Scouting for Whitetail
Last month I started scouting for sign of the wily whitetails here in the suburbs of Lakewood Ranch. They are around; the trick is actually seeing them in the flesh.
Image Credit: Caranx Latus
Hand in hand with that I have been going hat in hand to the landowners that I have found, and tried to get permission to bow hunt this coming fall. So far I'm at zero luck. But not to fear my faithful readers, I have only met up with about 50% of the people I'm looking for.
I've narrowed my search to a few promising spots. I must admit though, that I haven't seen a single live deer yet. Fortunately I have seen sign, some of it fresh enough to be only a couple of hours old. Now how did I determine that? Easy, it rained but good the previous night, and I was out early. The prints were still sharp and damp. I haven’t found any sheds though, which I think is to be expected in this area. Antlers tend to be small and the terrain filled with tall grass and low growing shrubs and palmettos. Find any might require the same kind of luck you need for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Scouting in the summer can really take its toll on you. It’s been hot, some days in the low nineties. The sun will bake the moisture right out of you. Make sure you take it easy, carry water, and let someone know exactly where you are heading. I haven’t bumped into those ornery little pygmy rattlers yet, but the black racers are all over the place. I’ve tried to go out early to see if I could bump into some deer that might be out feeding, but other than a few unfriendly armadillos, no luck yet.
I have several trees that look like they are in good spots, with game trails within 25 yards. Two in particular seem to me to have the most potential. They are relatively straight, strong, and tall enough to put me at least twenty feet in the air. I’m a big fan of altitude. I figure deer have been shot at so often from 10 or twelve feet that they have figured out where most stands sit, so a few more feet may give me an edge. I’ve checked for clear lanes of fire in all directions, though I expect deer to travel in the quadrant to my front. But deer being deer, they might come in from any direction. So I trimmed a few limbs and cleared some brush.
I also made some stakes and placed several 15 and 25 yards markers to help me judge distances when the time comes to draw my bow. I bring a small (but heavy) 100’ steel tape to measure with, a few 16 penny nails, and a hammer head to hammer with. When I am done with the tape, I wiggle the nail back and forth until it comes free.
I've been using my Browning Compound bow to get my muscles back into shape. I'll be switching to a primitive bow later this summer, but for the time being the compound is my exercise machine. It is very important that you take the time to keep your muscles and your skill in shape throughout the summer. Shooting bows requires a multitude of decisions being made by your mind for your body to follow through on. Much like shooting firearms the more you practice, the more subconscious your control is. This allows you to focus on the most important aspects, your aim and release.
Right now, when I draw, I concentrate on a smooth clean draw without any hesitation. I also work on a consistent anchor point, and a relaxed grip on the bow. Later on when I feel a bit stronger, I’ll start shooting arrows into a target, but for the time being all I am trying to accomplish are strength gains and a good form.
Next month I'll probably have my spot picked out and set up. Then no more visits until opening day. Until then I'll be working out, refining my technique, and wringing out any new gear.
Now a couple of questions for you:
Does anyone else do any summertime scouting?
What do you look for?
How do you prep for the season?
When do you start trying out new gear?
The Hunt Continues...