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Spring Scouting

A Deer Hunting Article

Written by T.R. Michels


While many hunters begin to pattern a buck in the fall, when it starts to shed velvet and make fresh rubs, it is actually easier to pattern a buck in the spring. Although the less used buck trails may not be as visible in the spring the rubs and scrapes are clearly evident. Even if the buck that initially made the rubs and scrapes has been shot other bucks will often use the same rub route. The trails used by bucks are chosen because they offer security. They are usually the safest means of travel from the buck's bedding area, through adjacent doe use areas, to nighttime food sources.

Remember that in the fall the buck isn't just going from his bedding area to food sources, he usually travels through all the adjacent doe use areas that he can cover in a night. If you are looking for buck trails remember that they often parallel the more heavily used doe trails, intersecting them only at bottlenecks or near scraping and bedding areas. If the trail shows little use it may be a buck trail. Look for buck sign: large tracks, drag marks, rubs or large clumped droppings. Buck trails, especially rub routes, may be traveled by only one buck, once a day, in one direction, and show very little evidence of being used. If you find vague trails lower or higher on ridges than doe trails, or trails that run through heavy cover, follow creek bottoms, sloughs or forested lakeshores they may be buck trails.

If you find doe use areas in the spring you will probably find rubs and old scrapes. Once you find the doe use areas, or a feeding source, and the rub route, it is a matter of back tracking the rub line of the buck to find its bedding area. If you want to be sure of the buck's bedding area now is a good time to go into it, even though you may spook the buck. By the time hunting season rolls around the buck will have forgotten about your intrusion and will begin using his preferred bedding area on a regular basis again. If you don't see a deer in the area check for beds, large droppings or piles of clumped droppings over and inch and a half in diameter. Although does may make clumps I usually see them in buck bedding areas and in, or near, scrapes. If there are a lot of droppings in one area with rubs on adjacent trees it is a good bet you have found the buck's bedroom.

If you haven't found the buck's rub line the buck bedding area is a good place to look for it. With the use of a topographical map or aerial photo to show you where the food sources, roads and bottlenecks are you can make a good guess which way the buck travels and where he will end up. You can usually find the buck's trail out of the bedroom and follow it by the rubs. If it's possible and you have access to all the property the buck uses follow the entire route, from the bedroom to the food sources and back to the bedroom again. Bucks may leave little evidence of their passing on the way back to their bedding area in the morning. I think they are often in a hurry to get back and don't take much time to mark their trail until the peak of the rut.

You can usually find the buck's back trail by the tracks and rubs left from previous years. Once you know the buck's rub route you know where to find him, but, unless you have seen him regularly, not when to see him. When you have found the trails, doe use areas, buck bedding areas and rub lines, record their location on a map. If you see deer record the time, place, weather conditions, food sources, activity and other factors in a Journal so you know where to find the deer in the fall. With the information gathered in the spring it takes less time and effort to locate, observe, record and pattern the deer before the hunt.