This bowhunter’s first Pope and Young-qualifying buck. It was taken the first time that stand was hunted. The author hung the stand in August.Maybe one of the most important factors of hunting a mature buck – post-season scouting – is no longer important to some deer hunters, being replaced by feeders, supplemental feeding and trail cameras.

But it is to me, and it should be to you.

Post-season scouting is, quite simply, scouting after the season for what is, hopefully, going to happen next season.

To me, when I was trophy hunting, it was the most important thing I did in terms of deer hunting. It is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of deer hunting.

I am going to try to simplify and clarify it.

First, some bona fides. For close to 30 years, I spent a good part of my year guiding hunters, and hunting myself, for trophy bucks.

I have 22 whitetail racks that score over 125 inches gross. That is not an accident, nor a brag. When I was serious about deer hunting, I spent over 100 days a year scouting, mostly post-season. Here is why.

If you are hunting public ground or large tracts of woodland where feeding, baiting and cameras are not feasible, you have to hunt the old-fashioned way.

Why is the buck crossing this seldom-used road, here? Look at it and think.

You have to develop and use skill. That means planning, scouting, understanding what you see.

Important scouting points:

1. The best months for post-season scouting are January, February, and March. That is when Mother Nature is naked. You can see terrain variations, dips and dives, ups and downs.

This is necessary because deer hate level ground. Any terrain variation, even the slightest, attracts them, forms their travel routes.

Best of all is when a jump or two puts them out of sight over a hill or down a ridge. Now, with the leaves off the trees, you can see their road signs.

2. The trail you cannot see. In late October, bucks begin to move. They move into places they have never been. They move on trails you and I cannot see.

We, here in the South, do not have the luxury of snow. So, somehow, we must find these trails that are hidden by layers of leaves.

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