February 10, 2023
By Josh Honeycutt
Once all bedding areas, food sources and watering holes are located and recorded, it’s important to analyze and translate these behaviors, patterns and tendencies into actionable post-scouting planning.
This phase of the scouting process is about sifting through all the information gathered while in the field. A lot of miles were walked, interesting things seen and dozens or more of app pins dropped. Each data point means something. Sometimes, these things are obvious. Other times, they aren’t, but there’s always a take home message. Here, we learn what those are.
Of course, another aspect of this scouting phase is studying satellite, topography and other relevant app and map layers that can help determine the clues garnered in the field. Deer use different habitat and topography types in a variety of ways.
For starters, observe your app (with the visible trail network and dropped pins showing). Study it from a high level perspective. Don’t focus on the details, just take in the whole picture. Make note of where major concentrations of activity occur, and where there seems to be wastelands void of deer activity.
Then, zoom in on hotspots and points of interest. Study these areas in detail, even to the point of redundancy. Here, it’s important to question everything. While focusing on specific locations, revisit each dropped pin, note taken and photo snapped.
Ask yourself, why was this series of rubs here? Why was this community scrape there? What made that big buck bed in that spot so often? Why did the bulk of the deer use this trail, but some used a smaller, less-traveled one adjacent to it? When was each bed most likely to be used?
It’s these types of questions that will be important to ask and answer during this phase of the scouting process. Eventually, knowing these answers will help you understand how deer use and maneuver about the property, which is critical information when making decisions on creating new bedding areas, establishing food sources, placing watering holes, planning lines of movement, creating screening cover, charting access routes and more.
In addition to findings revealed while in-the-field scouting, it’s important to compare these things to reflections on in-the-field sightings while hunting during the past season. It can really help unlock your understanding of an area. For example, if you see that cluster of beds on a south-facing slope, you may remember the day toward the end of deer season when a monster buck emerged from that direction. Or, if you’re trying to determine which buck made a rub line, you’ll think back to fall when you watched a buck make a rub. Then, after the season, study the various rubs for similarities in rubbing patterns or unique features that could be attributed to a buck’s specific antler traits.
Likewise, it’s important to plug in key trail camera photos, too. All photos of mature bucks are relevant, especially those taken during or close to legal shooting light. By studying these trail camera photo details (i.e., arrival direction, departure direction, time of day, etc.), and comparing these to things found while scouting, you can unlock clues that’ll help you get on a target buck.
This is especially true for trail cameras that soaked within bedding areas. Capturing photos of bucks within bedding areas tells you where they are sleeping. If these deer are still alive, this can help make plans for next season. It might also reveal what other bucks might do in the future. But we’ll cover this and more in more detail in part three of the Post-Season Scouting Master Class.