Late Summer Whitetail Scouting by Larry Weishuhn
Late Summer Scouting
by Larry Weishuhn
Not a word was spoken, no need to. I glanced at Luke intently looking at deer. Two young bucks, a yearling spike and the other a two-year old eight point as well as a doe had stepped into the backlit opening next to the small pond. I lowered binos and picked up my camera for quick photos.
Luke and I watched the deer cautiously approach the water, drink deeply, then disappear into a nearby thicket. “Pretty good start, I’d say!” said he, with whom I have been doing a weekly radio segment, “Campfire Talk” for the past eleven years. Our early August outdoor excursion was multi-purpose. We planned on hunting wild hogs, check local acorn and persimmon crops, scout for deer, and hopefully catch a catfish or two. I also wanted to shoot my new Ruger M77 Alaskan chambered in 6.5x55 Swedish, mounted with a Trijicon Huron 2.5-10x40, shooting Hornady’s 140-grain SST Superformance. I plan on using the combo on whitetails later. We also intended to spend some time cooking and telling stories after sundown.
First order of business, sight-in the 6.5x55 Swedish. My first shot at the 100-yard range hit two-inches left and one-inch high of the bullseye. My second shot was nearly into the same hole. A quick adjustment and I clover-leafed three shots in the center of the bullseye. Objective one, down. Several fun-filled projects remained.
Late summer is an ideal time to start seriously scouting for fall deer. By mid to late August, bucks have mostly completed their antler development for the year. Even though they may still be in velvet one can get a good idea as to what kind of bucks populate your hunting area. Too, fawns are out and about, so you can determine fawn survival rates.
Starting August 1, I keep a record of bucks, categorized as to young, middle-aged and mature along with antler points and spread; does; and fawns seen any and every time I am in the area where I intend to hunt. This gives a good handle as to the current crop of bucks, as well as what to expect in the future. I love hunting mature bucks. I look for current number of mature bucks, but also “coming bucks” which should mature in the next two or so years, as well as the number of fawns. The higher the fawn survival the better the chance there will be mature bucks in the herd four years and beyond.
Food, in terms of forage and mast crops, determine where deer will be in October thru December, during the hunting seasons. By mid-August oak trees will show whether or not there will be an appreciable acorn crop. Our area had experienced bumper crops the past two years. During our two-day hog hunt/scouting trip I noticed very few oaks had any amount of acorns. Most of the trees I looked at had very few or no acorns. Two persimmon trees I checked were laden with a tremendous number of green persimmons. The fruit would likely begin ripening toward the end of September. Deer, hogs, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums and many humans love ripe persimmons. No doubt the local deer would be visiting those trees a bit later when the fruit ripened and began to fall to the ground.
I looked for and found several scrapes which had been used by whitetail bucks the previous fall and winter. At these I will be establishing “mock scrapes” using various products from Texas Raised Hunting Products, starting the first week of September.
As the afternoon approached the last two hours of daylight we headed to Jeff Rice’s Buck and Bass Ranch to hunt hogs. Jeff’s property is ideal wild hog habitat, from swampy creek bottoms to hardwood bottoms. His property too, is bordered on three sides by land that is not hunted.
On a previous hunt I had seen sounders of hogs with upwards of thirty or more. Another hunt I had seen several monstrous boars which looked a lot more like true Eurasian boars from Germany or Austria than feral hogs from the eastern Texas.
Unfortunately, that afternoon the only critter I looked at through my Trijicon AccuPoint mounted on my .450-400 NE 3 in., Ruger No. 1 loaded with Hornady’s excellent 400-grain DGX ammo was a river otter and a great horned owl. I had used that combination on hippo and other game in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip as well as whitetails in the Texas Hill Country. That afternoon, the local hogs decided to visit another part of the ranch.
First light of the morrow we fished for catfish before I needed to head back home. It took but a few minutes to supply a sufficient number of delicious fillets for my wife’s and my supper that night.
Gotta love late summer scouting!