How do you scout during the Summer, and how do your scouting efforts contribute to your hunting success each Fall? Each year one of my favorite June, July and August activities revolves around grabbing a friend or two and our kids, and scouring SW WI on a dozen deer scouting trips or more. Summer scouting for giants is not only a great way to get a kid fired up about deer hunting, but for moms and dads as well! But there is so much more to Summer scouting trips than merely getting fired up for the upcoming season. The experiences that you can realize by locating mature buck warm season hang-outs, can offer valuable information about the local herd, habitat and hunt. Here is your Summer Deer Scouting Guide for knowing when to scout, how to scout, and ultimately how you can use your scouting missions to improve your mature buck success during the deer season.
When To Find Scouting Success
During the month of July, 2014, it was still a couple of months away from the start of bow season, but I couldn't wait to get into the woods for an important Summer deer scouting mission. Why? Because I scout mature bucks during July, August and September no different than I hunt mature bucks during October and November. If you are like me, you probably love to walk, talk and watch whitetails nearly 365 days a year. And if you are also like me, you probably prefer the cool-blue October skies with a high of 47, instead of the hazy and humid blanket of a stifling late late-July afternoon.
July 22nd, 2014 was a stifling 88 degrees and typical for the time of year; it was certainly not a cool-blue 47 degree kind of a day! Personally, I could have done without the extremely warm temperatures but when you choose to live in the Midwest, experiencing the most of each season comes with the territory. Although the "dog days of Summer" can really put a damper on the deer movements for even the most passionate of Summer deer scouters, the cold front that was ushering through during the evening of the 22nd brought with it not only high winds, but high hope:
1. Hot and humid weather serves to stifle everything from backyard cook outs to daytime movements. The longer the days of heat...the greater the potential positive impact of an approaching front!
2. High winds and high heat lead directly to decreases in daytime activity.
3. A major temperature drop really kicks the daytime feeding activity into high gear! The temperature drop from 7/22 to 7/23 was 14 degrees, which was an outstanding drop no matter if it had been during July, or during the months of October and November.
*Why do I like to scout cool Summer evenings that follow a cold front? Because I have experienced often that the mature giants who may rarely show themselves during a typical warm Summer day, can be incredibly vulnerable to your scouting efforts when hot steamy days transform. This cold front induced movement was not only extremely enjoyable for my wife and I to observe, but it was especially valuable to see where this great buck lived during the Fall and ultimately where he was harvested.
Summer Deer Scouting Methods
I encourage you to get the cams ready and the binos out of their cases so that you can enjoy a relaxing early glimpse into the life of a buck,that may be an important piece of the puzzle for your next great Fall encounter. My favorite activity is to pull out a comfortable folding chair and to observe from afar, while settling into a few rows of corn or beans, or within a bordering strip of weeds and grasses. Exchanging weapons for lenses allows you weeks, and even months of practice towards not only perfecting your observation and set-up skills, but to fine-tune your use of the upcoming hunting season cold fronts!
*Game camera Summer deer patterns can reveal some key ingredients of weather induced mature buck movements that you can later use for your hunting efforts. For more information on how mature bucks change their preferred habitat from Summer to Fall, try reading "The Lies of Summer Game Cam Bucks".
Cruising the ag fields or lounging in folding chairs alongside a corn field with a few sodas can provide hours of family fun, but lets face it, not everyone hunts within an agricultural setting. One of my favorite big woods or wilderness setting Summer scouting tactics is to use deer minerals (where legal of course) to deer cam an inventory of the neighborhood bucks. Pouring a granular mix on a stump will often create a Summer attraction for not only the current year, but for the next year as well. Summer pictures of giants are a lot of fun to capture, but keep in mind that exactly where those bucks end up during the Fall will provide you with great insights into the ultimate potential of your habitat and hunting success. As a general observation, very few mature bucks live during the Fall, where they do during the Summer. Keeping tabs on bucks during the Summer months, that you don't even intend to hunt during the Fall, will tell you a lot about the type of habitat that bucks prefer as the seasons change, in your area.
Summer Scouting Equals Deer Season Success
Although cold fronts will directly relate to the intensity of rutting behavior from late October to mid-November, cold fronts also play a major role in the feeding activity of deer any time of the year. Here are a few of the critical steps needed for the weather to set-up Summer deer scouting and October/November deer hunting opportunities:
1. Several days of warm, stable and boring weather set up the value of the following drop in temperatures.
2. The more extreme the conditions during the front, the better! Heavy rain, thunderstorms, high winds and even snow (yes I have experienced SNOW in July in the UP of MI) all create stress for deer.
3. Temperature, missed quality feeding opportunities, and extreme weather stress all deplete energy reserves. Deer feed 5 times in a 24 hour period. Missed feeding opportunities and temperature or extreme weather stressors combine to create hungry deer. Hungry deer feed heavilyl on the heals of a Summer to early Fall cold front, so it pays to be in the woods with binos, deer cams or the preferred hunting season weapon of choice.
4. Once the cold front and subsequent cool, calm conditions pass, the new temperatures become the new, boring warm. Eventually temperatures begin to rise and the stability of consistent weather patterns set up the next deer scouting or deer hunting opportunity.
By practicing your observation skills by bino and game cam during the months of the Summer, you will be well on your way to applying the same techniques during the hunting season, from early season sits all the way through the end of the rut. But don't forget about the opportunity to address the needs of your Fall habitat! While doe family groups typically need similar cover types all year long, mature bucks are a different story! High overstory, shaded mature hardwood pockets adjacent to high quality Summer food sources may be the perfect location to house a bachelor group of lazy monarchs. However as soon as the leaves fall and the Summer food sources dwindle, bucks move to Fall habitats that offer cool season food sources and heavier cover offerings. It pays to scout the location of the mature buck Summer haunts, vs their favored Fall hidey-holes. In my experience in the regions that I have hunted, it isn't uncommon for a mature buck to locate a mile or more away during the Fall, from where he was located during the Summer. Mature bucks aren't nocturnal, instead they are just traveling from a great distance away to walk in front of your game cam during the middle of the night. This is often due to hunting pressure, but the fact that one parcel of land just doesn't offer the habitat that bucks prefer during the months of hunting season is also just as likely the cause.
How do cold fronts play a vital role in the level of your success this Fall? It is important for you to read, "Whitetail Cold Front Hunting Strategies".
Will tonight go down as one of the great days to take a seat in the whitetail woods? There is one sure-fire way to find out; have you checked the weather? When the long, hot days of summer are months-past and long forgotten, I hope that you can reflect back to the observations, experiences and skill that you were able to realize because of your Summer deer scouting efforts. It's mid-Summer, and it's cold front scouting time in the deer woods; are your binos and deer cams ready?