Whitetail bucks can be hard to catch up with – especially when your goal is to take them with a bow. Sure hunting television, social media, and YouTube can, at times, make it seem very doable. It is. However, if pressed, your average bowhunter will admit that it’s a difficult proposition. After all, there are so many variables to contend with; wind, scent, weather, and entry and exit routes. Then there are the many variables associated with successfully drawing on and actually arrowing a buck. For those that specifically pursue mature whitetails, most of these variables loom large.
Before any of those variables are considered, you’ve got to determine a viable stand location.
I’ve taken my share of bucks, but my decent at best skills are often trumped only by my inability to create setups for success – right out of the chute.
In terms of stand location, there is no better time to prepare for than the early bow season. It’s during this short window that bucks are often still on their summer movement patterns. Therefore, the summer is a great time to scout in preparation for this golden opportunity.
It’s not only time to scout for deer, but the actual ambush spot – “the spot within the spot”. This simple action can be super-charged by capturing these patterns through digiscope scouting.
So how does summertime digiscope scouting for early-season bowhunting work? It’s quite simple.
Determine the Hub Area
Favorable stretches of hunting territory are often determined through previous hunts and trail cam photos. Regardless of how familiar you are with the property, refer to an overhead view of the area as it relates to its surroundings.
Popular hub areas include feeding stations, food plots, and known pinch points.
Even if you’ve just set foot in a new area, it’s not hard to narrow down the areas where deer move (or at least you suspect they do).
By finding scat, trails, old rubs, and other signs, it’s tempting to get to hanging stands and cutting shooting lanes.
For bowhunters, it’s not this easy. For a chance at a quality shot, you’ve got to truly put yourself in a position for it.
Refer to your overhead map view and intel and seek an observation location within cover 100-200-yards out from your prospective hub area. Use existing brush, canopies, or even a pop-up blind to view from.
Now it’s time to sit and watch. More than that, it’s time to capture whitetail movement by putting your optics, digiscoping adaptor, and smartphone to work.
With patience, a couple of good sits should tell you a lot about the way bucks move around the hub area.
Now, you can start to plan a couple of alternative bow hunting setups – again, the spot(s) within the spot.
What to Look For
Once in your observation location, don’t just verify that deer move around in your prospective hunting spot. Rather, analyze how they use the area. Take note of what direction they approach from.
Similarly, look for the direction they typically retreat to at the end of the hunt (e.g., at sunset or mid-morning). This will also tell you a lot about optimal entry and exit routes for you.
Further, make note of what kinds of deer use the area during daytime hours. Are you seeing young bucks? A mature buck or two? Even if you’re only seeing does, this could, at a minimum, pay dividends during the rut and pre-rut.
Finally, scope out adjacent cover for the ambush such as pockets of brush or favorable trees for stands.
Capture and Document
If you’re going to glass, why not capture some of your findings in the form of images or video.
Digiscoping is indeed the answer.
Bring your optics of choice, Phone Skope adaptor kit, fully-charged smartphone, and a lightweight tripod.
While you can use a spotting scope for digiscoping in this setting, a solid pair of 10×42 binoculars will do the trick. Phone Skope will have an effective solution for pairing your optics with your smartphone. Go to the seamless Phone Skope builder for a custom or universal adapter.
For even better results in the field, bring a second set of optics for easy scanning of the area. Once you see deer movement you want to capture, switch to your digiscoping set up. This is a much less laborious means of scouting over a long period of time.
Capture the deer movements – the more pictures the better. You can always sort out the better images later.
Next, store your photos or videos in a meaningful way on your smartphone or, better yet, your laptop. You can really maximize your documentation by overlaying text on your images by using text-adding apps, such as Phonto. Embellish your images with such information as time, date, and weather conditions. Store them much like you would trail camera images.
Lastly, refer back to your photos and remember this is valuable information for future seasons as well.
Leverage the Spot Within the Spot
Bowhunters often are confident they have found an ideal spot to set up for a buck. After finding signs and even capturing trail camera footage, they’re pumped.
They should be.
However, even though scouting efforts have often narrowed things down, it’s easy to find yourself 10, 20, or even 30-yards outside of your comfortable shooting distance at the moment of truth.
Summer and early season periods are great times to pattern whitetails. It’s during this golden window that movement is more predictable and bucks often travel together before testosterone starts to rise for the rut.
Thanks to digiscoping, you can survey and take advantage of the given terrain and cover features and more accurately set up for the kill. You can assemble blinds or hang stands accordingly with more bowhunting confidence.
Let digiscoping be the gateway toward early-season bowhunting success.
Step back, capture and record information, and move in.
When you do, you’ve not only kicked your scouting up a notch, but you’ve also increased your chances of getting a manageable shot at a whitetail buck by closing the distance.