River Currents

by Free Speech on September 4, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Scouting is the Key

Justin Walker with a huge buck harvested in Sauk Co.

Justin Walker with a huge buck harvested in Sauk Co.

Hopefully, bow hunters have been out doing some scouting before the opening of Wisconsin’s September 12 bow deer season. A serious bow hunter should have already had his or her bow “tuned-up” by a professional, done some regular shooting from the ground and their tree stand, and been doing some exercise for the physicality of hunting. But, pre-season scouting is the key to a hunter’s success during both the bow and gun deer seasons. Nothing can take the place of a hunter getting out into the woods and doing some pre-season scouting on the land that they hunt. Recently, I’ve been talking to many local bow hunters like Mazomanie’s Dale Reeve and Sauk Prairie’s Wally Banfi and they have been preparing for the up-coming season bow season for weeks, if not months. Big game biologist and deer expert, Tony Wasley says, “One of the most important things that you can do to increase your chance of success is to scout your hunting area before you hunt. It’s essential that you familiarize yourself with unit boundaries, the access points, the vegetation, and the terrain that you will be hunting.”

Scouting pays off in the long run because no matter how many times that you’ve hunted an area, things can change and getting out to where you hunt often pays off substantially during the hunting season. Whether you hunt private or public land, things can and do change particularly on public, BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), and National Forest lands. Access roads may have changed, land policy use can change, logging may have occurred, and state and Federal agencies may have changed some of their rules and regulations on the land you hunt.

Now, hunters can begin their “scouting” online. You can save time and money by checking the resources that Federal departments, state agencies, and companies have on their websites. Many states including Wisconsin have topographical maps, deer management unit maps, and much more information for the hunter as you search for that “perfect” hunting location. Whether your hunting is done in Wisconsin or you go out west to another state the information that you can find on the Internet will save you time, money, and give you valuable tips to make your hunt more enjoyable and hopefully more successful.

But as both Reeve and Banfi said, nothing can replace actually getting out and physically walking the land that you’re going to hunt. You need to know where the hunting boundaries are on the land be it private or public land. Get to know the neighbors if you’re hunting private land and may have to cross into someone else’s land in pursuing an animal or if you get lost on land that you’re not familiar with. A hunter has to get out scouting and actually see where the animals are bedding, feeding, watering, and what the deer or elk numbers or densities are on the land you’re planning to hunt. While doing your scouting, I suggest that you have a quality pair of optics like those made locally by Vortex Optics of Middleton, Wisconsin. Vortex makes great products for the hunter including; spotting scopes, binoculars, and rifle scopes. A pair of “top-notch” binoculars makes your scouting a little easier and opens up a whole new world to the hunter as they do their scouting.

Tristen Frey with a nice bull shot bow hunting in N.M.  photo by Terry Frey

Tristen Frey with a nice bull shot bow hunting in N.M. photo by Terry Frey

While out scouting, you can pick the best locations for your deer stands, trail cams, and also trim limbs and branches from your shooting lanes. You’ll find that most trees and brush have grown since the last time that you hunted the area, so bring along a small saw and branch clipper. Though you’ll still have the majority of crops up in agricultural lands, you’ll still be able to see the trails and routes that game animals daily travel. The improvement of the trail camera has allowed hunters to “see” many deer and other animals that are often nocturnal or not easily seen while scouting during day time hours. Serious deer hunters in Wisconsin and other states often have more than one trail cam on their land so that they can see all the land that they hunt during times of changing weather and winds. If you’re hunting your own land or land that you always have access to then it is nice to have permanent tree stands for all kinds of weather and wind located in key spots where you’ve seen deer or deer sign.

An added benefit that one gets from pre-season scouting is that while hiking the terrain of your hunting land, you’ll be getting in shape. Hunting can be a very physical activity and the better shape that you’re in the more you’ll enjoy your time in the woods. This is much more important if you plan to travel out west in pursuit of whitetail deer, mule deer, and elk. Hiking up and down rugged terrain can be taxing to anyone and not being in “hunting shape” can ruin your hunt and prevent you from having the success you desire. One must remember that the higher the altitude the harder it is to breathe, so along with scouting it is important to get into shape. Many local hunters go west hunting and have trouble getting into the good hunting areas because of their poor physical condition. Don’t let this happen to you! Many hunters that I know stay in top shape year-round, but as we get older this is often more difficult to stay in shape. There still is time to begin walking and doing some stretching before the November Wisconsin deer gun hunt or if you’re traveling later this fall to another state to hunt. Get out walking, riding a bike, and climbing some steep terrain if you want a more enjoyable and successful hunt. Every deer season, there are numerous hunters who succumb to heart attacks from excitement, doing physical work that they are not accustomed to, and not being in hunting shape.

I would hope that bow hunters have done their scouting, been practicing their shooting, and done some exercise to stay in shape for this fall. The Wisconsin deer season looks like it will be another good one, but do your scouting and your chances of harvesting an animal is much greater. Be safe and most importantly, always wear your safety harness when in your tree stand.


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