Productive Mileage: Scouting from the road during the season
Prior to starting the outfitting business, I was just a hunter myself. I can't tell you how many times I sat in the tree or the blind wishing that I could be two places at once, and more particularly, on the road around the farm where I was hunting. Since that was obviously impossible, I just continued hunting. What else could I do aside from trail camera or ask/pay a neighbor to watch out on the road for me? I didn't want anyone to know where I was, and a camera's photo is only valuable to me at the moment of the capture in this sense. I had no viable options.
Fast forward to the outfitting days. My hunters are in the fields, the woods, the pinches, the funnels, the edge of the food plots, etc. Now, I can be that guy I needed for intel. I can be that guy that drives around the farm to try and find deer from the road. In Iowa, it is illegal to communicate the movement of or the location of a free-range whitetail to another hunter. So, I tread lightly on this topic. I will never recommend doing something that is even close to illegal. However, I know that just about everyone, due to technology such as smart phones, has the ability to do this illegal act. Since I am an outfitter, I am not held to different standards, regulations or laws, but rather, I am held to such more strictly than most.
I can move my hunters on a whim, for whatever reason I deem relevant. Reference the video above, a cell phone video that I took back in 2018 during early November. I had two hunters on this particular farm, and they were as spread out as much as possible about a 1/2 of a mile to a 3/4of a mile away from this deer. When I stopped to record, he froze, then started away circling clockwise to the south, the same direction that I was facing. Knowing the topography of the land, the design and layout of the land, I knew he was heading right where we wanted him to. However, we never laid eyes on him. Where he was heading was a chunk of woods where I had a hunter in a tree stand. A few odd days later, he was heading toward the other hunter on the opposite side of the farm. I'll touch on that encounter on another blog post under the BUCK STORIES category.
I have always liked to drive around the farms as often as I can but in a manner that won't negatively affect our hunting. That is easier said than done. As a hunter, I hate when nosey neighbors drive the roads slow at last light and first light. They always seemed to spook deer away from me instead of towards me. Well, I learned a lot from that. We have actually harvested a deer just from me sitting on the road in the vehicle on the phone just because he didn't like me sitting there so he turned around and luckily went into a ditch where I had a hunter in a stand. That will be another BUCK STORIES post later on.
I do not advise you or your buddy drive around your farm trying to push deer or block deer. Not just because of the inherent danger of stopping or driving well under the speed limit but also because the deer will always move freely in whatever direction they want. Scouting from the road is a common norm now, but please do it the right way, if at all.
In simple form, having a set of eyes (me) scouting the boundary of the farms we hunt give us an added advantage to know where deer are and where they're heading. A lot of the times, the deer has already left my farm, crossed the road, and is on the neighboring piece. Well, if I slow down, I'll only push them off further, the opposite direction that I want them to head if there is a shooter in the mix. Driving normal speed (speed limit) long past the deer & out of sight without slowing down is probably the best practice. You just need that hot doe to turn around and come back to your farm and head deeper into the farm toward the stand.
Yet, there is more information that is valuable out on the road... For instance, if it is late October, I am looking for any signs of pre-rut or the occasional buck already locked onto a doe. In early November, I am looking for true chasing as I am already seeing the seeking at this point. Once I see hard chasing, I know the rut is on full bore. In December, I am looking for trucks and the Orange Army. Who is pushing what piece and in what direction? Will this help or hurt out hunting. In late December and early January, early in the afternoon to mid-afternoon, I'm looking for deer leaving their beds in route to the food. Where is the food. Is it our's or a neighbor's? In that same timeframe of the season, later in the day, I will look for the large bodies of deer, in their normal yarded-up form, and see if they're on my farm or someone else's farm. It's just additional detail that allows me to make decisions about stand/blind selection that could potentially benefit our approach and our success.
Have you scouted whitetails from the road in the Midwest before? It definitely helps, but you must do it right otherwise you could drastically reduce your chances of seeing your target buck in the stand.