Scouting for Velvet Whitetails

Scouting for Velvet Whitetails

July 22, 2019

Boost Your Odds of Tagging Out During Early Season

Welcome to the heart of summer.

While these long, brutally hot days are exactly what beach bums and lake goers have been waiting all year for, archery hunters across the country are experiencing a different kind of excitement entirely.

Why? Because the heat and humidity of mid-summer mean the countdown to early season hunting is finally on. And for the most passionate and determined of bowhunters, kicking off that countdown means one thing: it’s time to start scouting.

That’s right, whether you plan to hunt private or public land this fall, there’s no better time than now to start preparing – especially if you’re hoping to stick a velvet whitetail this season. Since the patterns deer exhibit during pre-season are very similar to those they’ll be adhering to on an opening day, patterning bachelor groups during the summertime is essential for identifying target bucks and giving yourself a shot at some early season success.

We bet most of you are already hard at work. And for those still unsure of where to start, relax. If you’re willing to dedicate some time and effort to your pre-season cause, the process is much simpler than you’d expect it to be.

Enjoy the View … From Afar

One of the most effective ways to do your pre-season scouting is from afar. This tactic allows you to identify potential quarry and familiarize yourself with the land you plan to hunt before barreling into the bucks’ bedrooms, spreading the scent around and disrupting whatever routine the animals already have in place. Be sure to pay close attention to areas with prime food sources during the afternoon and evening hours, as the animals’ trips to feed each day are both intentional and habitual.

By spending some solid time glassing, either from a nearby vantage point or the comfort of your own vehicle, you effectively tick the first few boxes on the “scouting for velvet whitetails” checklist: confirming the presence of animals and beginning to plan your route into the area they’re inhabiting.

This approach to scouting requires you to have a few high-tech pieces of equipment in your big-game hunting arsenal, namely a quality spotting scope, binoculars, and the necessary accessories for each. A good set of optics will take a lot of the physical work out of locating game, so you can first focus on homing in on target animals, locating food and water sources, and identifying access points and future hunting locations without disturbing the resident ruminant population.

In the market for some high-end hunting optics?

Start by checking out our Endeavor HD Spotting Scopes – the most advanced optics Vanguard has ever produced. The optical systems in these scopes employ extra-low dispersion glass (ED) to ensure accurate color rendition, and all lenses are all fully multi-coated – delivering optimum light transmission.

The best part? These optics mount directly to all Vanguard tripod heads equipped with the universal mounting plate, making your life that much easier in the heat of the moment.

Haven’t spent much time behind such high-tech glassing equipment? Not to worry. We’re more than happy to help you learn how to use your new spotting scope like a pro!

Our Endeavor lineup of waterproof/fogproof binoculars, available in the popular sizes 10X42 and 8x42, feature a refreshed design that delivers both enhanced ergonomics and optical performance. Plus, the new open-hinge design and large focus wheel make handling and focusing a breeze in all weather conditions.

Hoping to pick these optics up without shelling a whole lot out? Yep, we’ve got you covered there too.

Glassing on the Go

As mentioned, this scouting can easily be done without ever leaving your vehicle. In fact, scouting from the driver’s seat is a fantastic approach to early season scouting since it’s not only a more efficient means of locating whitetails, but also allows you to cover more miles than you would on foot. In addition, thanks to their summer coats, animals are much easier to spot this time of year, and due to not being pressured, they also move about far more confidently than after they’ve been shot at a time or two during hunting season. This makes glassing opportunities rather random, meaning you should always be prepared to pull to the side of the road to take advantage of a glassing opportunity.

Window mounts make steadying your optics a cinch, letting you pan miles of terrain even when your tripod isn’t close at hand. Our PH-201 2-Way Pan Head Window Mount is perfect for stabilizing your spotting scope, binos, camera, or camcorder right from your bench seat – no opening and closing of doors required.

Boots on the Ground

Once you’ve identified your target animal or, at the very least confirmed the presence of a good number of animals on the property, it’s time to delve a bit deeper. Taking your scouting efforts to the next level involves venturing out to get a better look at the terrain, trails, tracks, cover, and food and water sources you spent all that time glassing up. And when you do, be sure to bring along a few trail cameras, a heavy-duty knife, axe or machete, and your phone (which hopefully includes a handy hunting app). Hanging a few trail cams in high-activity – and thus high-potential – areas will give you an even better idea of what’s in the area and help better define the most worthwhile hunting spot for opening day.

When choosing where to hang your cameras, be on the lookout for:

  • Trails used by deer and by people. While deer will travel via walking paths, two-tracks and roads designated for motor vehicles, those aren’t areas you’ll want to hunt for the simple fact that they’re high-traffic areas for critters of the two-legged variety – not what you’re after. Deer trails, on the other hand, tend to be the best routes between food, water, and cover, and often pass right through preferred bedding areas, making them ideal places for running a camera or two.
  • Sign – meaning tracks, poop, rubs, scrapes and other evidence of deer having recently used the general area. Chances are if you’ve located deer trails you’ve also come across plenty of most of the items listed above. If not, keep looking!
  • Transitions between various types and degrees of cover are great places to hang trail cameras, as these lines separate areas where deer bed and where they come to feed. Deer also utilize these locations for escape routes, fleeing their feeding spots and disappearing into thick cover where they’re virtually impossible to locate.
  • Proximity to food and water sources. This is key. If there’s no food nearby or the closest watering hole is miles away, don’t waste a week or more of your pre-season scouting time running cameras in that spot because … a deers gotta eat (and drink)!
  • Agriculture is another good indicator that deer frequent the area. Not only do corn, bean and other crop fields serve as food sources, they’re also a type of transition zone, often bordered by thick cover or grass fields, helping deer move from place to place during daylight hours without being detected.
  • Accessibility – and we don’t mean for the deer. Even if you’ve found a spot that meets all the criteria listed above, if it’s easy for you to access, it’s easy for countless other early-season hunters to access too. You know who wants to spend months scouting a prime location only to find others already parked, packed in and in place when they show up on opening morning? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
  • Inconspicuous trees, since we find those are the best spots to hang trail cams – especially on public land. We don’t want those expensive cameras you worked so hard to hang disappearing before you’re able to pull them, so take our advice here. Find a not-so-noticeable tree a short ways off the path of least resistance and hang your camera anywhere but eye level. You’ll thank us later.

As we all know, finding deer and filling tags (especially early season ones requiring the use of a weapon that flings fancied-up pointy sticks using a string and some tension) are two very different things, regardless of the time and effort you’ve invested to finding deer during pre-season. But, when it comes to scouting for velvet whitetails, minimally invasive approaches are the most effective way to get the job done. Glassing from afar not only helps you learn what’s in the area, it enables to you to learn their habits (and to do so without spooking them) and ups your chances of punching that paper early this fall.