Scouting for Opening Day

News & Tips: Scouting for Opening Day

Fall hunting, especially up in the colder regions of the country, would pay off a lot better if we actually practiced what we preached. We all know better but work, family and other obligations turn a lot of us into weekend warriors instead of the stealth and knowledgeable hunters we all can be.

PreparingOpeningDay RH8CamoRubberBoot
Scouting will take you to some wet, damp places, so consider wearing rubber boots.

I’ve been lucky on many of my hunts to be guided either by a friend or professional guide, so they know the woods we’re hunting. But wouldn’t it be nice, too, especially on unfamiliar land, if we could make the time three to four weeks in advance to check out the woods for deer sign and to reacquaint ourselves with the woods before we actually hunt?

This is easier said than done, I know, but it makes sense. I push myself constantly to get out before the season opens because the more sign I see — the more rubs, scrapes, fresh tracks and deer droppings — the more confident and comfortable I am in the woods. It’s also a good time to “shakedown” my equipment and clothing. Being aware of changing weather conditions and being prepared for emergencies are as important to for my pre-hunt excursion, as is the actual hunt.

When out scouting, two of the first things that get cold on me are my hands and feet. I’ve learned from my own mistakes that pre-winter woods can be very wet and damp, particularly if I’m hiking into any elevation. Squalls of either rain or snow can kick up very quickly in the mountains.

If I know I’m going to be moving, I prefer Muck boots or rubber field boots for any scouting — consider RedHead, LaCrosse or the Original Muck Boot. I also always wear two layers of socks and keep a spare in my backpack. Choose among Redhead, Under Armour and Realtree for your sock combos. Just stay away from cotton. Cotton is great for summer wear, but it won’t wick away sweat and will not insulate you against the cold.

I have also made the mistake of heading into the woods with thin gloves, too, thinking I can always put them in my pockets. The truth is, we all take our gloves off outdoors for whatever reasons and when the wind starts blowing, even 45-degree temperatures are colder than what they seem and hands can get cold quickly.

Basically, plan your scouting trip just as you would your real hunt. Pack extra layers of clothing, a GPS, if you need it; take snacks, water and anything else you would take on your hunt. Also, before leaving home let someone else know where you will be scouting or hunting. You will find that extra planning will add confidence to your hunt, provide more comfort and prepare you for the unexpected. Safe hunting to all.