4 Scouting Resources and Tools to Help Plan Out Your Deer Hunting Season

4 Scouting Resources and Tools to Help Plan Out Your Deer Hunting Season

Any successful deer hunter will tell you that scouting, planning and preparing plays an important role in their operating rhythm.  Over the years, I have gathered from whitetail experts that in order to consistently harvest mature deer it comes down to knowing the herd and knowing the land.  In order to uncover pertinent information, one has to scout, study maps and document their discoveries.  As die-hard hunters, we all know how much time and effort we put into scouting.  Additionally, we also know that there is a lot of information about the locations we are hunting.  The amount of information can be overwhelming and I find myself unorganized more often than not.  When this happens, I may find out after the fact that if I prepared a little more, or took the extra step to simply organize my planning, I could have had better results than I achieved.  With this in mind, I thought it would be beneficial to talk about the tools that are available to us that would help organize the information we collect while scouting and planning for the upcoming season.

GIS Mapping and Plat Maps

If you are unfamiliar with the acronym “GIS”, it stands for Geographic Information Systems and it is the electronic form of a Plat book.  Plat maps are phasing out simply because it is much more inexpensive and efficient to have everything electronic.  If you want to find the GIS mapping for your county just type “GIS Your County, Your State” and it will populate a link to the county’s website.  There you can search through your county’s GIS data library and pick what area you wish to research.  You will be able to see the road names, land owner names, acreage and water system names.  Not all counties are operating with GIS mapping, but it is no secret that everything is moving to 100% electronic.  So if you cannot find GIS mapping for your county you will need to revert to a plat map.  What’s great is that you can print off the desired page of parcels you want to take with you on the road when you go scouting or door knocking.  Take notes on the back of the page about the people or activities in the area that might help you with planning your hunting locations.  If I find out that the neighboring land owner likes to log trees frequently during the fall, which will drive deer away from that particular area, and I will make a note to remember this when setting up my stands.

Google/Bing and Paint

Two great online mapping sites to use would be Google or Bing.  I favor Google over Bing because based on my experience Google updates their imagery more frequently than Bing.  Although my buddy would argue that Bing is better because of its “Bird’s Eye View” feature, which enhances the details of the land features in the image.  Either one you use you can’t go wrong.  When using this tool you are simply looking for key land features; such as funnels, pinch points, crop fields etc.  This will give you an idea on where to start your scouting. Once you have scouted a particular area, you should save the map image you found in Google to your computer.  You can do this by pressing the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard once you have your desired image within the frame of your monitor.  This will “copy” your desired image and allow you to paste it in another program.

I suggest using paint or a similar program to map out everything you find and what your plans are for that particular area.  Create a key as I did in the image below.  You can draw out everything you find and save the image once you are done so you can go back and analyze your findings.  This will lay everything out so to speak, and really give you an idea of not only what the deer are doing within the area, but also where you may need to setup for a shot opportunity. You can mark where your potential stand locations would be, or where you want to setup up a trail camera. This really helps put the pieces together to display the big picture for you on one screen.


Scoutlook has been around for quite some time and they continue to improve their application.  You can do many of the actions that I suggested in the Paint program using a Google image.  You can track your stand locations, trail cameras, and mark other waypoints, but I haven’t been able to draw out the details that I wish to in Scoutlook; which is why I still like to use the Google image and Paint.  Truthfully, I use Scoutlook more during the season because it provides critical information about wind direction, temperature and barometric pressure in near real time.  I can also use Scoutlook to determine ahead of time what stands are good for a certain wind direction, and based on my scouting efforts and trail camera pictures, I can choose a location to hunt efficiently.  These resources help make organizing the information collected in the offseason much easier; which ultimately aids in making educated decisions about where to hunt during the season.

Wunderground.com and Weather Data               

Do you ever go back through your trail camera photos and wonder why a buck made an appearance at a certain time? I am sure all of us do this, and finding the answer is next to impossible simply because there are many uncontrollable variables that influence deer movement.  The variables are more irrepressible during the rut when bucks are focused on breeding.  However, I have learned through other experts that data tracking may provide some clues to help pattern deer movement during parts of the season when they can be patterned.  Wunderground.com is a weather based website that not only provides real-time weather information, but it also provides historical weather data as well.  You can find the temperature, barometric pressure, and wind direction etc. for any day of the previous year.  So if you have a buck appear in daylight on October 15th, and you want to know what the weather was during that day or week, you can search Wunderground.com’s historical weather data to see that information.  Perhaps a cold front moved through during that timeframe, or there was a significant pressure increase that week.  There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn by collecting this data and comparing it to deer movement.  This not only useful during the offseason, but it can also be beneficial during the season to help make timely decisions.

