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Scouting Tips for Deer Season

After record archery harvest, post-season ideal time to scout

By: Art Lander, Jr., Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s 2010-11 white-tailed deer season ended with archers posting two all-time harvest records.

“There was an archery record set for the month of January (2,683 deer) and for the season (16,636 deer),” said David Yancy, deer biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Archery hunters harvested 413 antlerless deer and 253 antlered bucks over the season-ending weekend.

For the overall 2010-2011 deer season, hunters reported taking 110,356 deer. Male deer made up nearly 54 percent of the harvest while female deer comprised about 46 percent.

Modern firearms hunters took 79,020 deer while archers harvested 16,636. Muzzleloader hunters checked in 13,179 deer and crossbow hunters 1,521 deer.

“The guys I talked with during the last week of bow season said they were seeing deer in the evenings,” said Don Bailey, president of the United Bowhunters of Kentucky. “Deer started moving more over the weekend when the weather broke.”

During late season, deer often concentrate on a food source such as standing corn or a green field of winter wheat. “With all the cold and snowy weather we had in the winter, deer were moving around in search of food,” said Yancy. “That makes them more visible to hunters.”

Archers typically buck hunt early in the season and then concentrate on female deer as the season ends.

For Kentucky’s most avid deer hunters, the sport is a year-round passion.

That is why so many hunters, especially archers, begin scouting in post-season before the woods leaf out in the spring.

It’s a good time to learn more about your hunting area. The leaves are off the trees, the ground is soft or snow-covered making it easy to find tracks, deer trails and bedding areas.

Thoroughly search every acre of your hunting area to find out where deer bed, feed and how they travel throughout the woods, thickets and fields.

It’s a good idea to take some notes on what you find and check out spots on a map of your hunting area that might make good places to hunt.

Start scouting early enough, when opening day of deer season is still months away, so there’s no fear of running off the deer you plan to hunt. Go ahead and stomp around in a buck’s core area, the secretive bedding areas you wouldn’t dare visit pre-season or after hunting is underway.

Look for staging areas near food sources, where bucks wait until dark to come out into the open to scent check does in late October. These spots are often marked by numerous antler rubs or a concentration of scrapes in the dirt.

This time of year, the scrapes and antler rubs made by rutting bucks are plainly visible. So are the little-used shortcut trails bucks often take when searching for does, just as they go into estrus in early November.

If you find one of these buck trails, which are often used year after year, you’ve unraveled one of the mysteries of your hunting area. You’ve also located a prime spot for a tree stand or ground blind.

It’s also a good time to groom hunting spots by trimming shooting lanes and clearing out an entrance and exit route.

Ideally, you want the prevailing wind in your face and sun at your back as you approach your hunting area. It is critical that you don’t alert deer while approaching your tree stand or blind site.

It’s also a good time move a tree stand, or look for a better tree nearby.

Don’t wait until the summer to scout for deer. Get the jump on the 2011-12 deer season now.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.

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