Why Summer Scouting Is Essential to Fall Success

I really enjoy shed hunting and use the size and locations of sheds found to locate the late-winter home ranges of mature bucks. Now that summer is here we're no longer shed hunting, instead we're scouting for summer whitetails.

During the summer months, mature bucks are often seen feeding in open fields during daylight hours. This is because fields provide the best source of food during the summer, and deer don't associate fields with danger during this time of year.

The location of sheds is great information for late-season hunting. However, when it comes to where I place stands for hunting in the early and middle portions of the season, I'm more concerned with identifying a whitetail's preferred source of food, cover and water.

Find the 'Best' Forage


I continue my scouting throughout the summer months by watching deer. By late June or early July, bucks are showing their antler growth


potential. They are often in bachelor groups, creating the perfect time to watch deer.


Locating bucks that will be on my "hit list" this fall is an important step toward tagging a mature buck. Bucks can easily be found at this time of year, because they will probably be using the "best" food sources in their range.

The "best" forage is not necessarily the biggest field or highest quality forage. It's very important to understand that fear is usually a bigger motivation for deer than forage quality.

Think of it like this: I normally don't eat insects. However, if I was lost in a wilderness and starving, I'd gladly eat insects I felt would not harm me. Deer are much the same way. During June, they rarely associate standing in a soybean field during daylight hours with danger.


In addition, most trees are fully leafed-out this time of year, thus blocking the sunshine from reaching the soil. This means the only sources of quality forage will be in openings or fields during the summer.

Consider the Variables

It's tempting to see a mature buck feeding in a field day after day during the summer and get confident your scouting is complete. Heck, all that's left is to hang a stand, practice shooting and wait for opening day!


So, why do these scenarios rarely work out? Well, by the time deer season opens, several changes will have occurred. The change in the quality of forage between early and late summer is one factor.


"It's tempting to see a mature buck feeding in a field day after day during the summer and get confident your scouting is complete."


Most commercially farmed soybeans are bred to ripen and begin drying during late summer. This allows the beans to be fully developed and dry enough for farmers to harvest before winter weather arrives. When soybeans begin maturing and start to yellow, they become less palatable to deer.

A proven tip to keep bucks feeding in the same field through summer and into early fall is to plant an indeterminate variety of soybean. This means the soybeans will continue growing and producing lush, green forage until the first frost.

Another factor that influences changes in travel patterns is acorns. Early-falling acorns have spoiled the plans of many hunters. The best strategy is to know, based on past observations, which trees produce early. Then have a stand to hunt with an entrance/exit route planned well before the season.

Placing stands near the best food source bucks don't associate with danger during that portion of the season is a proven strategy.

Another huge factor during the early season is that the testosterone level in bucks is changing rapidly. Bucks that appear docile and very accepting, even seeking the company of other bucks, change to being very alert and intolerant of other bucks. This is especially true for mature bucks.

When anticipating a change in food sources and changes in behavior due to hormones, it is often best to place stands for the opening weekend of deer season based on knowledge of where the most desirable food sources will be; not observations of where deer were feeding in June.

Placing stands near the best food source bucks don't associate with danger during that portion of the season is a proven strategy.

Even with all my planning, I realize a buck's preferred food sources can change rapidly due to crops being harvested, weather, hunting pressure and other factors. That's why I scout year round.

Recommended for You

We tested this new trail-cam technology! Scouting Tools

Moultrie Mobile Cellular Camera: Remote Scouting Made Simple

Christian Berg - July 22, 2019

We tested this new trail-cam technology!

Treestand hunting is not an exact science. We all learn with experience, and there is definitely an Whitetail

10 Best Treestand Hunting Tips

Bill Winke

Treestand hunting is not an exact science. We all learn with experience, and there is...

We break down how the different types of odor eliminating technologies work for bowhunting. How-To

Everything You Need to Know About Scent Control

Darren Warner

We break down how the different types of odor eliminating technologies work for bowhunting.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Center Shots: How to Improve Your Bow Tuning

Field editor Bill Winke goes over steps you can take to improve the tuning on your bow.

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Check out our list of the best new hunting arrows from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

Top New Arrows for 2019

Tony J. Peterson - January 10, 2019

Check out our list of the best new hunting arrows from the 2019 ATA Show!

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top picks! ATA Show

New Fixed-Blade Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

We've rounded up the best new fixed-blade broadheads from the 2019 ATA Show. Check out our top...

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More


It's that time of year when Arrows & Broadheads

2017 Fixed-Blade Broadhead Test

Jon E. Silks - December 12, 2017

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More It's that time of year...

See More Stories

More Whitetail

Sunrise can be the best time to tag a trophy buck during the rut. Whitetail

The 3 Best Spots for November Morning Hunts

Bill Winke

Sunrise can be the best time to tag a trophy buck during the rut.

The general timing of the rut is controlled by photoperiod (the number of daylight hours) but the exact timing of breeding can be influenced by a variety of factors. Whitetail

A Deer Biologist's Dissection of The Rut

Jason Snavely

The general timing of the rut is controlled by photoperiod (the number of daylight hours) but...

Small waters in the big woods can be a hotspot for tagging mature whitetails. Whitetail

How to Hunt Creek Bottoms for Big Bucks

Beau Martonik

Small waters in the big woods can be a hotspot for tagging mature whitetails.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.