Manitoba has always been a well-known destination for fantastic whitetail deer hunting. Exceptional genetics, generous seasons and access to a diversity of phenomenal habitat have all enhanced our whitetail’s popularity. With various fall hunting choices throughout the province, many veteran whitetail hunters will take full advantage of the spring and summer months to gain the upper hand come season opener. Getting the jump on scouting can be revealing and rewarding in so many ways. This is why I embark on numerous scouting trips so early in the year. Because whitetails are usually creatures of habit, doing your homework now will often provide you with confidence, probable patterns and a successful harvest in the future. And it might just allow you to get the step on that elusive giant. Here are some top early season scouting tips to help you take the guesswork out of your next whitetail hunt.
Staying Mobile and Covering Ground
One of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening in the spring, summer and early fall months, is to get into a vehicle and scout for whitetails. Not only is it enjoyable, but it can often be one of the most effective ways to see whitetails and learn their behaviors. Being mobile can also give you the best advantage to find the prime locations to shed hunt as well as where to set your trail cameras. To be successful when scouting, there are a few aspects to focus on that will increase the number of encounters you will have. During the spring and summer months, whitetails spend a lot of time doing the same thing day after day. Travelling to their food source, to their water source and to their bedding area. These routines can become very patternable.
It is paramount that you focus your scouting efforts on the areas around food sources. This is where you will have your best chance at seeing whitetails in the daylight. Generally, whitetails will feed from the last few hours of the evening through to the first few hours of the morning. When watching the deer move out onto the fields take note of aspects like where they enter the field, the wind direction, the weather conditions and the moon phase. The more time you spend scouting, the more you begin to understand their behavior and how they react to changing conditions in the environment. All this information you acquire while scouting not only gives you a good understanding of the property, but it also enhances your knowledge on whitetails. Which will make you a better hunter in the future when it is time to enter the deer woods.
Shed Hunting Tips
One of the best ways to scout for whitetails in the spring is to go shed hunting. Whitetails will generally shed their antlers near the end of December through to the end of February. During these months, their routines are very similar. The deer often use the same trails from their bedding area to their feeding area every day. This helps to conserve their energy during the long, cold winter. Finding these trails is an imperative step to begin your shed hunting. Once found, head into the woods before all the snow has melted. The remaining snow will help to easily navigate the deer paths made throughout the winter months. It is good to be very thorough when searching for sheds. Cover as much ground as possible and follow all the networks of trails. Once into the feeding and bedding areas, grid searching will offer an effective way to cover the area accordingly.
While searching for sheds keep a close eye out for other signs like rubs and scrapes. If you find this, it can be a great indication that the area you are in has proven to hold deer numbers during the rut and can be an excellent place to hunt come November. If you are fortunate to find some sheds, this can be a very valuable tool on how you base your future scouting and hunting activities. Finding a shed from a whitetail, then following along with that whitetail’s growth throughout the summer months, gives you a very intimate experience with the deer. This can make for a memorable story if you are able to harvest that deer during the fall hunting seasons.
Trail Camera Tips for Whitetails
As spring progresses, and the grass begins to grow, so do the antlers on whitetails. This is an opportune time to set trail cameras and observe antler growth. When setting trail cameras there are a few things to keep in mind. When it comes to location of the cameras, it is good to set them near a food source. Once the summer heat initiates the growth of the agriculture fields, the deer will start getting into their summer patterns.
Whether you are setting your camera up on the field edge, or the trails leading to the food source, it is important to be cognisant of the sun’s location throughout the day. As a general rule I will try to set my cameras facing north where possible. This helps to eliminate photos where the sun is shining directly into the camera and overtaking everything else in the image. When setting a camera up on a trail, I like to set the camera facing down the trail rather than across the trail. This allows more time for the camera’s trigger to be initiated and gives a better chance at catching the entire deer in the image. The same is true for when setting the camera on a field edge. Often times deer will navigate along the field edges, where there is easy access to their cover, as opposed to walking right across the middle. Thus, when setting a camera on a field edge, it is good to angle it along the edge of the field. If you have access to multiple trail cameras another option is to travel deeper into the bush and set cameras closer to their bedding areas. When setting cameras here, it is good practice to check them as sparingly as possible. This minimizes the impact on the deer and lessens the chance of pushing them out of the area.
When setting trail cameras in bear country, another thing to keep in mind, is properly protecting your cameras. Bears are curious animals and are not shy to inspect these shiny new additions to the trees. This I have learned from past experience where I have lost vulnerable trail cameras to bears. The best way to protect the trail cameras is to use a security box on the camera. If the box is not an option, the next best thing is to set the camera as high as possible on skinny tree. When setting the camera this way, you will need to angle the camera downwards to get a good field of view on the trail. It is good to cut off the top of the tree to limit the amount it will sway from the wind which will increase your image quality.
After doing your homework and utilizing these whitetail scouting tips, you should undoubtedly be provided with the confidence to head into the woods knowing the probable patterns of the deer you are after, which will often contribute to future successful harvests in the whitetail woods. And it just may allow you to get a step on the elusive giant Manitoban whitetail of your dreams.
For more information on hunting whitetail deer in Manitoba, visit our Big Game page.
Celebrate the experience of hunting in Manitoba, submit your harvest to the Manitoba Master Hunter Program.
Written by: Keevin Erickson