Scouting in the off-season is one of the best ways to prep for the next season. It allows you to find locations where deer or other game are without spooking them right before the season.
It’s also easier to scout during the time immediately after the season ends because there’s often snow on the ground. You need to be able to scout when there isn’t any snow on the ground, but some light snow cover can make spotting animal trails easy.
Scouting once the season ends is also a great way to stay active and keep your sanity. It sucks sitting around the house when all you want to do is go out and hunt. While there are plenty of other activities you can do in the off-season, scouting for next year’s location is one of the best.
Here’s what you should do when scouting for next season’s hunting location.
1. Look at Maps of a Specific Area
Your scouting efforts should start digitally. You can break out the old paper maps if you want, but with tools like Google Maps or apps like onX, there’s no reason not to do things digitally.
Look for places that would be ideal for the type of hunting you’re doing. For example, if you’re hunting Whitetail deer, consider looking for places that are pinch points or choke points. River crossings, fences, and other types of terrain can force wildlife to take a specific path. Those spots are ideal for hunters.
2. Get Permission to Use the Land
Once you’ve nailed down a few prospective spots, you’ll need to be able to access that land. If its public ground, then you can head out there and start taking a closer look.
Make sure to start looking into any permits or other types of red tape that may keep you out of a specific area. Some places have more restrictions than others. Handle it in the offseason and you’ll be ready to go once the hunting season rolls around.
If it’s private land, you can reach out to the landowner. Generally, I try to hunt private land that I have some connection to, even if it’s vague. If you went to high school with the landowner’s son, then you have a connection. If the person is a friend of a friend you met at church, then you have a connection and a way to reach out.
It takes a little digging sometimes. Tap into your family and group of friends, and you’re bound to find a way to get access to some prime hunting land.
3. Go Out and Hike Prospective Spots
Once you have permission to scout and hunt the land, then you need to go out and take a closer look. Bring your GPS with you so you can get right to the places you want to be. You can also easily keep track of spots that show promise this way.
I caution against just remembering things. Write down some notes or put them in an app on your phone. It’s going to be months before you can actually hunt the land so you might forget things between visits. Taking notes lets you go back to things you’ll otherwise forget.
4. Set Up Game Cameras and Monitor the Area
Once you’re sure you’ve found a good location to hunt, and you’ve been able to check it out in person, it’s time to set up game cameras and start monitoring the area. This will help you narrow down the exact location you want to hunt.
Also, because you’re doing this during the off-season, you’ll have tons of footage and data to pour over. All of that means you’ll be better equipped once the season finally does roll around.
Scouting in the off-season is something you can take your time with. It’s an activity that can help you stay active when you can’t hunt. If you follow the steps above, you should be able to find a location that’s perfect for the next season.
How do you conduct scouting in the off-season? Is there anything you’d add? Leave a comment below.