Deer hunting is a year-round process and postseason scouting for deer is part of it.
There are reasons to scout for deer after the season. Deer sign is very vivid and concentrated from mid-January through late March. Deer typically group together and center on high-energy food to eat, dense thermal cover to bed and open and free water to drink. Postseason scouting also makes you better understand the habits of deer.
Postseason scouting allows for a good evaluation of available deer immediately after the hunting season.
Transparency: Main trails, feeding areas, bedding sites and open, free water sources are defined and easy to see this time of year. There is no leafy understory cover or heavy vegetative ground clutter to obscure or block views of deer sign.
Deer sign: Active deer trails and beds are quite evident, as are buck scrapes, rub lines and even new tree rubs in woodlands. Deer tracks and droppings in snow cover, mud, disturbed forest litter or crop residue easily can be spotted and all tell a story. Tracks and droppings can indicate the sex, age and size of deer, as well as the direction of travel. Look for a broader trail that’s being well-used by several deer coming and going from food resources to bedding areas. A sole trail that has larger tracks should not be overlooked. Watch for drag marks of a buck’s front hooves in fresh or powdery snow.
Focus in beds: Luke Meduna, big game program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says hunters scouting in the postseason should focus on locating deer beds.
“You can tell a bedding area for does and fawns versus bucks,” Meduna said. “Does and fawns bed in groups, while bucks normally bed singly and have larger-sized depressions. Bucks prefer to bed up against something on a hillside or higher spot where they can use their senses to their advantage.”
Find sheds: Shed antlers found in postseason deer scouting can disclose what bucks most likely made it through the hunting season and how big they might be.
Glass: Use binoculars to survey how those active deer trails interconnect, relate to the terrain and form deer corridors. Natural funnels and pinch points can be more clearly observed.
Handy cameras: Trail cameras can assess the size and health of deer remaining in your area, even though deer may relocate or move. You can even come to identify individual deer. Also, use your smartphone camera to capture all kinds of images or video from your postseason scouting expeditions.
Everything else: The use of modern mapping technology can save time and help narrow down areas to scout on foot. When scouting on foot, be stealthy and do not repeatedly disturb deer. The lack of leaves on trees makes it a good time to select a spot for a stand, and don’t forget to clear shooting lanes while you are there.
If you are willing to put in the time, hard work and analysis throughout the year, including during the postseason, the odds of harvesting deer dramatically increase.