Draper: Open Country Scouting

Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela's and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.

One of the most notable, if not challenging factors, of deer hunting on the Great Plains, particularly west of the 100th Meridian, is the extreme lack of cover. It's so open out here I had one rancher tell me, when I asked about where I might put a stand, "Hang it on whichever fence post you want."

Hunting deer where the visibility in some places is measured in miles does make for some easier scouting however, especially in September when bucks start moving from bachelor groups into their home ranges and are transitioning from high protein food sources. Also, many seasonal water holes from June and July's deluges are finally drying up and deer are ranging farther to find water. It's not uncommon to find a deer today a mile or more from where you put him to bed last night.

Where a good pair of hiking boots is the Eastern hunter's primary scouting tool, Western hunters spend much of their time behind the wheel. Drive down about any section road at dusk and you're bound to see a few trucks parked at strategic corners or high spots (which can be few and far between), each with a spotting scope screwed to the driver's window.

The other open-country hunter's pre-season accessories are a good, recently updated plat map and a phone book. Sure you've got permission to hunt the piece of property where you spotted a bruiser buck a month ago, but chances are he'll be on the move soon, so it's good to know who to call when he jumps the fence on to the neighbor's place.