Late winter is a tough time for whitetail hunters. Even though deer season can be taxing, its closing can be difficult. Sure, turkey season is right around the corner, as is fishing. Then there is the list of offseason chores. You know, such things as habitat improvements and securing new areas to hunt.
Then there is scouting. It’s amazing how many hunters decide to pass on scouting until closer to the following season. However, there are some great reasons to start your scouting right on the heels of deer season – and this is a good thing because it’s the closest thing to deer hunting you’re going to find. It’s rewarding too. After all, it’s part of the puzzle that is identifying, patterning, and ultimately harvesting a mature whitetail buck.
“Scout-scout-hunt” is a common sentiment amongst successful whitetail hunters. In Its simplest terms, it means scout more than you hunt. In fact, many notable hunters will tell you they scout way more than they hunt.
In the trail camera world, “Let them soak” is a popular term. It refers to those cases when you set them up and let them sit for a good while – keeping your footprint small and not pressuring the area. What a lot of hunters don’t acknowledge is that the early offseason is a great time to employ this strategy. Why? Because it presents a good opportunity to inventory bucks that are still roaming around your hunting digs; at least those still sporting antlers. Obviously, this is great information for next season.
It’s “proof of life”
Digiscoping for Proof of Life
Short of getting hit by a car or some other unforeseen occurrence, you know you have at least an outside shot at seeing recorded bucks in a few months with gun or bow in hand.
Call me a one-trick-pony but, like with much of my scouting, I really like to physically hit the woods. Sure, I use trail cameras; profusely, actually. But again, a boots-on-the-ground approach is my preference.
Digiscoping is one of my favorite methods. By joining your optics and smartphone camera with a Phone Skope adapter kit, you’re in business for effective in-the-moment deer scouting.
Perhaps the best reason to digiscope directly following deer season is that there is a lot of visibility in the winter and early spring. With greatly reduced foliage and brush, you can see areas more clearly. If you set up right with digiscoping gear at the ready, you can see a long way and effectively witness travel patterns. There are other reasons too though.
Studies have shown that mature bucks have a core area of fewer than 500 acres during the late winter and early spring. With caution and patience, this can be digiscoping heaven. If the core area has both food and cover, you can set up in the brush or in a popup blind and survey the area for bucks. Season’s end is a fantastic time to check these areas and capture images and video via digiscoping. Talk about valuable intel.
Using Sign to determine digiscoping setups
Deer hunters spend time exploring their properties for sign, usually to determine stand location. Why not do the same for digiscoping set ups – or both?
Scrapes, Rubs, and other Sign
Rubs and scrapes from the previous fall are obviously great sign. Directly following the season they’re easier to see as well. Remember, deer communicate year-round, and scrapes and rubs are visited by a variety of bucks throughout the year. They’re teeming with pheromones and deer traffic is imminent.
Hint; mock scrapes are also great sites for drawing, viewing, and digiscoping bucks.
Of course. trails, especially ones that intersect also make great areas to glass (and digiscope) from a distance.
Mineral stations are great sites to bring in deer. While they’re more visited in the spring and summer, they still draw whitetails. Like with rubs and scrapes, many hunters put trail cameras on them. Why not digiscope them? The good news is you don’t have to get as close. Your optics will magnify your view and, with the help of your Phone Skope adapter, your smartphone will capture deer movement and behavior.
As mentioned, this period means stark fields and woodlots, dormant grasses, and barren landscapes in general. If ever there was a time to look for buck beds, it’s now. Check every possible area; creeks, funnels, ridges, crops, and field edges. Look for the all too familiar matted down grass where deer have been bedding. Make note of it and set up near it. Better yet, situate yourself in a place with a good view between it and a prominent food source.
Food is never more important to deer than in late-winter. Whether agricultural fields, an acorn-yielding oak, or a food plot, find it, set up on it, and capture images.
The Consolation Prize
While you might not capture a lot of bucks or some of them have dropped their antlers, early offseason digiscoping reveals deer numbers and movement. It’s still proof of life.
Some Basic Digiscoping Tips
Of course, setting up to digiscope over all these locations requires the same caution and attention to detail as hunting them. Camo up, make sure the wind is in your favor and seek good cover that still provides a view. Yes, deer spook during the offseason too.
Digiscope with a purpose. This means to put yourself in the best position for success. Before leaving, make sure your phone is well-charged. When you arrive at your spot, use a sturdy tripod for steadiness. When you are finished, take time to file away your findings. You’ve taken the time to capture intel – save it for future reference.
Remember, the next few weeks are an outstanding time to set the table for next fall. It will reveal deer movement in their core areas. Capture it via digiscoping. It’s a great in-person way to gather intel. Best of all, it will hopefully show proof of life regarding bucks in your hunting area – and capture it with valuable images and video. This brand of scouting is both rewarding and fun.