Outdoor Articles

Preparing for the Hunt – Scouting

by T.R. Michels on January 14th, 2009 in Hunting

As a professional writer, author and saminar speaker – one of the biggest problems I hear about or see – is that many hunters do not “scout” (actual field scouting or glassing) as much as they should prior to the hunt, so that they can gain as much information about the area, the game, the time the game move, and where the game moves in that area.

After scouting many different areas with several people, even accomplished hunters, and for many different species (whitetail, elk, turkey, pheasants, waterfowl, bear) – I’ve come to the conclusion that several different factors contribute to this lack of preparation for the hunt – as in “scouting”.

One of those factors (problems) is obviously time. Many hunters do not have sufficient time in their hectic schedules to adequately scout, whether it be the first time in an area, or the first time in an old area that year (things can change from year to year, such as trails wash out or fallen trees make them unusable; food sources change; development occurred).

If you want to be successful on a regular basis, give yourself enough time to adequately scout the entire  area you have access to hunt, and use game cameras if you have to, so you know what animals are there, where they spend the day (rest), where they generally travel, where they eat and get water, and at what time they are in or near each of those places. If you have time, you should also glass the area, so you actually see the animals (I even glass for waterfowl). And I do a lot of listening for elk, turkeys and pheasants.


Even if the animals are not using the area you hunt, when you have a chance to scout, you still have the opportunity to learn where they sleep, eat, water and travel, if you look for sign – in the weeks before you hunt, during the weeks you hunt (which should continually do, because as the seasons, and weather changes, the habitat and food sources change; and as the breeding season progresses, the activities of the animals change, and where and when they are active may change), in the weeks after you hunt, and during the rest of the year. If it rains or snows, and lets up, get our the door, because the animals will move, and leave evidence of where they move. You should also either sit and watch, or place cameras in high activity locations to find out what time the animals move.

Another problem is that hunters do not see some signs (because they do not know where to look, or the signs are hard to see due to infrequent or one-time use, or due to vegetation); they do not read sign (interpret it) as well as they should, or they do not interpret it correctly. The cure to this is either learn it from someone who is not good – but great – at interpreting sign. You can do that by reading books and articles, going to seminars, watching TV or videos, or by actually going with them (which is generally the best).
This is one of the reasons why I started my Hunting University, because I’ve learned that even though I think I write fairly good descriptions of sign, and I have good slides (for seminars) and photos (for books, internet and articles), actual in-field experience, with someone to help you understand what you are looking at, and at what time of year the sing was made, and at what time of day it was made, is the best way to learn to interpret sign correctly.

If you think you are lacking in the area of “interpretation” of sign – find an expert – and learn from them. And scout the area, particularly at the time of year when you plan to hunt, and in the immediate weeks before you hunt (so you know where the animals are), and glass the area or use cameras to find out what time of day the animals are most active at particular places where you can hunt them (blind/stand sites).
And then scout it some more. Scouting is not only the biggest part of the hunt, it can be the most fun and rewarding part of the hunt. With early duck, goose and deer seasons just around the corner, July and August is a great tine to start your scouting for the fall hunting season.

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