By John Trout, Jr.
Here’s what a whitetail hunter should be
doing in the spring.
Editor’s Note: We’re privileged to have John Trout, Jr. writing for the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He’s one of the best whitetail photographers in the country, and he’s no slouch at hunting either. He has given us a photo essay on early scouting for whitetails – way before they become wise to your ways. Take his suggestions, and you’ll be more likely to score some nice antlers this fall. – Steve Sorensen
Spring deer scouting is a tactic seldom used by many veteran hunters. Not because it isn’t feasible, and definitely not because it’s ineffective. On the contrary, if you hunt spring gobblers, you already have a good reason to head for the woods. Even if you don’t pursue turkeys, you could find sign that puts you a step ahead next autumn.
Antler growth may have already begun for many bucks during the spring. Bucks are commonly within their home range, and will still be there during the early autumn when the hunting season debuts. Their feeding habits and patterns might vary from season-to-season, but you can bet that the spring buck will be nearby.
Typically hunters rely on finding hot trails during the fall to locate and plan their ambush. However, well-used trails such as this one are not always easy to find during autumn due to heavy foliage.
Before the major green-up in spring, you could easily locate trails riddled with deer tracks. The ground is soft and the foliage is light, which provides you with the opportunity to find heavily-traveled routes. Even better, you can safely follow these trails for a considerable distance to see what else they lead you to.
Many hunters dwell on finding fresh rubs during autumn, such as this big cedar tree. After all, they could provide proof that a monster buck passed through. However, during the rut locating sporadic rubs could cost you time and effort.
I’ve always relied more on locating rub lines. They show that a buck has repeatedly traveled a certain route. Even better, I love finding a line of these “old rubs” during spring. Granted, because they have lost their bright, glossy appearance, they could be difficult to locate. Finding old scrapes could be difficult to find as well, but could also benefit you. Nonetheless, large scrapes that once attracted several bucks should remain visible throughout the spring.
Clover fields and other “green” pastures you locate during spring could also provide a food source for whitetails during the autumn months. Many of these fields are left alone and not disked and replanted through the summer, giving you an opportunity to search for a potential hotspot, such as a nearby bedding area.
Because most bucks have shed their headgear by spring, you could easily find an antler. Although it adds a memento for all your hard work, it also tells you that the buck is a survivor of the previous hunting season, and that he will be a year older during the next hunting season.
In the fall, this buck could easily vanish after being bumped. During autumn, as you continuously search for hot sign, you must avoid leaving scent, scouting at the wrong time of day, and getting into areas that could push a buck out of hiding. In the spring, you do not have the worry of changing the habits of a deer, or pushing them into a new area that could leave you high-and-dry.
If you locate a promising ambush location, there is no better time than spring to prepare for a shooting opportunity. That’s not to say you should set up a stand, but it is the best time to clear shooting lanes. It’s no big secret that passing deer quickly notice even a small change to the area, not to mention the possibility it could spook a trophy buck. Removing limbs months in advance will provide plenty of time for the area to calm down, and allow it to look normal by the time the hunting begins.
About John Trout, Jr.
Southern Indiana hunter John Trout, Jr. is a full-time freelance writer and photographer specializing in whitetail deer, wild turkey and black bear. He has authored eight books and his work has appeared in nearly every publication in North America. You’ll enjoy a visit his website at www.troutswildoutdoors.com.
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