October 5, 2006 at 7:42 a.m.
With the gun season just over the horizon, it’s now time to invest some time in the woods to see where the animals are moving, and, more importantly, at which times of the day they are moving. Find some well-used trails and deer sign and you’ll find likely spots for the placement of a portable stand. I’m beginning to believe that premature scouting and stand placement can’t always give the hunter a “real time” insight into deer movement during the season itself. Of course, the potential downside to scouting and setting stands mere days before the season is alerting animals to human presence, but it can be done effectively if you play it smart.
If possible, choose a windy or rainy day to do your scouting. Deer are far less likely to be active during daylight hours during bad weather, and it greatly increases your odds of getting into and out of the woods undetected. A windy or rainy day will mask otherwise noisy activities such as cutting limbs to create shooting lanes and setting up a stand. As quiet and careful as we’d like to be, tree-steps, climbing harnesses and portable stands clank and rattle, and there’s nothing like a day without a stitch of wind to carry those sounds a great distance through the leafless woods.
Controlling and masking human scent while scouting and hunting is extremely crucial. I’ve become somewhat fanatical as it relates to odor elimination and masking my scent, and I’m a true believer when it comes to luring deer to my location using estrus doe urine and “curiosity” scents.Unlike noises that quickly come and go, the human scent that we leave in the woods can linger on the trees and brush for an extended period of time. I simply refuse to spend any time where I intend to hunt without first doing all I can to eliminate and mask my scent. Through trial, error and success, I’ve had good results using a popular spray-on product for my outerwear, and I use this spray liberally. I’ve also experienced the thrill of luring deer directly to my stand using a drag rag soaked in estrus fastened to one of my boots. If a mature deer keeps its nose on the same trail I’ve taken to my stand without spooking, that’s all the proof I need to know that these products, as advertised, work extremely well.
Another good idea is to keep your hands covered at all times during the scouting period. If it’s a warmer day, wear rubber gloves sprayed with odor eliminator and masking scent while doing your brush work and a pair of leather gloves, treated the same way, while setting screw-steps and your portable stand.
My last consideration while scouting is to set up a mock scrape and daytime dripper near my stand. If there are active scrapes and fresh rubs nearby, this practice, in my mind, becomes essential. While a rub may only indicate a younger buck’s pent-up aggression, a scrape is a telltale sign that a mature buck has laid claim to a particular area and is looking for receptive does. If a mock scrape is set up with care in close proximity to a natural scrape, there’s a good chance that it will be visited numerous times throughout the season.
In my opinion, it’s never too late to scout and change location, but be smart about it. Deer are very keen animals, and when we attempt to spend time in their environment, it pays to be cautious.
Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.