by Gerald Almy

Before the season opens, walk your entire hunting area for the latest info. Here’s what to look for:

#1 – Active Trails
First off, confirm that the runways you think are active still are by looking for fresh tracks or disturbed leaf litter. Also, keep a sharp eye out for newly active trails, which indicate a shift in travel patterns. Look especially hard for any lightly outlined paths of old, reclusive bucks that you might have missed in your initial scouting.

#2 – Habitat Changes
A large fallen tree may block a narrow travel route, creating a new funnel. A farm road may be bulldozed through the property, altering buck movement. Lightning, tornadoes, wind, or ice storms may level timber, creating fresh new bedding areas or travel corridors. You need to know about all of this.

#3 – New Food
A bounty of new grub is becoming available to deer now. Concentrate on secondary food sources that a wary buck will mill around, often until dark. Search for raspberry, blackberry, Japanese honeysuckle, greenbrier, laurel, crab apple, plum, persimmon, pawpaw, sumac, and honey locust. Watch for outsize tracks, chewed fruits, and nibbled stems.

#4 – Rubs and Scrapes
Either of these can appear overnight, and it’s important to check for them now, particularly because early-season rubs and scrapes are most often made by the area’s biggest bucks. Locate large tracks leading from good bedding cover, and hang a stand downwind. This, in fact, is probably your new opening-day hotspot. Now give the woods a week or two to rest, and those bucks will be on their regular routines–and vulnerable–come opening day.