In my last blog I told you that scouting is one of my biggest priorities. There is no denying that information is key. The fact of the matter is that this is only half of it. You can gather all the data you like, but if you don't have a way to track and interpret it than it might as well be useless. To me, when it comes to hunting, there is no such thing as to much information. So let me tell you what works for me.
Keep a Journal - What information should you put in it? That's entirely up to you, but again, the more the better in my book. Start simple, this will help make it a habit. Start by cataloging your trail cam pics. Sure you've got them saved somewhere electronically, but there is so much more information that goes with just a nice picture of wild game. Most trail cams nowadays have the option for temperature, moon phase, and time. I highly suggest you write these down in a journal. But don't stop there.
Note the Weather - What was the high and low? Was it raining or snowing? Was it windy? What direction was the wind blowing that day and how strong? These are all things I try to research and add to my daily entries. I like to write the weather for every day. Sure the trail cams show you when the deer are there, they also tell you when they aren't. In logging this information you can flip through quickly and at your leisure to try and find the correlation between the weather and their movements in your area.
Hanging out or Passing through? - I like to jot down the time each deer entered and exited an area. I also try to keep track of what direction they enter and leave. I'm sure that is basic enough, but I also try to read their body language from pictures and videos. Some of the deer may appear skittish while other carefree and comfortable. Why? Why does that one deer, the old skeptical doe, keep looking in that one direction? Maybe if you know your property well enough you might already know about the low broken branch that sways quite a bit with a light breeze? Maybe you have no idea at all, but now you can investigate. It's no secret that when the deer are completely comfortable and unaware, that our chance of a successful harvest are significantly raised.
Aside from all the information that I gather from my trail cam photos and researching weather patterns, there are a couple more things that I add that I don't hear much about in other locations. Everyone hears or reads about checking aerial photographs to look for funnels and potential food and water sources. It's a good start (especially in a new area) to learn what is outside your boundaries. Where I live I am surrounded by farmland within a mile or so in all directions. Why is this important and how can you use this information? I try to contact each of those landowners. (or at least and sometimes more beneficial, the actual farmers working the land) First, I'll see if anyone is hunting their property. If you're going to do that then be courteous and offer help on the land or whatever you can and are willing to do if you would like and need that place to hunt. I'll write more on that in a future blog. Next I see what information I can get from them. Have they seen game movement? Where at and when? What crops will they be planting and when? When will they harvest? They might even be willing to leave a few rows of corn or soybeans on the border to help you out. Now as for the journal, I will write basics from what I got from the chat. Mostly just what they are planting and when they are harvesting. If you can't contact them that's fine, but make note of when crops are around you and when they change. You might find some trends on your cams.
Last but not least, has to do with knowing your hunting property. Each time I get a new hunting property, I will print the latest satellite image I can find. I also like to go back on apps like google earth to look at previous pictures taken. You might not have known that the lot next to you cuts down their pine every once in a while or there used to be a pond in a location. These things might change your tactics. On the printed out map that I keep in the back of the journal, I will mark my stand locations, cam locations, bedding areas, and natural forage. It doesn't all have to be done at once. If you are out scouting and notice an area of oaks, make note of it on the map and in your journal. Track what years they produce acorns and what kind of oak it is.
These are just some of the things I try to keep up on in my journal. Now I'm not perfect and live quite the hectic life, but any information is better than no information. Some of these things and routines might help you this season. It will definitely help you manage your heard or just figure out the population and quality. Do yourself a favor and start a journal. Make it as simple or complex as you see fit. It's yours and it's not set in stone so play around with it and see what works best for you in the end, it will only work to your advantage. After all, like life, it's about the journey, not the destination.
I hope you enjoyed my insight on how I continue my scouting with a journal. I look forward to hearing input from all of you and would love to hear your opinions. Please share this blog and continue to follow.