Summer has blown by, and Manitoba’s whitetail deer hunting seasons are right around the corner. There is no better time than the present to start nailing down the routines of a mature Manitoba whitetail. Whether you hunt the early season summer patterns of the archery season, the escalating pre-rut times of the black powder season, or the full-blown pandemonium of the peak rut during our general rifle season. The ways to scout these deer are often challenging and constantly changing. However, a little bit of time spent understanding the deer’s behavioral changes over these periods of time and utilizing these fall deer scouting tips, can help you take the guesswork out of your next whitetail hunt and give you the step you need to close the distance on an elusive Manitoba whitetail buck this fall.
Archery Season Whitetail Deer Scouting Tips
Putting in time scouting for whitetails in the weeks leading up to archery season, is a highly effective way to gain the upper hand come season opener. During these late summer and early fall weeks, whitetails stick to the same general patterns of travelling to and from their food source, water source and bedding areas. The food source areas are often the easiest location to spot these deer in the daylight. Generally, the deer will feed in the early and late hours of the day, which has proven to be the most effective times to get out scouting. Keeping a watchful eye on these deer’s patterns from a distance, over a number of days, can help you fill in the puzzle pieces on where to set up come opening day.
To further fill in the puzzle pieces before the season it is a good idea to put some boots on the ground in the areas you have been scouting. The first step when entering your scouted area is to find the trails that you have been seeing the deer utilize to leave and enter the field. Once you’ve found these travel routes, cautiously follow them back into the woods. This will help you establish the general area where these deer are bedding. Its good practice to have as little of impact on these spots as possible. Setting up a trail camera is a good tool to use to gather the information you are looking for without alerting the deer of your presence.
Once you have established a trail that the deer are utilizing to travel to the food source, it is time to pick a spot for your set up. Often times the biggest bucks will be the last ones that come out to feed, with little daylight to spare. When set-up on the fields edge, this can lead to having your target deer show up in the final moments of shooting light and possibly leaving you without an opportunity at a shot before dark. A good technique to gain the upper hand on the last light bucks, is to set up your ground-blind or tree-stand further down the travel corridors that you have scouted. If scouted properly, setting up on these trails can increase your chances at having a daylight encounter with your target buck as it begins to travel to the food source.
Muzzleloader Season Whitetail Deer Scouting Tips
In the weeks leading up to muzzleloader opener here in Manitoba, whitetails bucks undergo a huge transition. The testosterone they used for growing their antlers, starts running through their body, switching them over from their summer feeding frenzy into their October pre-rut activities. It is not uncommon for visual sightings of bucks to decrease as their behaviors undergo a complete 180o. However, this doesn’t mean they are not there. During this period, bucks will begin communicating with rub and scrape lines throughout their travel corridors. A good method to use when scouting during these last few weeks of October, is to take a walk mid-day in your hunting spot and look for some rubs and scrape lines. Sometimes these scrape lines are located near their bedding areas so it is always a good idea to exercise extreme caution when walking in these parts, so that you don’t push deer around. If you do find some fresh pre-rut activity when you are scouting, you can rest assured that the bucks are still indeed in your locale. Again, setting a trail camera into these areas can help you learn a lot about the deer activity with minimal impact on the deer themselves. Once the camera reveals what is going on when you are not around, it will help you decide exactly where to set up your blinds or stands, to give you the best chance at the buck your looking for come opening day.
Rifle Season Whitetail Deer Scouting Tips
The last deer season for the majority of Manitoba is the general rifle deer season. This season opens up right in the middle of the peak rutting time for whitetails. Scouting bucks leading up to this season can be as unpredictable as it is misleading. The testosterone filled bucks can put on serious miles throughout the day in search of does. Where you spot them one day, may be the complete opposite area of where they are the next. For this time of year, it is all about the ladies. Finding where the does are located during this time is a sure-fire way to know you are in a spot that a mature buck is likely to show up. During the action-packed whitetail rut, the does will keep to their same generalized patterns that your used to. Setting trail cameras near food sources in most cases will reveal to you the patterns of the does. Once you have the does located it will put you in an excellent location to better your odds at intercepting the buck you are looking for.
With the whitetail rut, the bucks will often be seeking and chasing during all hours of the day. A great way to maximize your chances at seeing a deer throughout your day is to follow the trails off of the food source into the bush and towards their bedding area. These travel corridors are prime locations to have a solid chance at having an encounter with a buck all day long. In the morning the does will be heading from their food source to their bedding areas, and it is likely that if any of these does are in estrus that there will be bucks not to far behind her trail.
After being bedded for a while, the does will occasionally get up and move around, this can sometimes be feeding within the bedding area or making short walks to a nearby secluded water source. The bucks in the area will constantly be moving around the does throughout the afternoon, checking up with them to see if any have come into estrus. Setting up near the bedding area can put you in a great position mid-day to catch one of these hormone filled bucks as they make their afternoon rounds.
Now, as the day progresses into evening, it is a lot like the morning. However, this time the does will be heading into the food sources to feed. If any of these does are going into estrus, the chances are quite high that the bucks won’t be far behind them. If you put the time into scouting using these deer scouting tips, there is no doubt that it will put you in the right location and you’ll be ready and waiting for that buck to make a mistake.
To put it short, during the peak phases of the whitetail rut, “hunting” the does, is one of the most effective techniques to use, to give yourself the best chance at an encounter with that full-rut mature Manitoba whitetail buck you have been looking for.
For those interested in a follow up article on early season scouting for whitetails, shed hunting, and trail camera tips be sure to check out our Top Spring and Summer Scouting Tips for Whitetails blog.
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