What If Somebody Shows Up In Your Spot? Have a Back Up.
By Tom Claycomb III
Everyone knows scouting adds to your hunting success. But the normal guy (or gal) may get only two weeks of vacation. He uses one for family vacation, leaving just one for hunting – if he’s lucky. That leaves nothing for scouting.
For people who don’t have the option of two week scouting excursions, mini-scouting trips can pay off. The more you scout, the more successful you’ll be – that’s a guarantee!
If you have only a small plot of ground to hunt and nothing ever changes, you may wonder why scouting is such a big deal. Whether the temperature is 100 degrees or minus 20, the game stays right there. In the west, however, winter might force elk and deer to migrate 25 miles to wintering ground. Or, they may change elevation. Where I was wolf hunting in March I was seeing 300 to 500 head of elk and deer per day. A month later they had moved up higher.
If you’ve hunted the same area for 20 years you’ve already learned the saddles where game likes to cross ridgelines and the drainages they frequent. But, what if a new group of hunters shows up in your spot? Or, like what happened to us last year, we scouted a new area but a month later a forest fire ran through – it was toast, literally! Predators can change your situation, too – Canadian wolves can scramble everything if they move into your favorite drainage.
Scouting can’t tell you everything you need to know, but it’s always worth doing. How do you scout on limited time? Some of these tips are sure to work for you.
1. Choose Areas Wisely.
With the above factors playing against you, I suggest lining up and scouting at least three spots. Don’t rank them in priority – make sure they’re all good, and keep options open for as long as you can.
2. Double Duty Summer Excursions.
I recommend doubling up your fishing and camping trips as scouting trips. If I take the family camping and see a lot of elk sign, don’t you think I make a mental note?
Use your weekend trips as combination scouting trips. Don’t take the family camping to the same spot every weekend. Bounce around. (I hope my wife never reads this article or she’ll think I’m a conniving scalawag.) When you backpack in to fly-fish, don’t focus only on fishing. Look around at daylight and dusk for game. Blow some calls. Take binoculars.
3. Learn to Scout Smart.
Bears eat high fiber diets and leave a lot of sign. Since they can’t fly, they’re going to leave tracks. Examine their scat to determine what they’re eating. If it’s huckleberries, look for huckleberry patches. If you find a berry patch it doesn’t mean automatic bears, because in a good berry year more berries will be available than they can eat. It just means conditions are right for them to be there.
4. Assess the Status Quo.
If you saw a nice buck or bull in a certain spot in June, he may or may not still be there in September. If possible, brief last-minute scouting trips a week or two before opening day will tell you if everything is status quo, or if you need to adjust your plans. Getting into the hunting area a day early can give you that opportunity, too.
5. Know How to Use Binos.
I teach “Glassing for Big Game” seminars, so I’m big on glassing. But every year I’m reminded how important it is. Just last year we took some guys deer and elk hunting down in the Owyhees, a trophy zone in southwest Idaho. John Pascoe, a glassing fanatic, spotted a few bucks in a patch of brush 600 yards off the road. A good 20 trucks and 4-wheelers drove by as we glassed them and planned a stalk. Each time we’d look the other way – no sense in inviting competition.
John knows how to use his binoculars. After the stalk he said, “There are two more in there.” I said, “No way! We walked through there throwing rocks!” But, sure enough, he spotted two more bucks in that patch of brush.
One more thing: Buy good optics. Today’s market is crammed with good binoculars and spotting scopes. At the SHOT show this year I bet I counted at least 75 optic companies. Yes, a lot of them are cheap ones. Yes, I know everyone has a tight budget. But don’t skimp – don’t leave any change in your pockets. Buying the best you can afford will pay off.
You can’t kill what you can’t see. There is no telling how much game you pass by and never even know it’s there if you’re not using good optics!
Editor’s Note: Keep an eye on the Havalon Post – we’ll be covering more about how to choose and use binoculars.
About Tom Claycomb III
Tom lives in Idaho and loves hunting bears. He writes outdoor articles for various newspapers, magazines & websites, and he has taken many kids bear hunting for the TV show Kid Outdoors. If it’s something outdoors, Tom probably likes it. You can read some more of his writings at: www.Amazon.com, www.TomClaycomb3.com, and www.BassPro.com.
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