October 11, 2007 at 8:46 a.m.
So what should you do if the location you've chosen to hunt doesn't pan out the first day or two of the season? Do you tough it out next week in the same location, or should you resume scouting at some point during the season and change your location? While it is true that sloppy scouting can alert deer to human presence, it can be accomplished effectively at any time - even during the season - if you take some basic precautions and keep a few important things in mind.
Arguably, the most important consideration is the fact that deer, for the most part, are far less likely to be active during midday hours and periods of bad weather. If you choose a windy or rainy day to do your scouting, 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.
Controlling and masking human scent while scouting and hunting is also extremely crucial. 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 refuse to spend any time where I intend to hunt without first doing all I can to eliminate and mask my scent. Over the years, I've settled on a few scent elimination products and attractor scents that do exactly what they're advertised and hyped to do.
Another bit of sound advice is to keep your hands covered at all times during the scouting period. Use rubber dish or surgical 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. While a rub may only indicate a young 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 - sometimes often - throughout the season.
Don't think it's too late to scout. If you take some precautions, you can scout the woods and change stand placements at any time, even during the season.
Keep your gun sights and nerves steady, and the best of luck to all of you this upcoming deer season.
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.