4 Scouting Tips For Hunting New Property

Your bow is dialed in, stands are hung, and opening day is on the horizon. Then the unthinkable happens. You’ve just gained access to another piece of hunting property! Now what? I’ve been in this situation a couple times and I made a lot of mistakes while trying to scout the newly acquired property during the first half of the archery season. By being very intrusive while scouting, I basically let the mature bucks in the area know they were being hunted. Don’t show your hand early, don’t make the same mistakes I did.

No matter what time of year it is,┬áhunters can lose or gain access to hunting properties. Hopefully you are finding yourself on the latter side of those two situations. If you’ve lost access to hunting property I encourage you to get out there and find a new piece. I’ve listened to a few successful public land hunters talk about how they scout new property and the tips listed below are the most common scouting strategies they use.

1 – Identify Food Sources.

  • This will be easy if you gain access to a farm with a corn or bean crop but I recommend finding secondary food sources as well. Feeding patterns often shift during mid October so when those primary food sources go cold you can spend some time focusing on the secondary food sources.
  • In areas consisting mainly of standing timber it is great to locate oaks that have produced acorns along with other mast producing trees. Do not forget about natural browse though. After all, natural browse is over 50% of a whitetails diet. In areas with clear cuts I have personally found deer keying in on the fresh shoots around old stomps during the last week of September into mid October.
Food plots can be game changers!

2 – Locate Other Hunters

  • This could be as easy as meeting the neighboring property owners and sitting down for a chat. I haven’t had much luck with that so I have relied on looking for human sign like four wheeler tracks, boot tracks, a hunters head lamp light in the dark, and the real obvious one, tree stands.
  • This is critical. Knowing how your neighbor could be pushing deer around can help you set up a game plan to ambush those deer that have patterned your neighbor. Also, depending on what direction your property corresponds to your neighbors property, you could find yourself hunting downwind of him. Maybe you can use that to your advantage, but I prefer not to hunt in a fellow hunters downwind scent zone if I can help it.

3 – Identify Terrain Features

  • Google maps is going to come in handy here. Look for areas of timber that create pinch points for deer to move through cover more comfortably. Transition areas can be great hunting spots as well. Look for mature hardwoods that transition into younger and thicker areas. These younger/thicker spots may also be bedding areas where tree stands can be placed down wind in hopes of catching a mature buck scent checking for hot does.
  • In farm country, field edges and corners can produce a lot of movement. I tend to stay away from field edges in high pressured areas as I feel mature bucks aren’t comfortable moving along those edges during daylight hours.

Cicero Map POA

4 – Think Like A Buck

  • As stated above, when you find bedding areas, try to set up down wind of them. During late October and throughout November these can be great spots to catch bucks scent checking for does in heat. If you find areas where you think a buck might be bedding, make sure you’re entry and exit routes stay down wind of it.
  • Think about how a buck might travel “safely” through a piece of property and what influences (other hunters, food, wind direction) might cause him to head in certain directions. This comes more naturally with time in the field after you observe buck movements in your hunting area.

    Tough to tell but this is a buck bed I found while shed hunting.

Final Thoughts

  • If you gain access close to the beginning of bow season I caution you not to go charging in to scout the new piece. A lot can be done from google maps, trail cameras, and low intrusion observation stands with a pair of good binoculars. I learned this the hard way back in 2012 and ended up pressuring a newly acquired 100 acre property way too much.
  • Another good idea would be recording deer movement patterns and then compare them to weather and wind direction. This is going to help a lot for future years of hunting on that piece of property.

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