I've had the opportunity to talk to several people recently on my podcast about how to be more successful when it comes to summer scouting. Like most things in life, to be successful, you must put in the preparation and work. Hunting is no different. If you want to find that once in a lifetime animal, or if you want to have a hunt that you felt you were completely ready for, summer scouting is where you should start. One of my favorite quotes is, "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." Put the work in now, so that when it comes time for that hunt later in the year, you're ready.
Here are 3 ways to be more successful in your summer scouting:
During my conversations with professional hunting guides, their "go to" tool for scouting is glassing. In the words of Trevor Hunt, "there is no replacement for good ol glassing". Glassing allows you to not only find big animals, but it allows you to watch them from afar. This allows you to see where they're going to water, where they're feeding, and where they're bedding.
One of my favorite things about glassing is the amount of country that I can cover. The optics today are fantastic. I use a Vortex Razor HD spotting scope and the Vortex Viper HD 10x42 binoculars to glass. I'll usually look through my binoculars until I find an animal. Once I find them, I'll switch to my spotting scope to get an up close view of the animal. That allows me to determine the size and quality of the animal. I also love being able to use a PhoneSkope to take a picture of the animal while I'm looking through my spotting scope. This helps remind you of what you saw, and it allows you to compare the different animals you've been able to find that year. I find this to be a good tool as I am able to determine which animals I want to pursue that year.
Tyson Cannon made a great point on the podcast. He said that if you're on a limited budget, spend your money on optics before spending your money on any other scouting tool.
I have talked extensively about trail cameras over the past several weeks, so I won't spend too much time on this topic. For more detail on how to be more successful with your trail cameras, please refer to my other blog posts.
However, there really is no replacement for trail cameras these days. There is so much information you can gather from them. You can identify when an animal is coming into water or feed, you can usually get great photos to let you analyze the animal and get an accurate score on them, and it also lets you know what else is coming into that area. Recently, I had glassed up a deer that I thought I'd like to pattern throughout the summer and fall, so I put a trail camera up on the spot I thought he was coming to for water. Sure enough, that's exactly where he was going. Two weeks later, I tried glassing him up again, and he was gone. When I went and pulled the card from the camera, I found that a bear had made his way into that same area, and the deer was no where to be found. Had I not had that trail camera in that spot, I would've spent a lot of time glassing for that deer, and I would have never known why he left.
Although glassing comes at the top of this list, there definitely is a place for trail cameras in summer scouting.
Cover the Country
This may come third on my list, but that doesn't make it any less important. The guys at Epic Outdoors have coined the phrase, "cover the numbers", and that is exactly what you have to do. You have to cover the country.
Most of the units that we hunt here in the west are fairly large units. You shouldn't limit yourself to just a small portion of that unit. Even if you find a huge animal that you'd like to pursue, go to the other side of the unit and see what's over there. Going into a hunt, you'll want to have 4-5 animals that you feel like you'd be happy to harvest, and to do that, you must cover the country.
To do this, it means you'll be spending a lot of money in gas and vehicles. Most of the hunting guides that I know go through several trucks, ATVs, and side-by-sides. It's the price they pay to find those big animals and to give their clients options. In your own hunting adventures, you should be doing the same thing. Put those miles on your truck or ATV, and you'll be amazed at what you see!
Another of my favorite quotes is, "luck is just preparation meeting opportunity". Luck definitely has its place in hunting, but I do believe in this quote. If you put in the work to be prepared for your hunts, those opportunities will come.
This list is not an all inclusive list, but I promise that by using these three tools, you will be more prepared. It will also make your hunts more fun because the more prepared you are, the more fun you will have.