can find a nice patch of white oaks, that will be an incredible spot to hang a stand, assuming the oaks are dropping that year. Another great tree to search for is a honey locust.
Whitetails love to munch on the locust pods, and they are pretty abundant here in the midwest.
If I pick up a new hunting property during the off season, I immediately shed hunt the property. Shed hunting is a great way to see which bucks were roaming the property the previous season and possibly even multiple seasons prior, if the antlers haven’t been chewed up yet.
While shed hunting you’ll likely stumble upon some heavily used deer trails which are great indicators of how dense the deer herd is, plus, if you’re lucky enough to find a shed, you’ll have something cool to go home with.
Finding Sign Durring The Rut
During the whitetail rut, there’s a lot of what we call “noise” in the woods. You can see deer activity by looking for specific signs.
One of the main things I look for during pre-rut is primary scrapes. Primary scrapes are large in size from heavy deer use by bucks and does, and almost always has a licking branch above it. There’s a common misconception that primary scrapes are only used by bucks, however this could not be further from the truth. If you find a large primary scrape in the woods, hang your Tactacam Reveal XB over it and you’ll find a lot of bucks scent checking it, as well as does using it during estrous.
Scouting for deer plays a crucial role in how we structure our hunting strategy.
During the offseason when we feel we can’t shake that whitetail itch, getting out in the woods and scouting for deer sign is a great way to pass the time.
Not only will this be a fun hobby to do waiting for deer season to start, but you’ll also likely find new hot spots to hunt for next season.