View Full Version : First time deer hunter - first day scouting

July 22, 2001, 04:42 PM
I was drawn for my first deer tag this year (out here in AZ) and I went on my first scouting trip today.

I realized very quickly that I didn't really know what I was doing. But I think I had a pretty productive day anyway.

I got a whitetail tag in unit 34B so I headed down to check out the area. I got up rather early and got down there as soon as I could. Most of the land owners have closed their gates to hunters so it took me a while to figure out how to get to the national forest land. After a while I got back there and my little 2 wheel drive truck didn't have any trouble with the road. It's a GMC Sonoma (same thing as a Chevy S-10) with a 4 cylinder but it didn't miss a beat.

I got out to one of the drop tanks and parked. It was in a small valley with steep sides. Both sides had a combination of heavy scrub and open grass. Arizona has some very dramatic changes in vegetation. A ridge will change from scrub to grass for no apparent reason.

I got out and check out the drop tank. Not very full, but it did have water available. I started walking and headed into the scrub. I was less than 1/4 mile into it when I scared up a doe. I didn't really expect to see anything so soon so it caught me off guard. It was exciting though and I'm glad to know there there are deer in the area. I kept heading up the ridge so I could glass the other side. The ground was steep and mostly covered with loose rock so moving quietly was impossible. About 1/2 way up the ridge I heard something else moving in the brush. I never got a look at it, but by the noise and the number of rocks moving, it had to be big.

There was lots of wildlife in the area. I saw white wing doves, mourning doves, Gambel's Quail, condors (I think), scaled quail, and lots of bunnies.

I got to the top of the ridge and sat down to glass the other ridge and quickly realized the my little 4x15 binoculars are not good enough. I'll be heading out soon to get some 12x50s or bigger.

I had wasted a lot of time trying to find the way back there so I headed back to the truck to go home, my wife was expecting me at noon. Didn't see much else on the way back, except lots of deer poo and a bunch more dove and quail.

All in all, it was a great morning. I saw a deer which is pretty good, even if it was a doe.

I'll head back there in a few weeks with a new pair of binoculars and a GPS unit. Any advice on what I could do differently? Any scouting tips?


Keith Rogan
July 22, 2001, 05:44 PM
In many ways that sounds similar to the terrain I hunt in. It's hilly and fairly open anyway.
It's hard to say whether they'll move in the same patterns there as they would here, but I'll guess that they do.
Deer here tend to spend the night fairly low grazing, then travel up the the mountainsides at dawn to find a place to bed. Knowing that, the trick is to get high before dawn and ambush them as they move up. And of course that depends on knowing the country and game trails well enough to get up there prior to dawn.
I would look for easy and quick access to some high ground to do some glassing at the break of dawn. When you've established where they are moving from and to, look for access to some place along that route for your actual hunt. You'll need to do this close to the opening because routes will change as different food sources come and go.

Jay Baker
July 22, 2001, 11:24 PM
I would suggest you NOT buy a binocular as large as you said you were going to get. That large means it will be getting VERY heavy, and will be cumbersome.

I've tried many kinds over the years, and two in the range of the 12 power ones. I came to the conclusion about 14 years ago that my 7x42 Swarovski is the ultimate... for me. I've hunted in most of the south, and western states, in all kinds of terrain and weather. A GOOD binocular in the seven or eight power range, will handle just about anything you'll run up against, and will be easy to carry and use.

Just my opinion. J.B.

July 22, 2001, 11:40 PM
No, not to eat. It is good to find it when scouting for a good hunting spot. Deer poo is a good start. Obviously, deer poo is a sign that deer go there.

I suggest that you buy some videos on deer hunting. They go pretty cheep at Wal Mart. Watch them over and over again.

Also, hunting for whitetails takes a lot of patients. I have known a few fellers that simply cannot stand to sit in a tree stand in the freezing cold waiting for hours and seeing nothing. Don't get discouraged on your first hunting trips if you don't see anything. The videos can be a little misleading. They only film when they spot a deer--not the two hours before they saw the deer. If you have all the signs that make you believe you have a good spot, don't go changing it too soon if you don't see deer right away. I made this mistake before, only to return to my original spot to see multiple deer tracks all around it.

A deer's sense of smell is its best defense. They hear well too. Deer do not depend on their sight to identify you as a human, but they are good at detecting movement, and they might not stick around to find out what you are. If they hear you or see you move, you might be able to fool them with a grunt ot two, and they just might feel safe and stick around. But you cannot fool their nose. Cover your scent! There are all kinds of soaps, from laundry detergents to shampoos, that can help you. I don't believe the Native Americans bothered to cover their scent, but then, they knew how to use the wind direction to their advantage. Deer are colorblind, so it really isn't necessary to spend $300 dollars on camouflage as if you were hunting turkeys (who have better eyesight than we do). The sporting goods store owner will tell you differently. :rolleyes: A hat and a vest is usually sufficient. Move slowly. Camouflage will not hide your movement.

