Mossy Oak ProStaff
Whitetail Regional Manager (IA, WI, and MN)
Q: What time of the year do you do your scouting?
A: The most general answer to this question is year round. I am always driving around, looking at maps and looking for draws or saddles that I feel may funnel deer. The more direct answer would be in the Spring. I like to cover a lot of ground when I am turkey and mushroom hunting. In the early Spring most of the sign from the previous Fall is still very evident. I do very little scouting during the season, excluding driving back roads looking for deer. I try to have as little impact in the timber as possible this time of year, so I try to keep my movements to a minimum.
Q: Do you use trail cameras to help you scout?
A: The answer is yes, but on a limited basis. I use them as more of an inventory tool during late Summer and very early Fall. I try to keep my movements during the season to a minimum and don’t want to be checking cameras. However, with the newer cameras, they don’t require as much maintenance. Battery life has gotten better and they can hold so many digital photos, that I may consider using them during season a little more often.
Q: Do you use food plots or other food type attractants?
A: Absolutely! Being from Iowa farm country, there is an abundance of food sources available to deer, but a lot of it is corn and beans. These are great fuel for whitetails during the late season, but most of it is harvested by crunch time. I plant plots of corn as well as soybeans that are left as late season energy sources for our herd. As well as being a Mossy Oak ProStaffer, I am a BioLogic seed dealer and have numerous plots of clovers as well as brassicas and bulbs. These provide excellent nutrition during the critical antler growth period as well as a late season food source.
Q: How do you hunt big bucks before the rut and early in the bow season?
A: To catch a mature buck in the early season, I like to concentrate on travel corridors between food and bedding areas. Don’t set up on the food source but back in the timber a bit. Thais way you may get a crack at a buck who doesn’t quite feel secure about getting to that food source during daylight hours. Don’t overlook that big white oak that is dropping acorns in the timber! Bucks can be somewhat vulnerable at this time of year because they are still on Summer feeding patterns. Not to say it is easy, but the bucks can be somewhat patterned at this time of year. As the season progresses, they will begin to be much more erratic in their travel patterns.
Q: How do you hunt scrapes during the pre-rut?
A: I have never been much of a scrape hunter. I will hunt them if I find them absolutely fresh. In my opinion, you have to hunt hot sign. With that in mind, it must be done soon after the sign is located. I know there are hunters out there who have great success hunting scrapes, it just has not been a method I have had much experience with.
Q: Do you use scent control products?
A: Most definitely. The whitetail’s nose is his best defense. It simply makes sense to do all you can to minimize odor. I use a program similar to a lot of hunters I believe. It starts with washing clothing in scent eliminating detergent and storing them in a scent proof container, then using scent eliminator body soap. I try to dress in the field as often as possible and always use a scent eliminator spray on my outer layer. I often freshen with spray on a long sit. I also use scent control clothing including a head cover.
Q: How important is wind direction when deciding where to hunt?
A: Wind direction must be of utmost concern when determining where to hunt. Again, if you can’t beat a buck’s nose, you are going to lose the battle! I hunt fairly large tracts of timber at home, not giant forest tracts, but fairly sizable for farm country. I try to play the wind as much as possible, but there are times when you can’t get the wind perfect. I have had success when the wind isn’t necessarily in my favor, but it more often ends in frustration. My advice is to do all you can to keep the wind in your favor, but don’t stress out if it isn’t perfect. I have had bucks come in from straight down wind. This is where scent control plays a huge role. If you are diligent about scent control, sometimes you can catch a break with the wind.
Q: Do you use attractant scents?
A; On occasion during the rut, I will use some estrus scent and have had some luck with that. It is not however, a big part of my approach. I am more inclined to try to set up where I know does are going to travel during the rut and trust the bucks will come to scent check those areas.
Q: Do you use calls? If so, which ones and how much?
A: The last two mature bucks I have harvested were both taken with the help of a snort wheeze call. I may have gotten a crack at the second one, but my buck from 2009 would have passed by at 250 yards had I not called to him. Calling is never a sure thing, but I definitely feel it adds to your effectiveness as a hunter. How much I call depends on the mood of the deer and what is happening in the woods at that time. I like to think of it a little like turkey calling. You don’t go yelping loud and obnoxious if you haven’t heard the hens doing it. Read the deer you do see to try to determine at what stage of the rut you are hunting. I carry rattling horns, estrus doe bleat and a grunt snort wheeze every time I go to the woods. I may not use all of them every time, but I definitely want them available. I have seen positive results more times than not by calling and it adds to my enjoyment of the hunt when I can interact with the critters I am hunting.
Q: What is your favorite time of the hunting season to hunt?
A: My favorite time of the season to hunt is whenever I can be out there! Actually though, I want to be in the stand just before the rut actually starts. The seeking and chase phase of the rut can be absolutely mind blowing if weather and deer densities are in your favor. In my area of Iowa, this usually occurs right around Veterans Day. I have often said, if I could only hunt one day a year, it would be Veterans Day. After this phase of the breeding season, it can get frustrating sometimes. When those bucks find a hot doe and go into lockdown with them, you can feel like every buck in the county has disappeared!