A hunter with his downed deer

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Early Season Bowhunting for Deer Day 2: How to Scout Public Deer Hunting Areas

A hunter scouts out the area with binoculars
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Editor’s Note: Archery seasons are already open in some states and/or soon to open in mid-October in various states. My friend Bob Walker of Livingston, Alabama, has been hunting deer for about 50 years, guided for deer for 30 years and owns the R & J Deer-Processing business (205-652-7280) in Livingston Ala. in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt. To learn more, visit (https://foodprocessing.cc/) and his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/).

A hunter places a mineral lick to attract deerOctober in west/central Alabama where I live and hunt is usually the driest month of the year. So besides walking wet-weather creeks and searching for small potholes of water, I also look for springs. Springs not only bring-up water from underground to the surface. Oftentimes the water that the springs bring up has minerals that create natural mineral licks for the deer. Just before bow season, finding water and mineral licks often can be just as important as knowing when certain oak trees drop their nuts. When water and minerals are in short supply, they’ll draw deer like a magnet. If you don’t have any springs on the property you hunt, put-out commercial mineral licks like Mossy Oak’s Bio Rock (https://www.plantbiologic.com/). That’s what I do, and I usually set-up a trail camera on the mineral lick to see the sex of the deer coming to the lick and to watch the bucks’ antlers grow. Mineral licks can be very effective for drawing deer just before and sometimes during early bow season. I also mark my mineral licksA deer at a streamas waypoints. Then from my trail-camera surveys, I enter what time of the day or night the deer are showing up at each mineral lick I establish.

I search for deer trails that cross roads, dirt roads and trails on the edges of fields. I also look for places that have a dramatic change in the timber like the edges of clear cuts and different ages of pine stands, or where a hill or a mountain drops off to bottomland oak flats. Those are great places to look forMap of hunting areasand locate deer trails.

Public-Land Scouting:

I’ve been very successful hunting an Illinois Wildlife Management Area (WMA) for several years. So, I always go up there and scout to see what changes have taken place since I last hunted there. This region also has a dewatering area that gets flooded for waterfowl season. I wanted to see how much water was being used to flood a portion of this WMA, and if I’d be able to cross that water to get to some of the spots I wanted to hunt. I had an old friend who lived near this WMA, and he told me that some type of tree bug had killed quite a few trees on this WMA, and those trees had fallen down.A hunter with all his gearSo, I wanted to check out those spots to make sure I could get to a place I wanted to hunt, and I needed to see how the deer were navigating through those downed-tree places. I also wanted to know if those fallen trees had opened-up the tree canopy, permitting more sunlight to hit the ground. I thought there should be a lot of browse where the trees had died.

Deer at a stream

So, if you hunt public-hunting areas, realize that the land often changes and sometimes dramatically from one year to the next. Even if you have had great spots to take deer on public-hunting properties, you still need to scout two or three weeks before you’re hunting to learn what changes have occurred, if any, and determine where the deer are most likely to walk by the trails they leave.

Cover - Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows

The first year I hunted this WMA in Illinois I took a really-nice buck up there. The second year I went to the same WMA I learned that a tornado had come through the WMA and had blown down quite a few red oak trees. When I scouted the spot I’d hunted the previous year, I found that one of the big red oaks where I’d taken a deer a year before had been blown down. The falling of that tree had narrowed the funnel area downthat I was hunting, and it actually caused an increase in the number of deer traveling through that region. Natural occurrences that cause the land and timber to change are not necessarily bad, as long as you learn before you hunt how those land changes have affected deer movement.

Cover - Bowhunting Deer: The Secrets of the PSE ProsTo learn more about hunting for deer, check out John E. Phillips’ bowhunting books, available in Kindle and print, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows” (http://amzn.to/1QGvdQx); “Bowhunting Deer:The Secrets of the PSE Pros” (http://amzn.to/VBr1qW). You may have to copy and paste these links into your browser. (When you click on the books, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the books for free).

Tomorrow: Why Listen to Hear Acorns Dropping


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