Deer hunting season comes in the fall, but for the individuals who are really serious about it, deer season covers every month on the calendar. You are either preparing for deer hunting season, actively taking part in it, or recovering from the rigors of deer hunting season.
In short, there is no "offseason" for the true deer hunter.
The most enjoyable part of the ritual for some hunters, outside of the actual stalking and the adrenalin rush it brings, is the scouting - that time spent in the woods and in the fields in the months before the start of the season, searching for signs that deer frequent the area.
Bow hunters did a lot of their scouting in the spring and early summer, since that season opens in late September and runs all of the way until early February. There is a lot more work involved for the bow hunter, since they must position themselves in such close proximity to the deer before they even consider letting an arrow fly.
The religious bow hunter, and there are many of them, is meticulous in his preparation. He maps many areas, taking note of game trails and rubs where bucks have used small trees and saplings to leave their mark.
These rubs or scrapes might be used to peel the velvet off new antlers, to leave scent, to mark a route, or to act as a warning sign for other bucks to stay out. Regardless of the reason, these markings tell you bucks are in the area.
The bow hunter places his tree stands in areas with frequent deer traffic, and where the terrain and landscape will afford the hunter a clear shot. It can take many scouting trips to nail down a half dozen premium bow hunting locations.
The deer shotgun season starts late this month and runs for seven days, into early December, with a couple additional days closer to Christmas. The gun hunters have their areas well-scouted by now, too.
Like the bow hunters, these outdoorsmen first will have secured written permission to scout any property they are considering for the coming season. Nothing happens until that section of the law is addressed, and permission granted.
With that authorization in hand, the gun hunter scouts with the change of season in mind, knowing that what he sees in the woods in August and September is nothing like what he will find in late November and early December, when the majority of the leaves are gone and there could be snow covering the ground.
The hunter might see deer on his scouting forays, but what he primarily is looking for are the many indications deer are comfortable using the area. They don't have to be home in order for the hunter to determine that this is where deer live.
During the scouting trips, hunters are able to make note of the most discreet route into the woods, and the best vantage points for picking up deer on the move in the area. These reconnaissance patrols are critical to increasing the chances for a successful deer hunt later in the year.
White-tailed deer in Ohio are everywhere, and in big numbers, but only the hunter who has done extensive homework will have the best chance of bringing one home. The most thorough scouting work usually is done by the best hunters.
When you see the bright orange garb of the Ohio deer hunters, keep in mind they likely made many trips to that area well in advance of hunting season, familiarizing themselves with every nuance of the place. Their goal is to know the area as well as the deer know it, before they go hunt this clever animal in its domain.
Matt Markey is The A-T outdoors columnist.
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