There is one drawback to wunderground.com.  The weather information is pulled from a major city’s airport, so really the historical weather data is reporting the weather at that specific airport. So if your hunting location is nowhere near a major city’s airport then this information may not do you any good.  However, if you hunting location is nearby then this data is going to be more relevant for you.  There is another way to collect relevant and applicable information to your hunting area.  Unfortunately, it will require a little work on your part however, this can be very beneficial.  Simply create an Excel spreadsheet that lists all your stand locations and organizes the pertinent weather information.  You look at the weather each day during the season right? Record the wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure etc. for each day of the month.  It’s an extra step in the process, but you will be happy that you captured this information when planning your strategy both in and out of season.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, these resources are something you will consider using for this coming season.  I know at first glance it sounds like tedious, desk work and no one likes that.   We want to enjoy the outdoors and the experiences that we have on the hunt.  However, I can assure you that a little time spent organizing yourself utilizing the aforementioned tools will pay off big time for you in the fall.  These are tips that myself and many experts have used in the past to be successful.  If you have any tips that will help with offseason scouting please share them in the comments section below.  I look forward to hearing about your success in the woods next season.  Until then, stay fierce and keep scouting!

Door Knocking Tactics: What to Say to Gain Hunting Permission

Door Knocking Tactics: What to Say to Gain Hunting Permission

I find myself often day dreaming of one day having a large piece of prime hunting acreage that I can call my own. No more hunting on other peoples’ terms, and I can have the luxury to do exactly what I want to do on my property. Sadly, it may be a while before I attain this life-long goal of mine, and I have to make do with what I have. That means I will be hitting the road, with a list of addresses in hand, looking for the next landowner to say the magic word “yes”. Even though I go in with an optimistic mentality, I know that not every person is going to give me permission to hunt their land. It can be tough sometimes because it is not the easiest thing to do, but it is very much rewarding once a new property is acquired. In efforts to better prepare you for your “door knocking” adventure, I have provided a couple tips below that have really helped me be successful when setting out to ask for hunting permission.  I also included a script that you can try out that has really worked for me.

First and foremost, you gotta get your mind right. Set some expectations and goals for yourself. Having the expectation that you are going to fail more than you are going to succeed is huge. I actually anticipate the landowner telling me no or giving some sort of an excuse as to why they won’t let me hunt. Believe it or not this helps you to stay positive and keeps your morale up. Set some goals for yourself and make time to follow through on them. If you make a commitment to knock on three doors every weekend, given there are typically 4 weekends in a month, in just 3 months you will have asked thirty-six landowners for permission. Throw in a weekend that you commit to knock on an additional 15 houses in one weekend, and you are looking at over fifty opportunities to gain permission.  The point is the more times you ask for permission, the higher your odds are of getting a “yes”.  Set some expectations and pound the pavement.

Secondly, it is always good to be prepared for each interaction you have. Obviously, you want to dress appropriately. No one is requiring you to wear a suit and tie, but at least throw on some good blue jeans and a nice shirt. Most importantly, you have to know what you are going to say. Written below is a script that I use to start a conversation with a landowner. Keep in mind that this script does not work if you sound like a robot. When you recite these lines please use a genuine, authentic tone to make the conversation sound realistic.  You do not want to sound like a watch salesman.

ME: “Hello, my name is John and I know you were not expecting me to stop by today, so I promise to be brief is that okay?”
This earns you the right to advance to the big question without asking the question of “do you have time today?” It is just a simple and polite way of getting right to the point. You can use this every time you knock on a door and speak with a landowner. I have not had anyone react negatively to this approach, and I strongly believe that this starting line breaks the ice well and starts the conversation off smoothly.

ME: “Great. Well before I go any further I first want to quickly introduce myself. Like I said, my name is John and I am a member of the NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) and I have been an avid hunter for 13 years. I truly enjoy hunting and I am wondering if you would allow me to hunt your land. I would be willing to exchange some of my time to do some labor if you have any projects or work that needs to be done. Is that something we could work out?”

I want to explain in more detail why some of these key words in this part of the script are going to help you. By associating yourself with a known organization, preferably a well-known organization, people will be able to quickly identify you. You do not have to use a conservation organization. If you are a college student tell them what college you attend if it is in the area.  The key point is to identify yourself with something that hopefully the landowner can relate to. By creating an identity you form a positive or professional image of yourself, which ultimately will work into your favor.  If you live nearby then tell them whereabouts you live. This will give them a general idea as to what part of the neighborhood you’re from, which could lead to a great conversation.  You might end up knowing this person’s friend or family member, which again is another great conversation starter.  The ultimate goal here is to either associate or identify yourself with something or someone they can possibly relate to.

