Put in the work this summer.
Although you can’t get out and hunt for deer in the summer, you can start preparing for the fall by scouting locations. Knowing the places that deer frequent, where they feed, sleep, and how they move will give you a leg up when hunting season rolls around. And when you’re out scouting, it’s important to have the right gear to ensure success. Here are half a dozen key items for summer whitetail scouting that you will want to have in your pack.
It almost goes without saying that if you’re scouting for whitetail, you’ll need a pair of quality binoculars. They’ll help you observe details from a distance, so you can gather the intelligence you need without spooking the deer. Binoculars designed with the hunter in mind are best, as considerations like reflectiveness are accounted for in the design. Bushnell’s Trophy Xtreme Roof Prism binoculars are just such a pair. They are compact and easy to carry, but at 10x42, are powerful and deliver bright, high-contrast images. The binoculars come in a matte green or camo finish and boast multi-coated lenses that protect against fog, glare, and reflection that could blow your cover.
A laser rangefinder will help you gauge distances from where you are considering setting up a stand or taking cover to the area where you suspect the deer will be. The Monarch 2000, from Nikon, is a good example of the type of rangefinder to have. The Monarch is image-stabilized and boasts an effective range of 2,000 yards—over a mile—on reflective targets. This rangefinder comes with Nikon’s ID (incline/decline) technology onboard, which will help you compensate for targeting angles as you scout stand/cover locations.
Another great tool for scouting is a motion-triggered trail camera that will allow you to gauge the amount of action on game trails, near feeding areas, or at watering spots—all without actually being present. Many trail cameras, like the CamPark T75, offer features like Wi-Fi connectivity and remote control using a smartphone app. More expensive models have onboard cellular data that permit control from anywhere—as long as the place you’re scouting has cell service.
Even if you prefer to stalk and hunt over sitting in a stand, a portable treestand can help with scouting. A stand can get you off the ground and allow you to scan for deer and sign while out of their scent and sightlines. For stand hunters, a stand will allow you to preselect candidate trees for setting up before hunting season begins. A portable, hang-on stand, like the Alpha II from Lone Wolf, is not overly bulky to carry and is easy to set up and take down as you scout.
A GPS is key to whitetail scouting because it allows you not only to save your routes and trails but will also save promising locations and staging areas for the hunt—as well as your trail cam location(s)—with pinpoint accuracy. Not to mention, it will help you find your way back home after a day of scouting. There are smartphone apps that work without cellular service, but standalone GPS units with built-in topo maps, like the Garmin Oregon 750t, tend to be far more robust than smartphone apps, with features like GPS-delivered weather and an onboard barometric altimeter that don’t require cell service.
You can have all the electronics in the world, but if you have a battery issue or equipment malfunction in the field, you’ve got to have an analog back up, i.e. topographic maps of the area your scouting and a compass. Make sure your topo maps are water and tear-resistant and are of a sufficient scale to allow you to pinpoint helpful figures and landmarks. Transfer GPS pindrops to the maps before you head back out, so that your maps are as up to date with scouting info as your electronics. Always bring along a quality compass, like the Suunto MC-2 G USGS Mirror Compass, so you can navigate and orienteer with confidence.