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Post-Season Scouting Master Class: Creating Target Buck Game Plans

Part three of this four-part series on post-season scouting tips and tactics focuses on using your data to develop game plans on surviving target bucks.

Post-Season Scouting Master Class: Creating Target Buck Game Plans

Once you’ve finished in-the-field post-season scouting and studied all your findings, it’s time to create target buck game plans for the coming year. If you know or believe certain deer are still alive, it can increase the odds of success for next season.

For bucks you have multiple years of history with, begin the process by revisiting sightings data and trail camera photos from past seasons. Observe the locations and conditions of these encounters and take notes.

Next, take the most recent information from the season that just ended and see how it’s alike or different for the same bucks in years before. If consistencies emerge, these things should be noted. Such things can be returning to the area at a certain day or time, bedding in specific locations, making scrapes in certain areas, using specific trails, frequenting certain food sources or moving in daylight in certain ways.

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Once you’ve finished analyzing all your scouting data, it’s time to begin using the data to develop game plans for your target bucks.

After studying past intel, it’s easy to determine when target bucks tend to be on the property. For example, a specific buck might spend the early and late season there, but not the rut, or vice-versa. Other bucks might remain there all season long. Whatever the case, this is important information, as bucks oftentimes repeat behaviors from year to year. Be ready when it comes to fruition again this fall.

After reflecting on each buck’s habits and tendencies, it’s time to create plans for each phase they are expected to be on the property. First, estimate where they will bed. That’s the foundation of the plan. Everything else builds out from there.

Remember, bedding is seasonal. Bucks bed in certain places under certain circumstances, including time of year, temperature, wind direction and more. In the early season, when it’s warmer, deer require bedding that keeps them cooler (summer thermal cover). During winter, they require the opposite: winter thermal cover (conifer trees like cedars, spruce and pines). Or they may utilize solar cover on south-facing slopes, which help keep deer warmer. Obviously, deer will use these areas at certain times but not others.

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This shot from the OnX Hunt app shows an example of developing a game plan to hunt a specific buck based on post-season scouting finds. After finding the buck’s bed and travel route to the field, the hunter plans to plant a kill plot, hang a tree stand over it and monitor the food source and travel corridor with trail cameras. All while keeping the wind and access in his favor (indicated by blue and purple arrows). Photo by Blake Garlock

The same is true for food sources. All the things that deer eat are seasonal. Whether it’s crops, food plots, soft mast, hard mast or browse, they all peak at certain times; and they are unavailable at others. Knowing when these peaks are is crucial.

Any food plots planted, or other food provided, must be synced in relation to when and how adjacent bedding areas are used by expected target bucks. Ensuring food plot plant species hit peak attraction during the same period nearby bedding areas are most-used by target bucks boosts the odds they will use these lines of movement.

To further increase these chances, plan locations for small watering holes between the beds and their associated food sources. Giving deer everything they need within a linear format allows them to travel in the directions you need them to. This makes deer more patternable, safer from neighboring hunters and easier for you to tag.




Overall, keeping deer moving along these lines of movement in a predictable manner is what provides better chances of success in the stand. This systematic approach makes each future hunt a high-odds sit rather than a dart throw at the map.

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Utilizing the past season’s trail camera data with the sign you found is a great starting point to building your strategy to hunt a target buck. Focusing on when a buck was most active on your property will allow you to select the best time to hunt him. Photo courtesy of Josh Honeycutt

Of course, with these lines of movement established, the final step in planning is identifying spots where bucks are vulnerable. These are the areas to hang tree stands and position hunting blinds. So, after compiling scouting information, analyzing the data and creating game plans, it’s time to make in-the-field adjustments and preparations. But we’ll touch more on that in part four of the Post-Season Scouting Master Class.

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