You come to a new area to hunt and have a limited amount of time to hunt it. You need to get an idea of the deer in the area, so where do you begin?
Your best option? Get in before the season starts.
…but if you can’t….
Your second option? These tips.
9 Ways to Find Deer in a New Area
1. Be a Detective
Before you head into the area you plan on hunting, try to collect as much knowledge of the area that you can.
Where to Investigate:
- Talk to conservation officers to find out how much pressure is in the area from other hunters and any other tips they are willing to give you.
- Question hunters that have hunted in the same area in the past can help give you an idea of where the deer feed, bed and travel, and what areas you should focus on.
- Use Google maps. It can be a great tool, giving you an idea of the lay of the land, where any roads come and go, where water sources are like creeks and lakes, and if there are any fields or clearings (Bing “Bird’s Eye” images in their maps are wonderful too).
2. Spend One Day Now, Bring Success later
If you are going to be hunting in an area for multiple days, spend one day exploring the area. Pack a few trail cameras with you to set up in areas of interest, and be ready to hike to learn where their food and water source is, bedding and trails.
Try to find an elevated spot where you can see a good distance below and sit and glass. Watch to see if you can catch where the animals come and go and travel. You’ll be able to see where they move in the morning, mid day and evening-helping you to figure out what time of day would be best to hunt or if It’s an all day spot.
3. Walk Like a Deer
If you did everything mentioned above then you will have an idea where to start, if not then start by finding trails and following them.
If you start in a field or clearing head for the trees to find their feeding trails which will run parallel to the field. If you follow it you will come to intersections where trails head into the trees.
When looking for a decent intersection to set up on, check the trails for fresh tracks and scat and how well they are used. These kind of intersections can give you a good number of shooting lanes. The best times to hunt here will most likely be right before dark when they are heading out to feed and first thing in the morning when they are leaving the field.
If you travel along the trails deeper into the trees you can usually come across a network of trails and intersections. If they are trails that are well used this would be another good spot to set up and have multiple shooting lanes.
4. Take a Peek
An area deeper in the trees can usually be a good spot for midday or all day hunting. No matter how long or short of a time period you plan on hunting in an area, make sure to set up your trail cameras.
Pick spots that have lots of sign like trails, waterholes, wallows, and mineral licks. Even areas where you get a good feeling about it- set up a trail camera. Your intuition can sometimes make you feel like an area has potential, don’t ignore it because of a lack of sign. Set up a camera and see if your ”sixth sense” is right.
5. Check the Trees
If there are rubs in the area it can give you an idea of bucks in the area. The newer the rubs the better-A very fresh rub will still be sticky from sap and will be yellow to red in color.
Some rubs can indicate a bigger buck made it; for instance, if the rub goes a good distance up the tree and if the tree is thick in diameter. But don’t underestimate a small rub as a small buck, big bucks can make small rubs as well.
6. Think Thirsty
A main water source can be a great vantage point. So finding it can turn the odds in your favor because deer need water everyday, it’s just trying to find the time of day when they go for water.
7. Set up your Stand Early
If you plan on hunting using a tree stand, it’s usually better to get into the area a day or two before your planned day of hunting. Setting them up can be noisy when having to break branches and clear shooting lanes. Giving the area at least 12-24 hours to calm will give you a better chance at seeing deer.
8. Don’t Disturb their Beauty Rest
Bedding areas are always an exciting find because it’s an area where the animals feel safe enough to catch some rest. They aren’t always in thick brush, so keep your eyes open because they could very easily be in the middle of a clearing or just behind a log.
Try your best not to go through the beds and stay on the outskirts-Some deer may not tolerate the smell of a human in that area and could change its bedding spot.
9. Know your Seasons
Many hunters prefer hunting during the late season for a number of reasons. It’s cold so the deer tend to stick to the thicker bush and don’t move around much trying to conserve energy.
The pre-rut and rut are starting so the deer can be called in and tend to have one thing on their mind. Grunt calls, raking trees, and rattling antlers can be effective ways to call in a buck.
If you get snow they are easier to find fresh tracks and trails, making them easier to pattern. I’m lucky to be in an area that gets snow in the late season, the snow shows you which trails are actively being used and its usually fairly easy to tell fresh tracks apart from older ones. Finding an intersection of multiple used trails in the snow would be an optimal spot to set up and sit for the day.