February 24, 2023
By Josh Honeycutt
Once the in-field scouting, analysis of scouting discoveries and target buck game planning is complete, it’s time to make the necessary adjustments and preparations for next season’s hunts. Obviously, for public land hunters, there isn’t much to be done other than wait for the right time to go.
For private land hunters — especially those who own the land or have permission to manipulate and change the habitat — there’s much to do. Reflecting on your discoveries and plans from previous parts in this series, start by enhancing current bedding areas, if needed. Then, if there are lines-of-movement issues with the current structure of your property’s bed-to-feed pattern that make hunting the property difficult, consider crafting new bedding areas that lend well to both the deer herd and your hunting efforts.
With each bedding area in mind, use your plans from the previous phases to craft small food plots that are associated with these bedding areas in a huntable manner. Deer should flow naturally out of the bedding areas and into the food. Optimize these plots with shapes that funnel deer to pinch points. Great options include L, K, T, U, V, hourglass and turkey-foot plot shapes. The vertex of these plots will create short-range shot opportunities.
Next, install strategic watering holes between the bedding areas and food sources. This encourages deer to remain on those lines of movement. Keeping deer on these tracks is crucial for seeing deer in daylight. It’s logic, really. The more defined their travel corridors are to get what they need to survive, the more likely you’ll see these deer during legal light. If they stray off in other directions, it increases their travel distance. This can steer them in undesirable directions or make them get to your stand locations too late for a shot opportunity.
Furthermore, offer some extras to boost incentives for deer to use these areas. Options include making mock scrapes, placing scrape posts, establishing rubbing posts, creating mineral licks and more. These are great things to position where you hope for shot opportunities, as it can draw deer in the last few yards, and even stop them naturally.
Of course, while back in the field, it’s important to take down and repair or replace existing stands. Safely conduct maintenance as needed. Replace old cables, chains and straps with new ones. Check for and replace rusty, damaged or completely broken parts.
While keeping proven stand locations, hang new tree stands to newly selected locations based on your post-season scouting plan. Spots might include major trails (used by most of the herd), secondary trails (often used by mature bucks), trail intersections, inside field corners, ridge lines, staging areas, bedding area fringes, small water sources, benches, saddles, leeward ridges, pinch points or strategic food plot vertexes.
It's also important to position hunting blinds where needed. These are especially good for hunting in the rain, but these are very beneficial for hunting spots where the wind tends to swirl.
In areas that really look like great spots, it can prove beneficial to place multiple stand or blind options in a relatively small area. While this isn’t always possible due to the land and how deer use it, when it does, this offers additional options for different wind directions. Even in tricky situations, deploying a stand or two for just-off winds can mean the difference in filling a tag or not. After all, some mature bucks don’t like to move unless they have the wind advantage, and a just-off wind might give them enough confidence to move during daylight.
With stands either deployed or the spots marked and prepped for a hang-and-hunt during the season, it’s time to establish the entry and exit routes charted during the previous phase of the post-season scouting mission. Clear these paths, and where necessary, plant screening cover to prevent deer from seeing you, especially for later in the season when the leaves fall and cover is limited.
Lastly, position long-term cameras as needed. Allow non-cellular cameras to soak (remain unchecked) in bedding areas until the next off-season. Deploy both cellular and non-cellular cams in other areas, too, such as food plots and pinch-points. Where permitted, focus more on cell cams with external battery sources. Oftentimes, with the right pairing, these setups can last for months or even a full year.
From start to finish, a successful post-season scouting plan puts the pieces in place for a higher degree of success the next season. Everything is done with a purpose, and each move is a puzzle piece that fits together with the rest. And that finished puzzle is a trophy photo next fall or winter. Until then, enjoy the post-season scouting!