Buck Scouting Tactics and Tips
Do you spend hours upon hours sitting in the tree stand waiting on bucks to walk by with no
luck? Take a look at our tips below for increasing your knowledge on buck scouting so you can move closer to them and get one out of the woods easier, instead of waiting on them to walk by you.
Understanding Mature Bucks
How does a mature buck act compared to does and younger bucks? During the spring and
summer months, they will either pair up with a smaller buck or even be a part of a bachelor
group (a group of bucks all running together). Once the season gets closer and the testosterone
starts to rise, the pairings or bachelor groups will dissolve and you need to find out where the
mature bucks bedding areas are. This is an area where they feel most comfortable and spend a
good amount of time.
A mature buck is typically going to bed on a hillside about ¾ of the way up the hill. He is going
to position himself where the wind is coming over the top of the hill and over his back. This is
an advantage to him as this allows him to be aware of all of his surroundings. He has the wind
coming over his back so he can smell any predators that might be coming from behind him and
he has a vantage point overlooking below him to see what is coming towards him. I have also
found buck beds that are right against a tree that has been blown over or fallen down. This
gives them a sense of security on their backside where they cannot see. If they are not bedding
on a hillside, you will want to search trails that lead into very thick briars or tall weeds. Areas to
focus on would be SE facing slopes or hillsides as this area is going to get the first sun on those
Once you find where you think a buck is bedding, you will notice the dirt, leaves and vegetation
being smashed down in the shape of a deer’s body. Picture the shape of a deer’s body laying
down with its legs curled up underneath it. Start by searching that area in a small radius and
you will notice buck droppings if you have found the bedding area. Mature buck droppings are
different than doe and younger buck droppings. Doe and younger buck droppings are a pellet
style of dropping in a large quantity. A mature bucks droppings are clumped together, typically
in one larger dropping, all stuck together.
A mature buck is also going to have a much larger track or hoofprint than does and younger
bucks. An easy way to tell the difference between a mature or larger doe and a mature buck is that a buck is going to have not only the hoof looking/shaped print, but it will also have two claw style prints off of the back of it. A quick google search will show you what a buck's track will look like and it is wise to know and be able to differentiate them when you are scouting.
When is it Best to Scout?
My preferred time to scout is actually right after the season has ended and it is still very cold outside.
Most deer seasons end sometime in January or right around then. Going out when it is this
cold, there is no vegetation on the ground or in the trees. You are able to see much further in
the woods or grassy fields, and the trails are much more visible. The perfect time for me is right
after it warms up after the ground has been frozen so the ground is starting to thaw. This
allows the deer to be able to leave tracks in the mud. You can tell the direction a deer is
walking by what way the track is pointing. Once you find a mature buck's track or print in the
mud, follow his same line and it will tell you everything you need to know about where he is
feeding at and where his bedding area is. A mature buck will change his routes drastically when
the rut is on, but after the season, they are typically back in their home territory.
Scouting Territorial Sign
Scouting during the pre-rut is also an excellent time to scout. During this time you are going to be
able to locate scrapes and rubs. Rubs are on trees and can be located by the visible sign of bark
being rubbed off of them. The bucks have glands on top of their head where they will release
scent that lasts for days. They are marking the trees to show signs of dominance, claiming a
territory and also letting the does know they are around.
The scrapes are spots on the ground where the buck paws at and moves dirt, grass, leaves and
sticks out of the way until he gets it down to bare dirt. These scrapes will have a low hanging
branch above them where they can put their scent on the branch to establish dominance and
claim territories. They also urinate on these scrapes. A deer has tarsal glands which are located
on the inside of the rear legs. These glands secrete fatty lipids and put out a unique odor when
the deer urinate on them. They will stand within this scrape, put their back legs together and
urinate on the glands which then is spread onto the scrape site. These urines and scents can also be used by the hunter to attract deer to a specific spot. A buck will make numerous
scrapes during pre-rut and the rut. Once you find a batch of fresh scrapes, you need to pick the
closest tree, with good cover and hang a stand. A buck will check that scrape almost daily until
the rut is over, unless he finds a doe that leads him elsewhere. If it looks fresh and active, you
need to be there waiting on him, as often as you can.
Spending more time scouting during the off season, is the surest way to increase your odds of
killing bigger bucks during the season. Implement these tactics and spend more time killing
bucks rather than sitting and hoping one walks by you.
Credit to Josh Wells for writing this article.