How to Maximize your Scouting Time

How to Maximize Your Scouting Time

Unfortunately the vast majority of us hunters are parents, students, hold a full-time job, or do all of these at once. Most of us only have a couple weeks of vacation saved per year which is best spent during the rut. We carve a few hours after work and on the weekend for scouting. Scouting is one of the biggest factors for success, but time is often limited. With this in mind it is crucial to use that time effectively. Below are my top tips on how to do just that. Follow these tips and you will hopefully be heading in to the season feeling confident with a few bucks already in your sights.

Conduct a Thorough Map Reconnaissance

This is always step one. You should never be stepping into the woods without first checking out both the satellite imagery and the topographical imagery. Doing a thorough map reconnaissance will result in having a handful of specific spots that you need to scout out, instead of the entire block of woods. Things to look for during this step include; the first bench from the top of a ridge, saddles with bedding on one side feed on the other, marshes that may hold apples, lines created by changing of vegetation, natural funnels created by swamps/thickets in an agricultural area, and funnels created by draws meeting a ridge line. I could write an entire article on what you are looking for here. This is the number one time saver in regards to scouting. I recommend using the website or national geographic maps service. Both of these will allow you to see satellite and topo imagery.

Topo Image of Land

Have a Plan

I know a few guys who head to the woods to scout with the plan of aimlessly walking through the woods. This is not a plan. Use your points of interests you come up with from your map recon to develop a logical route. Planning this route ahead of time will maximize your time spent in the woods. I will recommend a circle that avoids walking the same route out and back. Provided is an example of what my planned route would look like.

Use Trail Cameras

For me trail cameras are my favorite part of the preseason. Nothing gets me amped for the season like getting a giant buck on camera. Plus you can follow the deer in your area as they grow and their daily habits change. While using a trail camera in the pre-season I recommend using a mineral lick. This will increase your odds of getting those bucks on camera. If you don’t have, or aren’t allowed to use a mineral lick, than look for scrapes. Last two options are placing the camera on a food or water source, or on a natural funnel like a saddle or downed fence. I recommend having one or two trail camera and a few pounds of mineral lick in your pack on every scouting trip.


The best time to go scouting is actually a time of the year when few people scout. This is early spring. As soon as the snow melts I start heading to the woods looking for new potential hunting grounds. The leaves haven’t grown yet so you will be able to see longer distances. Helping you pick out the highly sought after white oaks in your area or other mast producing trees. Last year’s scrapes and rubs will still be easily identifiable (in my opinion this is the biggest advantage). The soft ground left after the snow melts makes for extremely easy tracking. Last year’s sheds will hopefully not have been eaten by critters so you can identify which bucks made it through the rifle season. You can also better predict what the foliage/cover will look like in the area during the fall.

Take Notes

The last tip for maximizing your scouting time is to take detailed notes. I will always bring a map and draw points on it. Then I will make a note in my notebook or cell phone what that point was. You will accumulate these points and notes as you scout the area. After you return you can conduct another map study to see if these points provide insight to the deer activity in the area. After doing this a few times, you will start to notice where the bedding areas are, the feed, and the funnels in-between. Then you might have found a scrape or rub line in that funnel. This will then give you your new points to scout next time you are in the woods. After a couple of seasons doing this you will really have a firm grasp on the deer activity, routes, preferred bedding, feed, and the common areas bucks rub and scrape.

If you can apply these five tips to your scouting routine, you will not only maximize the limited time you have in the woods, but you will also be able to learn your hunting grounds better. The more effective our pre-season scouting is, the better our chances of success are during the season. You can also use this great Homemade Deer Mineral Supplement Recipe to attract more deer!

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