Taking Your Inventory

By Ryan Graden

The summer lull is happening and if you are an avid whitetail hunter, I am sure you’re feeling the “cabin fever” like I am. So many of the fall and winter months are spent chasing these graceful creatures in the timber during Iowa’s variety of seasons. When the months are gone, right away we are already looking forward to the next season. By the time the summer months come, we are literally counting the weeks until the first season opens and we can again enter into the timber with the intentions of “playing the game” and hopefully coming out successful in the chase.

Taking a good inventory of the deer on the property that you hunt can play a HUGE part of your success. Whether you are the type of hunter who will pinpoint a certain deer to chase and follow through with determination through the entire season, or maybe you are just looking for some meat to put in the freezer and you need to be in a place that will give you the greatest percentage of success, taking a good look at what’s out there should be an important part of your summer months.
If you are looking to increase your chances in either case, use these suggestions to use some of your summer time wisely. It will also get you off the couch and into the timber!

This word “scouting” has become a heavily used term in the past 20 years as modern technology has invaded the hunting industry. I have seen many men and women follow the changes and advancements with eagerness. Using the “new things” out on the market to better their hunting luck. Yet, there are those “traditionalists” who still like doing things “the old way” and cling to a way of hunting that has been used for many years. Regardless, scouting is a very important part to hunting.

A good scouting trip should happen in the days, weeks, or months before your hunt. Some people can put a lot of time into this and some have very little. Regardless, getting out to your hunting area in a discrete manner to see what’s around is a great idea.
You will learn what deer are living in certain areas. You will learn their travel patterns. Where they are entering and exiting food sources. You will learn the time schedule that they are living by. You will learn their favorite food sources. You will learn the population of deer in an area and so much more. Scouting is an inventory of information that, if used properly, will put meat in your freezer.

I would suggest blocking out some hours in your evening to head out to the area you hunt and pick a spot that could be used to see what’s going on. Be sure not to “invade” the area. You don’t want deer to be spooked or scared off by your presence. Remember, you don’t have to get near them to scout. This is best done from hundreds of yards away. Just be somewhere that you can see what’s going on and you will be set.

I would suggest maybe even keeping a journal of dates and times of what you are seeing. If you do that over a good period of time, you will begin to see certain trends in what you are observing. Those trends, if used wisely, will help you put together a plan to intercept your harvest when the time comes. Be it for a trophy or for meat, scouting is valuable on many levels!

Step one of taking an inventory is spending some time at a distance. If you’ve hunted a place for a while, you probably know where to find the deer. If you are new to an area, make your best guess as to where to begin.

A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope will give you the advantage you need to gain the notes needed for a successful season. From a distance, begin to watch for and make note of things like favorite food sources, how they are entering and exiting food sources, how often are you seeing the same deer, how many deer are you seeing, time of day they are moving, and more.

Glassing from a far is a great way to begin to take your inventory of what deer are there for you to chase. Be consistent and diligent and remember to keep your distance.

Trail Cameras
Motion sensor trail cameras have been a helpful hunter’s tool for a good number of years now. And the technology is only getting better. Their prices can vary from as little at $35 on up to hundreds. Regardless of their cost, these little contraptions will be a HUGE tool for you to use in gaining and understand your hunting and herd.

Nowadays, trail cams will practically do all the scouting for you. You just have to process the data that it collects in order to formulate your plans.

They have the ability to operate for long periods of time, collect large amounts of pictures or video (depending on your card size), and can even send you this collection of pictures and video footage via email or text system. They can literally eliminate 99% of the human activity that it would take to scout an area. That is, if they are used properly.

Placing your camera is a key factor in success. If you want it to gain the information you are hoping it will, you have to do your part by placing your camera in the right place, giving it the opportunity for success. Think about where it’s placed (trails, bedding areas, food sources), the height that it is on the tree, the angle you have it aiming, the mode it’s on (picture or video), and how often you check it and or move it. All of these “thoughts” will lead you to getting what you want. However, you can’t expect to just pick any tree, strap a camera to it, and go. You’ll be sorely disappointed with what little you gain and will lose valuable time in your weeks of scouting.

Another tactic to consider would be “tracking” a deer with a camera. If you are gaining enough information on a particular deer and it’s pattern, begin to move the camera. If he’s coming out on the same trail night after night, move the camera further into the timber down the same trail. See if you can really pinpoint where he’s coming from. That will work to your advantage later in the summer when you begin to set your stands in strategic locations.

This, I will warn against from the very beginning. It’s not something that I would suggest unless you absolutely need to do it. That is, getting into the woods and “finding” the deer in the timber.

You have to know that you could risk the chance of bumping a deer from it’s territory. Once is probably not going to do too much “damage” to his normal daily patterns. However, if you are returning over and over again, a deer will not hesitate to change their home range and go somewhere he or she might feel safer in.

The only times I would suggest this is in the cases that you are stuck with the big “question mark” in your scouting and you just need to get in deeper to see what’s actually going on. Questions like, “I’m seeing them come from all directions, but where are they truly traveling from?” Or something like, “These deer seem to be transitioning from point A to point B, but I’m not sure why?” Things like that would demand a little “on the ground” investigation in order to get some answers.

If you determine this is the best way to answer your questions when taking your inventory, make sure that you keep it short! In and out. Solve your question and exit the area. Be cautious to not touch too much, leave your scent in any way, or stop to take a bathroom break. These might all be signs to the local herd that something is up and they might need to leave. Be sneaky and quick. Get what you need and get out!

So, get off the couch and get outside! Do what you can to increase your chances of success in making a harvest that you can be very proud of. Good luck!