But anyways, that deer probably has at least a season or two of getting bigger. If you don't get him, January-March is excellent time to learn where he and his buddy's hung out all season. That's when you set your tree's up and then leave that spot alone until October 15th next year.
Now, since I have decided to rent the house next door to -Buster ... I thought I would take away the temptation for him to get out there this year and ruin my plan... Keep that quiet , please. I wish this keyboard had smaller print so we could be talking more softly.
Agreed with advice and would add : have a few stands at least, 1 for each typical wind , Early from S/W and Later from W and N/W . Cut and Rake trails and shooting lanes if needed and clip anything that could make noise for entry / exit.
Or skip all that hard work , invite me over this year and share the Straps Now !...
They will be within a mile or so of that spot in the warm season and likely where food / Edge forest is . Water source is important but they get most of their water from lush greens then. There will be a transition spot when the nuts drop , but they still need to keep cool at that time.
I would bank on large crown White Oaks especially if that tree has good water and not in a local low spot that tends to get a late frost. If you find a good producer , stick with it. Then the Red oaks and related nut trees. Periodically they hit the green fields like a salad bar . And that seems to have a timing to it . Just like we crave a good salad at times.
Upon dissecting the last deer, I found two different food sources that produced two distinct droppings in the making . One small and dark the next big and soft -Green. It makes sense as to what they did the days before while hiding from gun hunters or just where they were eating sticks . Then the green is where they were feeding and ended their activity.
Just some observations . Others will elaborate. Good Luck in figuring it out in your piece of the woods.
There is always variance in deer travel year to year. We will literally never fully "get" them. Those are always good things to remember when scouting or hunting. They win most of the time because they are better at surviving than we are at hunting...
That said, my mentality is to scout for rut sign in Jan/feb/march and even early april. I can go right into areas I think they bed - no fear of making them nocturnal or busting deer etc. I can still see scrapes, rubs etc and recognize them as "this" years. And the open woods (no leaves) helps me see soft edges which may be used by deer better - say how a couple hemlocks or cluster of small white pines on a bench along an oak ridge may pull movement a bit.
Now I make notes of areas that seem like they will not be impacted by food (changes in mast on some years) to much, and which seem like they were solidly used by bucks (or deer in general) to go from area to area over the fall. I may pick a couple trees for different winds. I may even go in and climb them and trim them out... I GPS them.
Now next summer/fall, I may get right in and dirty and see how they look. But often, Ill scout softly around the outer edges of those areas. What's the food look like this year? Is there general sign of deer in the area, or are they more "on the other side of the ridge" so to speak this year? If those things look good, I know that the winter/early spring scouted spots will be solid, and in the right situation I can just pop right in there and it will workout.
The buck I shot this year is a great example. I had not set foot in the section of woods where I hunted that day since last winter. I knew, becuase the nuts were heavy in a few areas of the property, and does were still spending a lot of time in another section, that most bucks trolling through would use the area, especially on a S/SE wind - because all the food and bedding was upwind from me... So bucks could troll this soft edge through, have awesome escape cover to one side and scent check literally all the deer in the area from the other side. I'd planned another spot for that AM, but the wind was not what was predicted, adjusted to sit that tree and got lucky.
Exact same approach two days earlier, on the OPPOSITE side given a N/NW wind resulted in me giving a hair cut to one of the largest deer I've ever shot at.
Look, I'm not a "super" hunter. I'm sure there are better ways to do this. So dont take what I'm saying here as "gospel"... That said, The more I've approached things this way, the more successful I've been - so that's an N=1 experiment to consider at least :).
Oh, Ill add this... Turkey season is frigging awesome. You get to hunt turkeys, which is fantastic... but for the first 2-3 weeks, the woods are still pretty wintery looking and you can use that time hiking and locating turkey's / actually hunting them as great scouting as well.
I thought the gps data showed that deer wintering grounds Jan Feb and March were far different than rut?
Big woods deer may not be in the same areas... Suburban deer may shift a bit, (may be forced to stay close by), but you can really explore the sign from the past fall and carry that into the next year.
So fully agree, what and where they are during the winter is different than November, clearly I didnt describe how I am looking at the sign - bad on me!
Glad you asked that!