Tips for scouting wild game
It’s November and that means the hunting season is dwindling down. Whether that’s because of your state’s season dates or the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas are up and coming. This ultimately means less time in the woods or backcountry and more time with our family. Not that it’s a bad thing, but a definite factor when trying to get those final hunts in before we close another season of trying to harvest those nutrient dense memories. Either way, there are probably lessons learned.
There is one question we are going to talk about today. Now what? The season is over! Your hunting gear has been put up and put away not to be touched until next season. Wrong! Now is the time to start prepping for next season. There are many avenues you can take to prep for the next upcoming season, but what I’d like to really focus on today is an introduction to scouting.
Scouting is just as much a part of hunting as any other aspect. What I will try to do today is create a mold for you to build a foundation on scouting for any animal. You will learn that I am big on building a solid foundation of understanding when it comes to learning a new skill. Brilliance on the basics is my key to success with everything I do. So, let’s go over some of the basics of what it takes to get out there and start scouting!
First, you need to decide what animal you plan on hunting. If it’s multiple species, then you will have more homework to do. Each species has different behavior patterns, habitat, and diet. Find out what those habitats are and decide if it’s terrain you can handle. What are the main food sources? Can you identify them in the wild? When is their mating season? Does their pattern change during that time? Essentially, what I am asking you to do is really get to know the animal you want to harvest. Knowing these things will aid you when you are scouting for them and at least help you make an educated guess on what things to look for.
Just as you apply time management in your daily life, you need to schedule time to scout. If you find yourself unable to get out into the country where the hoof meets the dirt, there are options you can use at home. Start with the resources you have; your cell phone or computer. Pull up Google maps, venture into hunting forums, read through hunting magazines and on zone harvest reports, and maybe use your network of friends and family that have been doing this for a while. Something I have seen at the checkout line at my local grocery store here in San Antonio is a booklet of animal tracks! If you don’t know what you are searching for, look up your local fish and game office and they should have pamphlets with this information readily available. Information you’ll want to learn is what signs animals leave behind like tracks, feces, rubs, scrapes, game trails, and bedding areas.It’s important to really take in all the information the land and terrain give you.
If you are able to get out and scout the land you think you want to hunt it’s always a good idea to take this information with you. A quick refresh of the information can provide that boost of confidence and motivation needed when you are feeling less than capable. Don’t be in a rush! Scouting really takes time to observe your surroundings. The more information you can collect from the environment, the more likely you are to build the confidence needed when the season gets tough.
Terrain and Maps
Learn how to read topographic maps. A lot of the time, you can use the terrain to your advantage and see natural funnels to where game animals will be attracted. You can locate water, high and low areas, and high traffic game trails. (Skills you will learn as you read information and observe animals in their natural habitat) Wild animals are lazy and they will find the path of least resistance; so should you. If you prefer to utilize one of the many map apps, then I suggest becoming extremely familiar with its operating system. The better you know your app, the more information you can gather and will have readily available to make educated guesses on what your hunting plan should be.
Once you have a basic understanding on what animal you plan to hunt, their natural behavior, physical clues you are looking for, and map or app manipulation down, it’s time to figure out where you want to hunt. There are numerous places and ways to hunt. Public land, private land, spot and stalk, tree stand, or blind hunting, are all great choices. Each one requiring its own specific scouting technique. It would be impossible to discuss all of these without taking away from the basic ideas I am trying to instill into you. Regardless of what type of hunting you plan on doing there are a few basic scouting concepts that will work. Know your animal! Be a step ahead and prove you are the smarter species. Get familiar with the land and terrain you will be hunting. You will use less brainpower navigating familiar terrain and be able to dedicate more to taking in information from the environment. It also gives you a good idea on what equipment you may need. This is also something you can do with the family. Teach them what you have learned. Show them that if they pay attention to their surroundings, the land will tell a story.This will also reinforce what you have learned and lead you to have that keen eye for disturbances left behind by wild game.
That’s all folks! There’s enough information and homework for you to get out there and start working towards a successful season in the year 2019.Our next post/blog/article we will split into two separate scouting techniques specific to eastern and western hunting and allow us to go into more details and answer any questions that may come from this post/blog/article.
-A.J. Bradford and Phillip Wilson
Founders of: On the Move Archery
Active duty Navy Corpsman