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George Little: scouting season starts now

February 28, 2011 at 07:31 AM

The State Journal-Register

Deer season has been over for a while. The countryside has quieted down. Deer cabins are empty, the heat has been shut off and the water reservoirs drained. The hooks that held gun cases, coats and coveralls are bare. Everything has been cleaned up, put away and the mousetraps are set.

A deer cabin in February looks pretty forlorn.

Those who ended the deer season looking forward to the next one may be able get a head start by doing some late winter scouting. That fireplace buck that several hunters saw and no one tagged is probably still around. Learning a little more about his behavior now might sharpen your edge and increase your odds of dragging him out him next season.

That thicket you couldn’t sneak up on in November hasn’t moved. Now, there’s no need to be quiet. You can walk right into it. If you bust him out of it now, he’ll return and have the whole spring and summer to forget you were there.

While you’re in there, take advantage of the opportunity and make some mental notes. Looking at it from the inside out may help you piece together a more cautious approach when the time is right next fall.

Look at the tracks. There may be more than one entrance and exit to his fortress of solitude. Observing how he goes in and out might get you one step ahead of him after he’s been spooked next fall.

Take a look at his bed and try and determine which way he faces when he’s holed up in there. See if you can find an approach that favors a certain wind direction.

Deer may veer slightly off the well-traveled paths this time of year with a shift in food sources and open water. Still, trail cameras can be useful tools. If you are lucky enough to get a snapshot of the Loch Ness Buck, you know for sure he made it through the hunting season. A picture of him wearing his antlers one day, and being without them a few days later will give you a starting point to go hunt for his sheds.

Even without photographic proof that a buck has dropped his horns, now that the snow is at least temporarily off the ground, it’s a good time to start hunting sheds. That smallish eight-point shed you find now will grow back taller, wider and thicker next summer. It could be helpful down the road to know the road that deer travels.

I’m not one of those people with a shed full of sheds. In fact, most of the ones I find have to be stepped on first. Still, on a sunny false spring day when the sun has a little more punch than it did in January, shed hunting is a good excuse to take a walk and start work on a hunting season that will be back around before we know it.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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