Get Ready For Your Best Fall Hunting Season Yet
Congratulations! You survived another never-ending winter, a cooler than expected spring. And you are rewarded with being primed to take full advantage of summer weather. We here at PNWild are always itching to get into the (somewhat) predictable weather months so we can get outdoors and enjoy all that the Northwest has to offer. We spend a ton of time hiking, fishing, camping with our families and scouting for our fall hunts over the course of June and July. It is a quick turnaround to get all those activities in before fall bear season kicks off on August 1st, so we try to pack every weekend full of outdoor activities. It’s a hectic couple of months, but very enjoyable and a key time frame to boost success during all our fall hunts.
Getting the Best Start
Pre-season scouting is one of the most overlooked but important aspects of setting yourself up for success to notch that tag in your pocket. Not only is it an important tool but it is a lot of fun; good weather, no pressure, exploring new country, learning animal tendencies, and unlocking the unknown. We have seen a direct correlation between putting forth effort in the pre-season with scouting and success during the season with notching our tags. The more time and effort we have put into scouting, the more success we have had during our hunts. The recipe is there, you just have to follow it.
Electric Eyes On the Trail
Trail cameras are a fantastic tool to utilize for your pre-season scouting. Having eyes in the woods 24/7 is a total game changer. Whether you are trying to pattern and target a specific bull or buck, or you just want to have a general idea of what animals are in your hunting area, trail cameras are going to be your best friend. In the past we have had fantastic success running trail cameras for elk and deer; we don’t deploy cameras to specifically target bears, but we consistently get them roaming through and catch them on camera as well. If you are looking to run some cameras for elk or deer, find heavy travel corridors and game trails, wallows (elk specific), bedding areas, and any other pinch point you find good animal sign nearby. We always deploy mineral salt and an attractant called Black Magic with our camera locations. This combo has proven to be extremely effective at drawing animals to your camera location and keeping them at the site long enough to get some good images of them. As advanced as trail cameras have become, they can still have some difficulty snapping a photo or video quick enough if the animal is just cruising past. We have a deep dive elk hunt specific trail camera article on the PNWild blog space if you are interested in more information on trail cameras specifically.
Knowing the Lay of the Land
An underrated aspect of pre-season, summertime scouting is the knowledge gained by accessing the areas you plan to hunt before you are showing up for your hunt. As an example, when we went to begin scouting for the elk tag Jeff drew in 2016, we quickly learned that the road leading into our top area was washed out by the river over 9 miles from where we wanted to start our hike. With our summer scouting we found an alternate route that did involve a knee-deep water crossing and about 5 miles of hiking, but it was much quicker and easier than hiking in from the washed-out section. Now imagine if we hadn’t done that pre-season scouting and showed up the day before his tag opened to find our set plan wasn’t very feasible; we would be in scramble mode trying to figure out a new spot or a new way in. That scrambling is a lot of stress to hurl on yourself before what should be one of the most exciting moments of a hunt, opening day. Access and knowing different ways in and out of your hunting areas can truly make or break a hunt.
Another fun part of pre-season scouting is putting eyes on the country, hiking through your hunting area, and learning the terrain. Finding those perfect glassing knobs, water sources, camping locations, feeding areas, bedding zones, heavy game trails, and fresh animal sign (scat, tracks, and rubs) is always exciting. It is fun trekking around and seeing a perfect tucked away camping spot or the best glassing knob and dropping that waypoint onto your GOHUNT maps. Dropping those waypoints on your mapping system and adding a photo to each waypoint is an extremely valuable tool that we utilize constantly. They allow you to really start to put a plan together as you notice trends with animal sign and movement. Seeing the country in person you have been staring at on your computer or phone doing your e-scouting is very rewarding and can be eye opening when you realize how much bigger and steeper the canyons are in person. Doing this will help you adjust your plan when certain areas could be inaccessible due to cliffs, a raging river you are unable to cross, or trails/roads that may not actually exist anymore.
Man vs. Wild
Once you have a great overview of your hunting area, it is time to start looking for animals, the truly exciting part of scouting. Spending countless hours sitting on a prime glassing knob looking over multiple ridge systems and drainages is hard to beat. During those summer months bucks and bulls are unpressured and relaxed. They will spend more time on their feet taking advantage of the nutrient dense feed, adding weight onto their bodies and inches into their antlers. This is such an important part of the year for them and for you. Summer glassing sessions really allow you to look over and take an inventory of the animals in those drainages and more importantly how they use the terrain they live in. You can watch these animals go from feeding areas in the early morning hours across the landscape to their favorite bedding locations. Being able to see their patterns will be instrumental to knowing where to put yourself when your hunt starts.
When you put the time and effort into your scouting sessions you will reap those benefits tenfold when the time comes for your hunt. You will be multiple steps ahead of all the people who did not put in that effort in the “off-season.” While they are searching for access points, camp spots, water sources, and glassing knobs you will already have a camp set up and be sitting on the best glassing spot in the unit picking the country apart. Putting in the work in these summer months can be the difference between a notched tag and meat in the freezer or coming home empty handed and eating tag soup.
Happy Hunting! ~PNWild