This time of year, your crossbow really isn’t going to do you much good. Most hunting seasons have come and gone, and the wait for next year anxiously begins. But rather than sitting on your couch at home watching TV personalities put their hunting crossbows to work, scanning through social media, or browsing the internet for crossbow reviews to see which one should be your next purchase, put on your warm clothes and get back out in the field!
This time of year is a critical time to be in the woods scouting. It’s cold, wet, and windy, and not an ideal time to be sitting in the stand, so thank goodness hunting season is over. Not even the companionship of the best crossbow on the market or a good old pair or thermal underwear keep the cold at bay for long. With minimal foliage and the possibility of some snow on the ground, these months of late winter and early spring can be the absolute best time to learn more about your hunting property and how the deer are using it.
1- Any time there is snow on the ground is a perfect opportunity to learn where the deer prefer to walk. A trail that is heavily trodden by hoof prints is a telltale sign that deer prefer to use that travel route. Here is where you’ll likely want to have a stand, if you don’t already. The less visible trails that only seem to get minimal deer traffic, might look promising in the summer months, but tell a different story this time of year.
2- Furthermore, with the trails easily visible, you can follow them from point to point, which is likely going to be bedding to some sort of food source. If you know where the deer prefer to bed and where they like to eat, now you know two very key places that might be good for a hunting location.
3- Beds are particularly easy to spot in the snow. The warm bodies of deer melt the snow around them in a nice little oval. The great thing about this is that larger deer leave larger ovals, and those are typically the bucks. If you’ve found a bucks preferred bedding and feeding area, you’re now armed with a tremendous amount of information that can help you hunt that buck in the early and late seasons of 2017.
4- On the contrary, if you locate several beds clumped together and they only seem to be of average size deer, you might as well have hit the deer hunting lottery. You’ve stumbled upon a doe bedding area and you know what that means for the rut. Where there are does, there will definitely be bucks come November.
5- Another great sign to look for this time of year are scraping and rubbing lines. Often times the scrapes that bucks had been freshening up during the rut were made after the leaves had fallen. If you’re lucky, and the wind and snow hasn’t ruffled up the leaf litter in your woods, you’ll still be able to see these scrapes while scouting. Also be on the lookout for rubbed trees. They become much more easy to spot when there is no underbrush sprouting green leaves and buds to hide their presence. Now you have a good idea where a buck will be spending time in the pre rut, during the month of October and early November.
If you know these signs and have the time and ability to get out and put some miles on your boots, you can set yourself up for a pretty sweet hunting season in 2017. All of the pieces have to fit together as straight as a crossbow arrow, but anything you can do to help stack the odds in your favor can never hurt. Good luck out there and hopefully you can spot several of the key elements on your next scouting trip.