Get the scouting jump on deer & turkeys while hunting sheds

Shed antler hunting is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities, but don’t spend your time in the winter and early spring woods with a single focus. Combine your shed antler hunts with scouting for turkeys and whitetails.

Most of you have a property you use for multiple hunting pursuits. Scouting throughout the seasons can reveal additional information to boost overall success. Whitetails begin dropping antlers soon after the first of the year although the majority drop in February and March across most of the country’s whitetail zone. That time period is perfect for getting the jump on early-spring turkey patterns for seasons that oftentimes open in April. But is it too early for scouting whitetails?

Your shed antler hunt is already a bonus for scouting whitetails. It gives you direct evidence an individual buck is alive with an antler discovery. But your intrusion in the world of a whitetail needs to have a broader perspective. Stay alert for three main clues that can provide you with a head start to a new fall ambush location. Look for the trails with the highest traffic. Note any rub lines with significant activity. Finally, pay attention to the ground for scrapes, particularly those larger than a garbage-can lid in diameter.

In snow country look for those trails that are packed with an icy look from extensive travel use. In snowless terrain look for the muddiest packed trails. Like interstate highways, some trails see heavy, year-round traffic. When examining trailside rubs note any that appear fresh with sap still present. Scrapes from the previous fall will also be void of leaves and you still should be able to see hoof marks if they were used during the rut. Note all of these on a hunting app for later stand placement options.

A bonus for you is to peek into bedrooms. You could find a shed antler in the beds, plus you can pinpoint the trails with the heaviest use to any bedroom refuge. Those trails with numerous scrapes and rubs indicate bucks were attracted to the thoroughfare.  

For a turkey scouting boost you should think opening day. Turkeys flock up in winter. As seasons transition from winter to spring toms will be rejoining flocks of hens. They will still be on the prowl for food since spring isn’t in full bloom and some northern regions may still have snow.

Log food preferences, travel patterns and where turkeys prefer to loaf at various points during the day. Patterns will begin to fluctuate as the days lengthen and temperatures warm, but it’s likely a few birds, if not the entire flock, will adhere to an old pattern for an opening-day ambush. If the turkeys are using a traditional roost keep an eye on it as it could be your starting point to success. You may even wish to stake a blind early so turkeys become accustomed to it. When you can’t monitor flocks firsthand place a couple of trail cameras at traditional fly down locations and along feeding fields to confirm turkey continuity at a location.  

The excitement of spying a freshly shed whitetail antler glimmering in a glade is reason enough to get out of the house after a long winter. Widen your scope of vision though to increase your success during the upcoming spring turkey season and for fall whitetail hunts.

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