Late Winter Scouting For Whitetails

By Cole Daniels

In my neck of the woods the tail end of winter can get pretty boring. Deer season has been over for a while and small game seasons are wrapped up. But the hunting doesn’t stop. February is a great time to do some scouting. Basically, any time there is snow on the ground and the season is over is a pretty good time for scouting deer. It’s a little tough to see in the picture, but on the other side of this ravine is a deer highway that was easily visible from 150 yards away. High traffic trails are a cinch to spot when snow covers the ground.

Another thing I like about this time of year is the underbrush has also lost all of it’s leaves. Rubs are easy to pick out from a distance because there is nothing to block your view. Yes, it’s true the buck that made that rub could be hanging on someone’s wall by now. But in most areas a good site for a rub will always be a good site for a rub. When one deer is removed from the herd, another will take his place. The rub line you find in February will have bucks running it in October even if a few were picked off during the season.

It’s fun to find rubs since they are an obvious sign of buck activity. But what you really want to find is bedding areas. Get on a heavily used trail and start walking. If it leads you to a field, turn around and walk the other way until you find a bedding area. Where the deer are feeding this time of year really doesn’t matter. Food sources will drastically change by next fall.

In many regions, those bedding areas will be used in the fall as well. If you hunt in deep woods where the deer yard up, bedding areas will change before hunting season begins. But for those of you who hunt in agricultural areas with small woodlots and thick brushy spots, a bedding area is a bedding area. The time of year really doesn’t matter.

Once you locate a bedding area, it’s also good time to set some stands. If you hunt on the ground, build your natural ground blinds. Moving some brush around this time of year will allow deer to settle down again well before putting on your camouflage. It is also a good time to cut shooting lanes and if you feel safe hanging tree stands, you can do that as well. A word of warning though, hanging a stand right next to the bedding area might seem like a slam dunk move. But if you do so, you’ll only be able to hunt that stand once or twice before spooking the deer out of there. Hanging your stand on a trail leading into or out of the bedding area is going to allow you to hunt the pattern several time with little pressure on the beds.

Late winter scouting is not only a great way to get out of the house, it can lead to big results six months later.