How To Scout For Big Bucks In April

Big Buck Track In Mud
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April is probably my favorite time to scout for whitetails because the snow is close to gone, the weather is still cool, and the bugs aren’t bad, and I’m itching to get out there. This makes April one of the most productive months for scouting because you can get a lot of miles covered comfortably while seeing the deer sign from the previous year.

When To Scout Deer In April

Usually, I don’t start spring scouting for deer until the snow is just about gone. It is much easier to walk and takes less effort to scout when the snow is gone versus when there is a lot of now. Additionally, I like to see the ground under the snow so I can check for sign made during the prior season’s rut timeframe, mostly scrapes.

I don’t particularly care where deer are during April other than it’s interesting to know. This is because where deer are in the winter is rarely the same as where they will be during the summer and fall. The deer will shift from their wintering range as food sources change and cover increases with spring/ summer greenery.

How To Scout Deer In April

First, I find properties that I think are likely to hold bucks using Google Earth Pro or OnX WebMap Desktop application. They are both good options for e-scouting. To learn how I e-scout you can check out my article: Tips For Scouting Deer Using Google Earth. I also have a YouTube video where I describe some of this as well.

Rut Sign

Once I find 10 or so properties I like to go to the site and start scouting them, looking for the previous season’s rut sign, particularly big buck sign like scrapes and tall rubs. It may take going to a lot of properties before finding something exceptional. I would say 1 out of every 10 places I go to I find a great location, and maybe two more decent areas.

If you find a lot of rut sign then chances are it will be a good spot to hunt during the rut the following year. If the sign is made in an open area, you may need to find some thicker cover where the deer feel more comfortable moving during daylight hours. Often rut sign is made at night, so that is something important to be aware of.

tall buck rub

Other Clues

I am still keeping my eye open for any other clues on the landscape. For example, oak trees, apple trees, other treestands, human pressure, big tracks, deer trails…etc. These other clues may help you determine what time of year is best to hunt these spots. A lot of these little clues can help you determine how deer move through an area throughout the seasons.

Bedding Areas

Once I’m in a spot with good sign I will start trying to figure out the bedding areas. This is largely influenced by the landscape. If it’s hilly, bucks are probably bedding on points of ridges. If its wet, bucks are probably bedding in the thick swamps.

I will use imagery to guess where deer might be bedding based on the sign I am seeing and go search those areas to see what I can dig up. If there is high-quality bedding in areas near the rut sign there’s a good chance those bedding areas will be used during the hunting season. I will prepare trees as close to the bedding areas as possible without feeling like I will spook deer out on my way in.

buck bed

You’ve Found Great Rut Sign, Now What?

Prepare Your Trees

I used to bring everything I needed with more to prepare a tree for my tree saddle. Now, to save weight and energy I don’t bring much on my first scouting mission. If after scouting the property I determine a property is worthwhile to hunt I will take a GPS point on where I want to hunt.

If trees need to be prepped, which often they do, I will come back with more gear another day and get the location or locations prepped. I usually keep all of my gear in my vehicle when I’m scouting so sometimes I will go back to the vehicle if I’m not too far away and prep the tree that day.

If allowed I will fully prepare a tree for saddle hunting with screw-in-steps. I do this in the springtime because I want to make all my disturbances during this time when bucks have plenty of time to settle back down on the intrusion.

It also makes getting into the tree so much quieter during the hunting season. I do use mobile hunting equipment, I hunt from a tree saddle and use climbing sticks to get into trees most of the time. However, I do think that when you’re getting up into a tree with all that gear in a bedding area it can harm you.

For example, on morning hunts you have to get up much earlier because it takes time to get set up in a tree and if a deer walks under you while you’re still setting up it can spook the deer. Additionally, in the afternoons when deer are in their beds, they can hear you shuffling up a tree. Although they may not know exactly what you are they may just wait until quitting time before walking by you.

new tribe areo hunter saddle tree prep

What I Bring When Scouting For Deer

1st Scouting Trip

2nd Scouting Trip To Prep Trees

  • Backpack
  • Waist Pack
  • Pole Saw, Removable Blade
  • Trimmers
  • Trail Cameras, SD Cards, and Batteries
  • Screw-In Steps (At Least In Car)
  • Screw-In Hangers
  • Hammer (for breaking dead limbs fast)

Create a Spreadsheet

Enter your best spots into a spreadsheet so you can remember them all. I would also add a column of what wind directions you can take advantage of in certain spots. Additionally, I’d enter what time of year they would be good for and any other notes you might think are important for the site.

Rinse and Repeat

Once I’ve gone through the 10 or so areas that I wanted to scout I will get another list of 10 or so properties and repeat the process. I now have way more properties and areas to hunt than I know what to do with. But every year I found a few properties that are better than my best properties from previous years. Also, some properties aren’t as hot some years depending on changes in environmental facts, like food availability so it’s good to have a variety of properties to fall back on.

Additional Benefits of Scouting Deer In April

Look For Sheds

If you’re a shed hunter April is also a great time to be in the woods because there your odds of finding shed antlers is higher than any other time of the year. Also, the sheds haven’t been on the ground too long so they’ll still be in good shape.

Maine Whitetail Buck Shed Antler Found in April

You’re Also Scouting For Turkeys

I’ve found some of my best turkey hunting spots while scouting for deer in April. This is because when you’re looking for deer you find overlooked turkey honey-holes that you would have never found. At this time of year, fields are turning green and turkeys are using these fields to feed in and display. Mark these spots on your GPS because the turkeys will likely be in these areas during the beginning of the hunting season too. Since you’re scouting for deer and turkey at the same time, this time of year is a very efficient time to scout.

Maine Turkey Hunting

Final Thoughts

Depending on where you’re located the snow may melt slower or faster. The best time to scout is just when the snow has melted. For example, April is usually a good bet in my home state of Maine, especially in southern Maine. In northern Maine, you’re better off waiting until May generally because snow remains in the northern areas longer. But if you’re in Massachusetts or New York your best time to scout may be earlier, like March. So pay attention to snow depths in the areas you plan to scout.

Article Written By: Jason Tome

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