Whitetail season is over. It’s time to pull your trail cameras and hang up the Nikon binos. It’s time to embrace the couch. Whoa! Don’t take that attitude when it comes to whitetail hunting. As your season ends your scouting should resume and winter scouting offers some of the best scouting of the year.
You don’t need a reason to scout before season, but when the temperature dives and the comforter on your bed beckons you need a reason to don the winter clothing and bust through snow, or ice after season’s end.
First, winter scouting reveals what, if any, good bucks made it through the hunting season. As whitetails calm and succumb to hunger pains, they slowly begin to reveal themselves during browsing binges. You have the perfect time to inventory bucks and does to get a count of residents on your property.
Second, across the whitetail range the leafless backdrop of winter provides the best view through whitetail cover. Withered vegetation combined with a snowy backdrop in the north means easy spotting for glassing observation at dawn and dusk.
Third, winter observations, as revealing as they are for deer counts, also may reveal possible problems. Are your deer undernourished? Are predators pressuring your herd? Has the entire group migrated a mile away to the lackadaisical neighbor’s standing cornfield?
Finally, winter scouting sets you up for successful shed antler hunting. Observing where deer are feeding, bedding and traveling is a connect-the-dot map for picking up cast antlers in late winter or early spring. Make good notes and make antler hay when the time is right.
Matt Brunet, a 25-year hunting veteran, is the whitetail and turkey manager at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge in western Illinois. A New York native, Brunet is in his 10th year at the lodge guiding for some of the nation’s biggest whitetails in Pike and Calhoun counties.
“In my opinion winter scouting is as important, if not more important, than scouting at any other time of the year,” notes Brunet. “Winter scouting allows you to investigate areas that you would normally want to stay out of right before season and during season. It allows you to look around your sanctuaries and other prime spots without worrying about messing it up…