Overall, the combination of identifying yourself, expressing that hunting is your passion and offering a benefit to the landowner will certainly give you greater odds of success. To simplify things, I like to use the acronym “PBC” (Purpose, Benefit and Check). In my example, my “purpose” was to gain permission to hunt on the landowner’s property. The “benefit” was to offer my time to do some labor or work for the landowner. Lastly, the “check” was stated as, “Is that something we could work out?” It is important to deliver your “check” with confidence and solid eye contact.

Obviously, you can add your own style to this model. The example I provided is something that I use often and it works great for me. I am never at a loss for words and my deliver is strong and consistent. Having a “PBC” model in place will definitely help you organize your thoughts and delivery, but my example script definitely will not work for everyone. Customize a “PBC” for yourself and give it a try the next time you go door knocking. Not only will you feel more confident, but I strongly believe that this will bring you success.

6 Useful Items for the Deer Hunter

6 Useful Items for the Deer Hunter

Over the years of hunting I have learned that certain tools, or apparatuses (when used properly) have provided me with convenience and confidence. I cannot even begin to tell you how appreciative I am of the people who invest so much time and money into products that provide a more quality experience for us hunters. Additionally, I am very thankful for the natural resources provided by Mother Nature that we can use to improve our hunt. These items are unique and have their place and time. Check it out and stimulate your brain…how will some of these items help you on your next hunt?

1) Milk Weed Pod

Milkweed PodThis might be old news for the more veteran hunters, but a milkweed pod is the best “windicator” in the woods. Inside each milkweed pod there are many seeds that have tufts of fine hairs at one end. The seeds are small and the tufts permit the seed to carry very easily in the wind. The store bought “windicators” really only tell which way the wind is blowing right in front of you, which can give you false guidance when playing the wind. By releasing a milkweed seed into the air, one can watch where the seed travels and get a good indication on how your scent is traveling from your stand to the ground.

2) Tarsal Glands

I have to give credit to Jake Dewey, a good friend of mine, for this idea of scent cover. I can remember going to Jake’s house Tarsal Glandsafter he had shot a buck and seeing the hind legs of a deer sitting on tailgate of the “Mule” (four-wheel ORV). “Why do you have those legs cut off like that Jake?” I asked. Jake replied, “I am going to throw them up in a tree to get the tarsal gland scent in the air.” My puzzled face quickly turned to an expression of enlightenment. I loved the idea of using the rutting scent of another buck’s tarsal glands to coax a curious or aggressive buck in shooting range. A deer hide can be used the same way to calm other deer down and hoodwinking them into thinking there are other deer in the area. You can use the hind legs of a rutting buck if you are fortunate enough to shoot a one.  Or you can buy buck tarsal gland scents from a number of scent providers.  However, I feel that using the real thing, in my opinion, would be more effective than using something that is diluted by synthetics.

3) Extendable Handsaw

I have been using Wicked Tree Gear’s extendable saw to trim my shooting lanes during the summer. I am not afraid of using a saw and cutting limbs early in the off season because I know that I am not at risk of ruining my hunts in the fall. Additionally, I have always been against making last minute changes to clear out shooting lanes. I believed that making these spontaneous changes to my kill sites would have deer on high alert due to the obvious changes. Plus, I obviously was concerned with the amount of noise I would make if I used a handsaw. I feel very differently now after using a Wicked Tree pole saw, simply because of how quick and easy it is for me to make adjustments. The quality of the product is top-notch and, in my opinion, incomparable to other extendable saws in the industry. I am not sponsored or partnered in any way with Wicked Tree Gear. I have to give credit where credit is due, and this particular extendable saw met all my expectations that I had prior to making the purchase.

4) Fake Christmas Tree Branches

Fake Christmas Tree BranchesEver run into a situation where the only good “killing tree” is practically a telephone pole with minimal cover? Try tucking yourself in by using some branches off a fake Christmas tree. I have used real branches from other trees to cover myself during the early season, however the leaves all die and fall off in a week or less. Fake Christmas tree branches keep their green all year-round, and for their entire life. They are amazing…give’m a shot.

5) Peroxide

I wish all blood trails were laid out like the red carpet in Hollywood, but I knowPeroxide from experience that blood trailing is not always easy. This can be especially challenging when the leaves start to turn to various shades of red and orange. The blades of grass with a hint of red near the stems and the leaves with the random red dots on them get me every time. Peroxide’s fizzling chemical reaction with blood can definitely help distinguish what is blood and what is not. Put some in a spray bottle, and in the event you come across a spec of blood that is not fully convincing, give it a spray and watch for the reaction.

6) Camera Clamp Mount

My good friend Tyler Smith put me on to these handy clamps that are great for mounting trail cameras. This is a much more cost efficient way of running a trail camera line. They are only 8 dollars, but very durable. I have clamped this mount to small branches or a screw in step that is screwed into the tree. I hang most of trail cameras from an elevated positon, and the adjustable ball mount allows me to position the camera angle how I want it. It is a great tool for hanging trail cameras and inexpensive too. 



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