-By Randy Cooper
All good things must come to an end, or at least be put on hold for a while. By the time you read this, the deer season in most states will have either closed or be close to ending for the year. In Georgia, most of the state closes on January 1st with the exception of bow-only counties where the season goes all the way to January 31st. I still have a full month of bow hunting left and will virtually have the woods to myself. I’ve learned a lot this season through observations on my stand, in-season scouting and what I’ve captured on trail cameras.
I have never seen anything that has excited me as much in the last few years as the new Moultrie trail cameras. I’ve been able to put together a journal from the information I gained by the pictures captured with these fantastic tools. I’ve heard hunters that are set in their ways say that they don’t need any kind of camera to help them get a buck. Hey, that’s OK with me. Their loss is my gain! I really believe they think it takes away from their woodsman ship if they rely on an aid like that. Their pride gets in the way of gaining more knowledge about what’s going on in the area they hunt. I don’t think you can get too much information. I thrive on it.
Now that the season is ending, it’s time to do my post-season scouting. To me, this is THE MOST important scouting I do all year. Now I can scout without fear of blowing a big buck out of his bedroom and ruining my chances at him in the upcoming season. The woods are so open because the leaves are all down and you can see for days. Now is the time to look for drainages, thickets that were used for bedding areas, transition zones and creek bottoms that funnel deer movements. If you can get up on a high ridge the view gives you a great observation point that allows you to see topographic features that you can’t see any other time of year.
What I like most about scouting now is that it is cool and the trips are much more enjoyable than when you’re sweating and the bugs are about to carry you off. Not to mention the snakes and hornets. Everything on the forest floor is easier to see. Scrapes and horned trees will literally jump out at you. When I find a rub, I can stand in one place and usually see several more from that position. It gives me a good idea the line of travel that buck was taking from one place to the other. As I walk the rub line I find scrapes, staging areas near food sources and even an occasional fight scene where everything on the floor of the woods is torn up.
I start putting the dots together for my hunting strategy for next season. I find new stand locations, funnel areas, new food sources that went unseen in the heavy cover of the preseason. So much information is given up in the post season. If you wait until the first of March, you can find shed antlers that will give you an idea about which bucks made it through the season and are still on your property. When I find some really encouraging sign or a worn out travel corridor, I employ the use of my trail cameras once again. Some essential tools I use include a roll of fluorescent surveyors ribbon, a topographic map or plat of the property and a GPS unit. The places of interest you run across are now easy to find because the woods are so open; but in spring when green up takes place, you’ll think you’re on another planet. I mark the areas I find with ribbon, make a mark in red on my map and take a reading with the GPS. Believe me, you want to do this. It will help you go right back to these honey holes when you get ready.
Even now I can get an idea of what uses this new area. The process begins all over again until next opening day. Don’t hang up your boots just because the season ends. Let this be just the beginning of next year’s hunt. Be persistent, look at those places you wondered about all season. Keep using your trail cameras. It may lead to the best hunting you’ve ever experienced.