Apr 12, 2014

Macro-scouting: Hunting White-tailed Deer


1. the activity of gathering information about game animals in a large area.
    "Macro-scouting is necessary preparation for a good hunting season."

1. the act (or process) of looking for signs of animals in state, county, and regional locations.
    "He macro-scouted for deer in early fall."

Deer-spotting White-tailed deer in Soybean Field (Wisconsin).
Figure A. Deer-spotting White-tailed deer in Soybean Field (Wisconsin).
Macro-scouting consists of searching, scouting, and observing large areas of land with the use of vehicles, binoculars, and maps in search of game animals. It is the first step in successful hunting and one of the best methods of finding white-tailed deer. Macro-scouting is an essential part of every good hunt and increases the likelihood of a successful hunting season.

We've spent countless hours macro-scouting before hunting and have come to two definite conclusions.

a. Certain types of geographic differences play a big role in where deer concentrate. There is a bigger picture to take into account when looking for a good place to hunt, including a larger area of land as well as its geographic and environmental features. We've dubbed the term “macro-scouting” for finding these features and locations.

b. Typically, for every deer hunting season, a hunter should have at least five to six different hunting spots (more if possible). You will constantly need to find new hunting locations. For this reason, macro-scouting is perhaps one of the most essential aspects of deer hunting. Macro-scouting consists of many different ways of finding good hunting locations. The following are just a few.

1. Word of Mouth. Now, this may seem like a no-brainer but people tend to talk about their hunting exploits and even brag about big bucks they've seen, where they've seen them, and how many other deer they've seen in the area. This is probably the easiest way for someone new to hunting to find a decent location. However, there are some disadvantages to hunting where other hunters frequent.

When using word of mouth, you must be careful because of what we call the "fishing hole phenomenon." That is once someone hunts a location or even talks about it you will see an increase of hunters in that area. Funny how that works! This is similar to what you see when someone is fishing in a boat in one area of a lake. All of a sudden, you see three more boats parked next to the first boat. Hunters get excited, feel the angst of possibly “missing out,” and do the same thing. They literally want to shoot your deer or catch your fish rather than spending time finding one on their own. It's important to not get caught up in the competition.

Secondly, usually trophy bucks are rare and once it's bagged and bragged, your chances of finding an excellent spot in the same place may dwindle. Following other hunters’ advice means you will always be a season behind the braggers, which doesn't get you nearly as far as you might hope. Take heed to what others tell you and don't rule out the area, maybe just use word of mouth as a starting point. This brings us to another important method of macro-scouting.

Google map search Necedah, WI to search for hunting land.
Figure B. Google satellite view of hunting land (Necedah, WI).
2. Open Up a Map and start looking for where you think the deer might be in terms of state, county, sections of a county, and habitats. Most of the time, macro-scouting consists of locating counties or large areas in your state or province that might have a bigger deer population and/or that could allow for extensive hunting opportunities.

Many times we basically open up a web browser or Google Earth window and search known wildlife areas, like the map (right) in Figure B. Use maps to select areas that you may be searching while macro-scouting from your vehicle. We avidly read maps and make a point to look for inconsistencies in different maps of the same area. When doing this, we find the search can be just as interesting as the hunt.

You will find some locations may be next to each other or a great distance apart. It all depends on what locations are plausible to be hunting in terms of distance, time, and budget. Do the math and consider which the best options for you are. Then, slowly narrow down what spots you would like to frequent and others that you want to try. Most of this can be started with maps (Google, DNR, or state maps), previous hunting experiences, and macro-scouting.

Truck parked to get out and take a photo seen below.
Truck parked to get out and take photo in Figure A above.
3. Deer Spotting! Cruise around and look for deer (best done in the mornings or evenings). It's that simple. This is probably one of the most fun parts of hunting. We enjoy the opportunity to cruise around in our truck while listening to music, ready with a camera and a pair of binoculars. You're basically checking plausible deer habitats and watching for deer while you are driving these areas. This also gives you the opportunity to take photographs of wildlife as well.

Later on, you're going to try and pattern the deer. So, make note of where you see the deer, what they were eating, how many there were, which way they went, and what times of day they were active. After taking note of the deer you see, continue macro-scouting the area. Go back later that day or the next day to scout in closer detail. This is called micro-scouting!

Hint: Keep in mind you should be careful not to disturb game animals too much. Typically, before the hunting season, waterfowl, small game, and deer are pretty relaxed but if you scare them away, they may change their patterns.

4. Scouting for white-tailed deer is not quick or easy but it is rewarding. It takes a long time and should be done all year round. In its most basic form, you are trying to spot and pattern the animals.

Streams, lakes, roads, hills and even hedge lines can all bottleneck deer traffic into a specific trail or area. It would be almost impossible to see or know this information from the road or by looking at a map. For this reason, it is necessary to get out into the field and begin the micro-scouting process. For more on macro-scouting and micro-scouting, check our Scouting: Hunting Wisconsin White-tailed Deer Video.


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