During the earlier years of my hunting career I was elated to find any type of sign indicating a buck in the area. Whether it was a large rub on a main walking trail, or a massive scrape on the edge of an Ag field, I was going to set up right on top of it and hunt that spot every sit possible!
As the seasons blew by with no sighting of that mythical Whitetail buck, I was convinced the buck had either already been harvested or had simply left the area. Sit after sit I had done everything correct to my knowledge. I made sure I was always downwind, sun to my back, plenty of back cover, washed my clothes and equipment multiple times, but still no buck in the bed of my truck.
As I look back I recognized one major fault with my naive plan. I had always set up on the first sign I had seen, specifically the easiest to access. Whether on the edge of a field or along a main walking path I consistently came across great sign but I had never put the entire puzzle together.
Over the years I began realizing that finding just one good piece of sign was not enough. I began venturing deeper into properties, turning over every rock, searching to connect all the dots. I began noticing trends related to the geographical layout along with human pressure. I was able to make educated guesses on which routes bucks would take depending on what phase of the season it was.
By accumulating as much evidence as possible I began mapping out on areal maps exact points of what type of deer sign I was seeing and where. During the off-season I had accumulated so much writing on my areal maps, they began to look like a child’s coloring book. The upside to the madness was that I began seeing specific patterns. As the puzzle began to take shape, so did my hunting success.
Finding a sign post rub or a scrape the size of a child’s sand box can be very exciting, however in order to capitalize on your quick success you need to keep searching. Follow trails back from those Whitetail buck calling cards and you may discover feeding areas, staging points or even a bed or two. By continuing to search for more sign you can begin to put together travel routes and specific high traffic areas that will greatly increase your hunting success.
We all know the feeling of finding a massive rub or scrape, it’s like a little kid on Christmas Eve anticipating what is to come. However, if we lack drive and education to further seek out where, when and why the deer is traveling, we may go season after season eating tag sandwiches.