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Morken: Making the most of summer scouting

In a perfect world, most of your preseason scouting for whitetails has been done by now.

My favorite time to learn about how deer use the landscape is by scouting in early spring once the snow melts. Scrapes, rubs, trails and bedding jump off the page before the green-up, but it's not always possible to be in the woods exactly when we want to be. There is work and family responsibilities. Losing or gaining permission on land can happen at any time and force us to adjust our best-laid plans.

So it was for my father, Gary, and me this past week. We gained permission on some land in North Dakota when snow still covered the fields in late April. Our schedules did not allow us to get back out there until late last week. Even then, we had just 24 hours to work with before needing to be back in Alexandria. The first evening was spent talking to the landowners we already had permission from and knocking on a few more doors.

I got additional permission on a large stretch of river for the upcoming early portion of the archery season. The land is gun hunted in mid-November by the family, but he had no problem letting me archery hunt as long as I communicate with him when I'm there. Another reminder that you never know about a piece of property until you ask.

Friday was devoted entirely to scouting and hanging stands on the piece I already had permission on. I could have spent three days doing this, but we had to be back on the road at 5 p.m. that day. Here is how we went about speed scouting and targeting the areas for stand locations that we did.

Know your aerials

I can't stress enough the importance of looking over aerial maps. We are spoiled as hunters today with all the great visuals we can get without ever stepping foot on the land.

I use the onX Hunt app on my iPhone that gives me information on public and private lands, including landowner information. That was incredibly important in gaining permission in the first place. From there, I studied the maps religiously over the course of a few months. I knew the pinch-points and funnels I wanted to check out. I could zoom in with great clarity, to the point where I had an idea where the thickest places of cover were.

This piece in particular has great natural pinch points where the river comes together. Those were the first places I wanted to check out.

Everything I saw on the ground validated what I was thinking from the aerial views. Deer sign was fantastic in those pinches, so I prepared two stand locations that will allow me to hunt multiple winds with a hunting saddle I am going to use this fall.

Find the thick transition cover

This property has some tree cover with a thick canopy. As a result, there are portions of the forest that do not have much for growth on the floor.

Thin, wide-open woods don't really interest me when I'm looking to target a mature buck. Does and fawns may travel them during daylight, but I wanted to find areas of thick vegetation that deer can still move through for bucks that prefer to keep a low profile in daylight. Any river bank already serves as a natural corridor for deer to travel along, and the areas of best cover were generally found here, as well. I'm pretty confident that bucks will both bed along the river and use it as their primary travel route once the crops come out this fall.

Target those hard-to-get-to places

Most hunting properties have areas that are harder to get to, and those are almost always the places I want to check out when scouting a new property.

That can mean having to cross a river or walking an extra half mile. I want to get away from as much human pressure as possible and hunt in places where bucks feel the safest being on their feet in daylight.

This land had one little chunk of woods in particular that looked like it would provide a safer sanctuary. It's off the road quite a ways where the river forms a "U' shape with some really thick vegetation in the bottom of that area where the water curves around.

I knew I wanted to have a stand in this area for afternoon hunts that I could get to without bumping a buck off its bed. A trail led out of that thick cover and paralleled the river toward a field that is in beans this year. I set up a stand for a north wind a safe distance from the bedding and not far off that trail.

That was the final set we hung in almost nine hours of work that day. When we go back for opening weekend on Sept. 1, my dad will have a ladder stand to head to and I have a portable hung with two spots prepared where I can hang a saddle.

It's a start. That's the important thing to remember. Where deer bed and travel in the summer changes come fall when the foliage drops and the crops come out.

We probably won't be able to get all the answers we're looking for through summer scouting, but we can gain a starting point. The best education on a new property comes by actually hunting it and being willing to adjust from what we're seeing.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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