4 Post Season Scouting Tips for the Serious Bow Hunter

Post Season Scouting Tips for Bow Hunting

Has your season just ended? Then it’s the perfect time to prepare for your next hunt.  Post season scouting starts for any serious bow hunter as soon as the season endsThis is the time of year to roam your hunting landinvestigate new properties, and start developing a productive plan for next season’s bow huntingBelow we highlight four tasks that should be added to everyone’s off season to-do list.

Photo: Alex Charlton, Fresh snow = a fresh #NockOut

1. Discover New Land 

Exploring property should be your number one priority right now.  Whether it be the thickest piece of your own land, or a new piece of public land, there isn’t going to be a better time than now to scope it out.  

Public Land 

For public land hunters, post season scouting allows you to travel new distances, discover new spots, and familiarize yourself with any new rules and regulations.  If there is a piece of land you always wanted to explore, you’ll have all the time you need to do it.  

Why is this important? Because as a public land hunter, you have no control over the land you are hunting on. You have no control over vegetation, hunting pressure, or heard management.  It’s likely that every public land user has seen their favorite spot lost to a fellow sportsman. As defeating as this can be, it doesn’t have to end your season.  Spend your off season exploring new property and creating new opportunities.  

When you do find a piece of property you are interested in, be sure to invest time studying it. Set up your trail cameras, walk through the property, and make note of your favorite landmarks. 

For open country hunting, this is the perfect opportunity to find new glassing points or ask permission for private access property. Often times, owners of private parcels give permission on a first come first serve basis.  

Private Land 

For landowners, this is the perfect time to check those spots that you avoid in the summer.  You know, the ones that are painful to get to and leave you covered in dirt and sweat. There is no better time than now to explore these places.

Photo: Brett Moore “White Gold” Series

Below are three things to consider when creating your offseason scouting plan.  

Scent is Limited 

Little do people know that scent is highly limited in cold environments.  Temperature is dependent on the speed of air molecules. Cold temperatures mean slow molecules. Slow molecules mean a slower interaction with your nose. This limits our sense of smell and the deer’s as well. That’s why immediately following the season closing is a perfect time to tromp through some of those sacred areas.  

Consequences are Low 

If you do walk up on that big buck, you can be relieved to know that it won’t affect next week’s hunt. Why? Because there is no hunt.  You have months before you will need to hit the stand. This means that as long as you don’t make a habit of it, you can count on your deer eventually returning. 

Early Season Bedding Areas May Be Abandoned 

Deer in cold weather climates may abandon their early season bedding areas altogether.  However, that doesn’t mean they won’t return when the weather warms up and vegetation starts to grow. In many areas of the country, deer will herd up, move to a major food source, and avoid their traditional bedding areas. These areas are likely snow packed and away from the major food source. This is just one more reason why checking out these spots should be done now.

Photo: Standing soybean fields are a great winter food source for deer.

2. Use Your Trail Cameras

Don’t put your trail cameras away just because deer season is over.  If you are wondering what happened to that dominant buck you were chasing last fall, this could be the best time to find out.  

In many locations, deer will still hold their antlers for at least another month. By grabbing photos of them now, you can easily account for the deer you passed on and the ones that were possibly shot.  

This is also a great way to monitor the gene pool. By surveying the survivors, you can gauge their antler development during the regrowth period.

Photo: Weston Schrank, Use post season footage and pictures for management of both the herd and the habitat.

3. Look for Sheds 

Many public land hunters are afraid of investing in a camera that could be potentially stolen on public property.  Therefore, instead of photos, these hunters will need to rely on signs. One of the best signs are sheds.  

Finding these sheds have two major benefits.  The first is helping you determine the quality of bucks that made it through this fall’s hunt, and secondly, it helps decipher which trails are popular routes for cold weather patterns.  This can be especially important in cold weather climates where patterns change drastically between each of the seasons.

Photo: Weston Schrank, Determine feeding destinations, bedding areas, late season funnels, and bow hunting stands all while shed hunting this year.

4. Study, Study, Study 

Perhaps the best thing to do in the off season is study.  Study your observation notes from the season, your footage if you film, study your trail cam photos, your property, your stands, and so on. 

Layout any habitat plans or stand movements and get to work.   

Some questions you should think about: 

  • What changed from last season?  
  • What stands were a bust and which were successful?  
  • Which crops will be in rotation?  
  • What habitat projects could improve your property?  

By answering these questions now, you’ll have plenty of time to setup for a successful hunt without disturbing the deer on your property. Remember, human pressure can be one of the biggest factors in bow hunting success.  Eliminate pressure by taking care of your property early in the post season.

 Putting it All Together 

Take this time to reflect on your mistakes from last season. Improve your post season scouting, take more notes, and re-evaluate your setups.  The biggest benefit of post season scouting is taking your time to do things right.