As the month of September heads for the exit, I should be spending time in the woods where I hunt trying to find out what the squirrels are feeding on, putting out trail cameras on deer trails, killing wasps in my deer stand et al.
I haven’t done that for a couple of reasons. First, it’s been too blasted hot and it’s hard to get motivated for hunting seasons when you’re getting dizzy with sweat dripping off your nose anytime you leave air conditioning.
Another reason is the absence of rain. It has been so dry for the past month or so that trying to walk in the woods would be like attempting to proceed silently while tip-toeing on a bed of potato chips or corn flakes. For me, it has to feel more like Fall and the woods have to have at least a bit of moisture to soften the leaves.
Fortunately, all those favorable conditions came into play over the past few days. We’ve had a couple of showers this week to dampen the woods along with a sharp drop in temperatures from upper 70s in the mornings to a low of 48 at my house last Sunday morning. All that has put me in the mood to dig my camo stuff out of the closet and sneak out for an early morning look-see. While there, I’ll be doing some double duty; checking on the squirrels as well as seeing what the deer are up to.
Several years ago while squirrel hunting a favorite patch of woods, I stumbled across a line of fresh scrapes and rubs. Throughout the first few weeks of squirrel season, I checked for fresh sign and it was obvious the buck was regularly using the area. Care to guess where I hung my stand on opening day of deer season? That’s also the spot where I bagged a fine 8 point buck opening day.
There’s a logical reason to check for squirrels and deer on the same trip to the woods. Squirrels feed on acorns; deer feed on acorns. Squirrels are often found on hardwood ridges; deer like to travel these same ridges. In other words, squirrels and deer like to hang out in the same type of woods.
The squirrel hunter who hunts slowly and quietly has an excellent opportunity to see deer. Sitting quietly on a log or leaning back against a tree, you’re likely to see a deer or two feeding along or traveling. Make a mental note of what the deer was feeding on, the direction he was traveling, and check it out later. You could stumble upon a well-worn deer trail or a food source you didn’t know was there.
Check along the trail for buck sign – rubs and scrapes – to determine the frequency of use. Finding fresh rubs plus some old ones from the previous year indicates this is a prime area for a buck or two. If the buck is rubbing the same saplings he rubbed last season, rest assured he’s older, bigger, and wiser than he was a year ago.
Often, squirrel hunters will pull off the road before dawn and park their vehicles a considerable distance from the woods they plan to squirrel hunt. Sometimes a hunter’s heart will leap into his throat and his mouth goes dry when a deer snorts nearby in the darkness and runs off. The alert squirrel hunter will make a note of that spot, perhaps placing a piece of tissue on a branch along the trail so he can scout the area in daylight after the squirrel hunt is over.
It could be a thicket where deer are bedded; it could be a grove of acorn-bearing oaks where deer are feeding. A real bonus is to find such an area that is also dotted with fresh rubs and scrapes.
Don’t worry if you get so involved in looking for deer sign that you forget to look for squirrels. They’ll be bugging the daylights out of you when you’re sitting on your deer stand.