Pre-Season Scouting: Hunting for a Little Fall Luck…Today

With temperatures routinely topping the century mark lately, simply tolerating the heat seems like a mighty tall hill to climb; in fact, for many, the summer grind (and blistering sun) does much to drain every hunting thought out of our daily lives. Admittedly, I’m as guilty as the next person of converting season goals into little more than daily aspirations of cool stints in air-conditioning while escaping daunting thoughts of another day in a world set ablaze. It’s easy to lose track of time when counting days becomes such a slow-burner. The problem is, however, how quickly the summer sun sinks below the horizon, succumbing to the dawn of the fall hunting season… and if we’re not careful it does so before we’ve scouted our hunting ground and fleshed out our strategies.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

The problem with pushing back thoughts of fall and of majestic bucks is we inevitably wind up ill-prepared. Nearly 2000 years ago, Seneca, the iconic Roman philosopher, said it best, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The truth is, while you’re battling those summertime blues, a walk in the woods can be both therapeutic and hunt-productive!

After all, the dominant reasons we hit the woods every fall are simply to get away, clear our minds and reconnect with our purpose-driven roles as providers for our families and stewards of resources gifted to us by our outdoor world. That said, there is no better time to rekindle your hunting fire than when summer temperatures peak and tempers flare. Carve out a little time for the wild side and scout your hunting ground. Not only does it get your mind off the summer heat, it’s a great way to recharge your batteries and gets you thinking about opening day. In the spirit of Seneca then, here are four great scouting tips to give your luck a lift this fall.

Map it!

Mapping your hunting ground is a great idea whether you acquire one or draw it yourself. Trails offer great information about routes in the wild and the wooly network of wooded super highways and native grass byways.

Recording wildlife routes is a great way to gain perspective on overall travel, feeding and watering patterns, identify funnels and pinch points, and offers insight on better positioning of trail cameras, stands and blinds. Perhaps more importantly, mapping your hunting ground helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally trespass. Ignorance is not a great legal defense.

Sign of the Times

While you’re finding yourself in the woods, be especially watchful for signs of wildlife activity. Take some time to explore those trails that you mapped and make note of routes leading to water and food sources, heavily traveled intersections and thick cover.

Recording helps you discover things like trails, tracks, rubs, scrapes, scat and other wildlife activity (with dates, if possible) and it offers invaluable information about travel, feeding and behavior as the season approaches. As a final note about walking your hunting ground, keep quiet, stay off the wildlife trails and follow the same rigorous scent control routine you practice on the hunt.

Don’t Be Camera-Shy

Trail cameras are an invaluable scouting tool regardless of the season. Always check your local state regulations but using them year-round can lend insight into the differences in travel, behavior and food sources from one season to the next.

In warmer climates, seasonal behavioral transitions (like the rut) tend to occur later. Scouting, especially through the summer months and into the fall, is a great way to educate yourself about those changes and to also pinpoint that activity as opening day gets closer. Cataloging trail camera data weekly and monthly not only helps you establish patterns, including changes in activity as a result of temperature changes, moon phases, etc., but it also helps you to plan effectively.

The Tick-Tock of an Unruly Clock

While a couch in an air-conditioned living room seems like a great place to spend your summer afternoons, time in the woods allows for introspection, reconnecting with our outdoor heritage, and curing what ails us throughout the dog days of summer. More than that, time spent in the woods scouting ensures the fall season offers more than just surprises.  It leverages your opportunity to experience real hunter’s luck; which brings me to my final tip—just get out there!  When it comes to hunting, like the Powerball tagline,  “You can’t win if you don’t play.” And that unruly clock continues its obstinate tick-tock.