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Deer: Post-Season Scouting - 6 Part Series - Pacific Northwest Bowhunting

The close of deer season across the country is a time when many hunters trade their muck-caked boots for a pair of fleece-lined slippers.  It’s a time to reflect on close calls, time afield with good friends & family, and filled tags for those fortunate hunters who book-ended their hunt with meat in the freezer.  Post-season is also the best time of the year to begin preparing for success next fall.

This post will be a 6-part series covering the following topics:

– Patterning Late Season Deer
– Finding Core Rut Zones
– Mapping Hot Stand Sites
– The Significance of Shed Antlers
– Food Source Considerations
– Set Ups – Blinds, Stands & Drives


Part 1 – Patterning Late Season Deer (Oct-Dec)

Across the country October ushers in the crisp prelude to winter. Bucks begin the annual rut process and hunters flock to the field in droves. This is a magical time in the hearts of deer hunters as images of thick-necked bucks fill their day dreams on stand.

The key factor in turning those dreams into reality is stand placement, and the key factor in stand placement is understanding deer movement and why/when deer travel.

In the mid-west and across much of the country, a patchwork of crop fields and farms create natural pinch-points or funnels where they align to creeks, ditches, fence-rows or easements.  These are obvious stand locations and when the wind is right, they reliably pay big dividends each fall.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the lay of the land can be much different, especially west of the Cascade Mountains.  But for our purposes here, let’s generalize a bit and talk about deer movement patterns independent of a particular species, region, or habitat type.  Deer are deer and they will travel during the late season for two primary reasons; food/water and reproduction.  Of course, they use escape routes when reacting to human intrusion, predators, and other factors such as weather, etc.

Knowing where the resident does live and their traditional travel routes is critically important to stand placement in the fall.  One of the benefits of the post-season is mapping out these travel routes when the leaves and down and visibility is better.  The photo below shows a main travel route through an alder bottom connecting mature timber and 10 year old reprod (reproduction) timber.  During the early season when tall grass is thick and the leaves are on the trees this trail is almost invisible.

Identifying these major runs can pay big when the rut heats up in late October through mid-November.  As does continue to go about their business in their home ranges, bucks will scent check these trails regularly so it’s important to take time to map as many trails as possible before the spring green up engulfs them in foliage and grasses.  The key point here is that does seldom stray from their home turf and their established trail networks are powerful magnets for rutting bucks.   When hunting migratory deer, the same condition is true but you’ll have additional work to determine the primary migration routes, and key in on the lowland trail systems.

In Part 2 I will go into detail about locating core rutting areas, or Rut Zones as I call them.  Also, as I describe each of the six segments, I will be pointing out the important relationships between them. Be sure to visit our FreshTRAX Outdoors site, and “LIKE” us on Facebook!