s the sun started to set, the intensity of the July heat began to dissipate as the shadows across the sage covered pocket grew. The evening wind picked up across our high mountain lookout as we glassed for movement below. We continually scanned the open areas, hoping to catch a glimpse of what the area had to offer. We were looking for clues, clues that would help us harvest a trophy mule deer in the months to come.
Out of nowhere, bucks began to emerge below us in the ever-growing shadows. The area, only minuteâ€™s earlier void of life, revealed what we were looking for - a bachelor group of trophy bucks feeding out into the open. There were twelve to be exact, all shooters in my book. My adrenaline began to pump at the sight of the monster deer. Having only seen smaller bucks in the other areas, these deer were a welcome sign. Even though it was still summer, I was well on my way to harvesting a trophy in this area. Scouting deer in the summer is a great way to learn about an area and find the big bucks within it. Aside from the rut, bucks are the most vulnerable during the summer months. The bucks are grouped up, they spend a lot of time in the open, and their patterns are fairly regular and predictable. Summer scouting also has its advantages because the deer are largely unpressured at this time. They are more focused on feeding than eluding hunters. Although scouting just prior to the season allows you to locate the deer before you hunt, summer scouting is an overall better tool to locate where the big bucks are. It provides you with a better gauge of the trophy quality by allowing you to see what is around before the pressure hits.
Whether you are an archery hunter or a rifle hunter, what you find during the summer will help you hone in on big bucks during the season.
Deer in the Pocket: where to look for the big boys Summer scouting is all about glassing and locating the pockets that hold deer. You can start by looking over a topo map of where you plan to scout. Look for areas that hold both water and ample food. I like to look for and concentrate on areas that have numerous pockets by one another. I consider a pocket a self sustaining bowl where deer could live for months at a time. It is important to remember that 90 percent of great looking deer country may have no deer or only younger animals. What you are looking for is that single bowl, canyon or break that holds big deer. The reason I look for deer habitat with several good bowls in one area is that the deer will travel between the pockets to keep from over browsing a particular hillside. If there are numerous pockets in close proximity to one another, you will have a better chance of locating deer in one of the pockets since the area will be able to sustain a larger deer population. Once you find a group of deer that peak your interest, learn the area like the back of your hand. Know the surrounding one to two square miles. It is likely the deer will stay in this broader area for the rest of the season. By becoming familiar with the surrounding areas, you give yourself options of where the deer might be when the hunting season rolls around.
From Summer to Season: deer that remain in the summer range Even though I found the group of the twelve huge bucks in July, they stayed in the same area all the way through the mid-October rifle season. I took a friend of mine back to that spot for the rifle season, where we got in on one of the big bucks but never had a clean shot. Sure enough I was back the following summer where I scouted and later harvested a great buck out of the area with my bow. As a bow hunter, the deer I find during mid-to-late summer remain in their pattern and hold the same general area when the archery season rolls around. As long as the deer still have velvet on their horns they will remain vulnerable in the area where you found them earlier in the summer. If you find deer in lower elevations the area may not receive enough snowfall to force the deer to migrate. If so, odds are they will be in that general vicinity during rifle seasonas long as hunting pressure remains minimal. Even if they do receive a lot of hunting pressure they may still be in that area. However, they may go nocturnal, remaining in heavy cover during daylight. Summer scouting can be particularly productive in general hunting units that receive a ton of hunting pressure. As soon as the season starts, it may be near impossible to locate a trophy deer. Scouting in the summer allows you to find where the deer are residing before the pressure hits. The big bucks will be easier to find during the summer and will give you an idea of what to expect from the area. Being able to hone in on an area you know already has big deer will help you focus when the pressure from the season hits.
Summer Sleuthing: clues for later in the season Even if you will be hunting deer later in the season you can scout effectively during the summer. Keep in mind, deer may migrate as the season progresses. The clues you find in the summer can help you pinpoint where the deer will be later in the year. Old sign is a good indicator that the animals remain in the area at different times of the year. If you find a pocket during the summer that is full of deer, look for signs that indicate those deer will be there come October and November. Old rubs are a sure sign the area is also used during the rut. If you find a bachelor group during the summer in an area with a lot of deer rubs and older sign, it is a sure bet the deer you are seeing during the summer are the same ones who inhabit the area come November. While summer scouting a general area in Montana, I had spotted a group of deer in the high country that far exceeded my expectations. However, there was no sign the deer would be staying in the area for the rifle season, it was too high and they would be forced down by late October. Knowing this, I studied logical trails and travels routes, locating clues as to where the deer go during rifle season. It paid off when one of my clients harvested a great 5x6 buck out of the area in early November. Shed antlers can also be a good clue of where deer may be later in the season. If you find a lot of sheds in an area that is holding deer during the summer, it is a good indicator that the animals will still be in there come late rifle season. If you find an awesome shed in one area but no summer deer,
remember that area. It may be a clue the deer will move to this area later in the year. On one summer scouting trip I found an area on the map that had it all, it was a lower elevation pocket, perfect for deer. I scouted the area hard during the summer but didnâ€™t see a single buck. However, I did manage to pick up a decent shed on almost every trip, including one that was the largest I had ever found up to that point. I returned back to that spot with a friend of mine the last week in November of the same year, where he harvested a monster 216 inch buck. Even though I didnâ€™t see any deer in the area, recognizing the clues I found while scouting during the summer lead us to a giant buck. By scouting during the summer, you increase your chance of locating a trophy of your own. Some of the most productive scouting trips can take place in late June, July and August. The summer is a great time to figure out what kinds of monsters are lurking around in your hunting area. By honing in on what you find and paying attention to the clues around you, you will be prepared with the knowledge of where to find that big buck when the season rolls around.
Deer Sleuthing || Clues found during the summer, like big sheds and old rubs, can help you pinpoint an area to hunt during the late fall season. Summer scouting paid dividends for Remi as he packs a monster buck out of a pocket he located while scouting in early July.