Art Eatman
July 23, 2001, 06:58 AM
Lotsa things to look for. Game trails; first, just to know where they are, and second, to know how much use is made of any particular trail.

Deer tend to follow a draw when going uphill, and travel more on a toe when going downhill. But there ain't no "always".

Bucks will tend to bed down up high, particularly if there is more peace and quiet up high. If folks start running ridges, bucks head for thicker brush to bed down--and that's commonly lower down.

When up high, walking during the middle of the day along a ridge where you can travel cross-wind is a Good Thing. Don't just march along; move along slowly and quietly, and sorta "lazy-ess" back and forth as you travel along. I like a flat-soled boot, like the Russell Birdhunter or the Red Wing "Twenty Mile". The crepe soles are a lot quieter.

If you jump a doe, don't watch her as she runs; a "real" buck is going some other direction, usually upwind.


July 23, 2001, 08:41 AM
Fuzzy -

I used to live in Tucson and hunted deer there. I assume you got a white-tail permit?

I don't remember the area designation - where exactly is 34b?


July 23, 2001, 09:55 PM
Jay Baker is right about the binoculars. At the absolute most I would go with 10x, 8x being my preference. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to hold 12x steady without a tripod or some sort of rest.

July 24, 2001, 11:44 PM
Thanks for all the help, guys.

The boundries for unit 34B are I-10 between Vail and Benson on the north, AZ-82 on the south, AZ-83 on the west and the San Pedro river on the east.

My hunting season is a whopping 4 days long in the end of October, so I need to find some good spots before then.

I'm trying to come up with a checklist for all the stuff I'm going to need for the hunt. Here's what I have so far.

1. A rifle (already got that, it's a 30-06)
2. Good boots (got them too)
3. A good compass or GPS
4. A knife
5. A big cooler to keep the meat in (it's hot here in October)
6. Binoculars on a tripod

Anyone have any suggestions to add to the list?


July 25, 2001, 06:52 AM

It's going to sound odd but pack and extra pair of good socks. After a day of walking around in harsh conditions a change of socks can make you feel like a new man.


July 25, 2001, 07:06 AM
Deer may be color blind, but green they see best - avoid green on your clothing.

What colors do your local predators dress in? yellow-brown to red-brown i'd guess; and that is not without reason, as deer don't see these colors very well - do likewise.

Avoid moving along the very top of a ridge, as you will be very conspicous there. Keep your head below the ridge top and cross over to see the other side.

Keith Rogan
July 25, 2001, 11:15 AM
>>>>Deer tend to follow a draw when going uphill, and travel more on a toe when going downhill.<<<<<


That's an interesting observation, but not a pattern I've ever noticed around here where deer tend to travel via the "easiest" route. I wonder what would account for that difference - hunting pressure?
There's a weird (sounding) theory around here that deer movement is affected by the tides - ie; they move further down on extreme low tides and travel back up when the tide turns. People believe in this so much that if there's a mid-morning tide they won't even bother to get up early, just mosey on out an hour or two before the tide change and set up to wait.
Most people around here are commercial fisherman who know the tide times weeks in advance. I never pay any attention to that, but do you think there may be something to what they're saying?
The tides are tied to the moon phases and it may make sense (to me) if an extreme tide is tied to a bright moonlit night where the deer travel further, or a late moon that has them feeding through dawn rather than earlier in the evening - something like that.

Most people here simply believe the tide "pulls" deer down the mountain... I don't believe that but most hunting lore has an element of truth in it someplace.

Art Eatman
July 25, 2001, 09:48 PM
Keith, I'm guessing that some of deer behavior is a function of type of terrain, and amount of cover.

I've noticed (limited to Texas, remember) that deer tend to feed downwind. They can thus smell any boogers sneaking up from behind.

Reasonable odds are that if a deer is travelling downwind, coming down from his mountain hidey-hole to food or water or galfriends, he's likely to travel so he can see any danger ahead of him. So, off toes.

Going up and toward home, he's going upwind and being sneaky. What better hidden path than up a draw? In this desert country, there is more concealment/vegetation in draws.

I guess.

We're about 600 miles from tides. But, we do indeed have a moon. Anything over half-full, and I don't need headlights, up to around 30mph. I have noticed that coyotes and lions feed later in the mornings and earlier in the evenings. My theory is that they have to work harder during the time of the full moon, since prey animals have a better chance to see Evil before it strikes. Deer don't hide as much during a full moon as they do when it's the dark of the moon...


:), Art

July 26, 2001, 01:05 AM
The main predator of deer in Alabama is the vulture, that is, after the deer are killed on the highway. I suppose I could dress in the color of the vehicles that deer are more likely to get struck by, being they didn't see it coming. Anybody got any statistics on that? :rolleyes:

Yes, Gator is right! Socks. You need really good thick socks, and well insulated boots, or you might be getting your toes amputated my noontime. (by the way--Go Gators!)

Don't spill any of that doe estrus scent on your clothes during rut.