Spring Scouting

SPRING SCOUTING

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GET OUT AND EXPLORE THE WILDLIFE PATTERNS

This past winter brought us many cold days cooped up inside. I remember looking out the window seeing the sundogs after another rough blizzard and longing for warmer days and the outdoor opportunities that come with spring.  Now that those days are here, there is no better time to be outdoors. And that's right where you'll find me.

I do a lot of my scouting in the spring.  The woods are very similar as to what they were in the fall.  Deer trails stand out, scrapes are visible, and rubs show up easily in the brown vegetation.  This can be some very valuable information when fall comes around.  It shows how the deer travel your property, especially the bucks.  Rubs can provide a lot of intel about how they travel.  I like to take a look at which side of the tree is rubbed.  This tells you the direction the buck was travelling at the time he made the rub.  Why is the buck travelling through this area? Was he heading to a food source, cruising looking for does, or maybe heading back to bed after feeding in nearby fields?

Rubs can provide a lot of intel about hoe the bucks travel.

Rubs can provide a lot of intel about hoe the bucks travel.

Once this intelligence has been gathered, I put the information on my aerial photos of the property.  I mark the map up with trails, rubs and scrapes and this helps me put the pieces of the puzzle together. I can look at potential stand locations, and which wind directions would be the best to hunt those stands.  One other important aspect that some hunters forget about is the ingress and egress from those stands.  Will I be walking across a feeding area in the early morning or late evening when going to or leaving a stand?  Do I travel near a bedding area to get into my stand?  Not bumping deer off your property as you enter or leave your stand is one of the most important aspects of hunting mature bucks.  You don’t want to give away your location!

Spring is the time to scout your property for deer movement. However, we cannot forget about the movement taking place above the trees. Songbirds and waterfowl start their migration back to the area this time of year. One of my favorite pastimes (when I was younger and had more free time) was to travel the back roads and watch the waterfowl migration.  Low areas in fields hold water after the snowmelt and attract waterfowl that feed on the microorganisms that live in the water.  The males will be in full plumage with their brilliant colors. 

We have another opportunity here in Western Minnesota that we don’t see in too many places…Prairie Chickens.  Prairie Chickens have an area that they use every year to conduct their courting rituals.  These areas are called booming grounds.  Agencies like the Minnesota DNR, The Nature Conservancy and The Prairie Chicken Society work hand in hand to identify and protect these areas.  Some booming grounds will have blinds that are open to the public (by reservation) to come and observe these native birds do their dance.

So, whether you are drawn to the return of bustling wildlife, the blooming foliage peeking through melting snow or the inviting warmth of the springtime sun, just be sure you make it out there this season. Get out and explore.

-Mike Brown

Dirk Ockhardt