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Monday, April 20, 2020

DS20 Part 15: Hidden Hills

Scouted a hill country spot yesterday. I’ve never physically been to this section of land though I’ve driven past the area a million times to hunt nearby. Despite being somewhat familiar with the area, I was kind of surprised by how big the hills were once you got away from the road. It was like a slightly smaller version of southern OH.

The woods had been select cut at some point in the past. It was more like a park than a forest and I went up the ridge with the heaviest stem count. Even being the thicker ridge, it was fairly wide open. This area might be a heck of a squirrel hunting spot- big trees, lots of oaks. As I neared the top, I found my first bed and decided it was from an elk. Some of the hairs in it were super long and elk colored, there was a big pile of elk scat nearby, and there wasn’t a whole lot of cover around it.

I unknowingly veered off course onto some nearby private land as I followed the ridge. There were no posted signs or fences, but I knew something wasn’t right when I saw an old steel bath tub laying upside down on the side of a hill. I walked up to it, kicked it right side up and a dang porcupine was just inches away from my legs, puffed up and ready for battle. I jumped back about 5 feet, laughed at myself, and got some video of it climbing up the closest tree. I flipped the tub back over so it could have its home back and got myself back on track towards the public.


There was a long north facing point that drew me to the area in the first place cyberscouting. From what I could tell, there were multiple spurs and ridges coming together on it. I found a rub, then a bed, then realized that what I saw on the topo was right, it was a crossroads. Still not a ton of cover though, but possibly a decent spot to catch a buck cruising during the rut. There was a dead materials ground blind a little further north, looked like a gun setup. 100yds north I finally came into some thicker cover, and it was littered with rubs. Some of them were really high off the ground and I had to really study them to figure out if they were from a mature deer or a smaller elk. A couple were really tough to decipher. I’ve found the easiest way to make this call is to look at the branches higher up on the tree- when present. If they’re broke off over chest high, its probably elk. Conversely, if the low point of the rub is below knee height, its probably whitetail. I think these rubs were all made by a mature whitetail.

I couldn’t find any beds in this area of thicker cover. There were a few spots that were kind of iffy, but nothing that was a for sure bed. I felt like there had to be a buck bed in the area, I just couldn’t find it. I have no clue if the deer that made those rubs is still alive. I’m tempted to throw a trail cam up somewhere nearby to this rub cluster, but not so close I blow the spot. Still scratching my head on where the best place for that would be. I’d rather not have a camera up and hunt it blind than have a camera, find the buck is still alive, and blow it. I think this is a good spot for a easterly or southerly wind. The south facing and east facing slopes were basically wide open. No water anywhere I could see. Still a lot to learn about this section. Despite all of the oaks, I didn’t see a ton of leftover acorns which makes me suspect last year was an off year, and this year could have a good crop.

Monday, April 6, 2020

DS20 Part 14: Eagle's Nest


Had a long day planned scouting that big marsh/swamp with the points and islands from a few posts ago. The original route was about 6 miles, I had to end early to help a bald eagle I thought was injured and ended up around 5.

I made a batch of biscuits and gravy for breakfast and hit the road first thing in the morning. I wasn’t able to drive in as far as I planned and had to park about a mile north of where I wanted to get. After I hiked the road in I realized my car probably could have made it but it was still nice to walk the road and look for fresh tracks crossing. The light blue dotted line was my planned route. The yellow dashed line was my actual route. Getting around the marsh wasn’t too bad, but it helped a ton that I brought trekking poles with me. Probably would have taken a fall or three if I didn’t have them and now I’m not sure I’ll ever hit a swamp or marsh without them. The ones I have are carbon fiber so they’re really light. They weren’t too expensive for a pair, I wanna say like $40 and worth every penny. They are especially nice when you’re packing a deer out, takes a lot of wear off your knees. They are nice to have when going up and down big hills, too.

From almost the start, this place felt bucky but for the whole day, I really didn’t see a lot of buck sign. Which surprised me cause I didn’t see a lot of hunter sign either, just one treestand- a hang on that someone carried 25 or 30-foot TV antennae to for use as a ladder! The other hunter sign I saw was a full out elevated blind on one of the marsh islands. It kind of floored me that someone carried that much wood in and constructed it there. The good news is both looked like they are from gun hunters. The blind was definitely a gun blind and as far as I can tell it hasn’t been used for several years. I think it will be good for a mid-day or evening sit when the acorns are on the ground. To get from the gun blind island to the next island on the way to the mainland, I followed a waist deep channel along the length of a 100yd beaver dam. I’m sure that’s the way deer are getting out to that island. There was even one tree along the way with what looked like antler scratches- not really a rub.




I jumped a group of about 5 bedded does and marked it with a balloon and noted the wind direction. No idea if it was a regular bedding area for them, didn’t appear so, but they picked that spot for a reason. I’m not sure 100% why they chose it, but it was where the woods went from being moderately thick to a little more open. The wind was blowing from the thick to the open, which makes me think they were keeping tabs on potential threats from the thicker area with their noses and more open area with their eyes.



I had lunch on a big pine stump in a recent clearcut not far away. PB&J, a pudding cup, a cup of banana baby food, a granola bar and water. My phone still had 50% battery life but I plugged it into my anker charger and got the battery back up to 60% while I ate. After I started working my way back up the west side of the big point where I left my muck boots. There was a bowl along the way I was excited to check out and it had a few rubs around the edge. As I got to the north end of it, I see a huge bird drop out of a tree about 30yds away. I thought it was a heron at first and started walking towards it to flush it while rolling video on my phone. I was blown away to see it was a bald eagle. I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with it, but it wasn’t flying away, just hopping through the brush. I backed out, took GPS coordinates, and bee-lined it for my car so I could drive to a place with cell service and call for help. It took about 45 minutes to get back to my car, another 20 minutes of driving before I got a small bar of service. I texted Michigan’s Report All Poaching line and explained what I saw, gave them the GPS coordinates, and told them I was driving to the nearest town so I could get a strong enough signal to talk on the phone with them. A CO called me while I was in that town and after listening to my story, he said he thought the eagle was fine, and that sometimes they overeat and can’t fly right away because they’re too heavy. He said he would go out to the coordinates I provided tomorrow and check that the eagle wasn’t still there. Pretty exciting, to say the least. First time I’ve ever been that close to a wild bald eagle. Such a gorgeous bird!



I definitely want to throw a trail camera or two up in this area for a few weeks and see what I see. I think this is definitely an early season spot and I will hunt it this year regardless of what the trail cams say. I think the islands are good for almost any wind, best wind for the deer will be out of an easterly or southerly direction.

For anyone who just started reading, I'm keeping track of my 2020 deer stats. Not to brag, but to see just how much time and money really goes into a whitetail season. I'm adding a new stat, time n stand vs time in-season scouting, just for my own curiosity...

2020 Stats
Money Spent on New Gear: $443.20
Miles driven for Scouting or Hunting: 583
Hours Cyberscouting: 12.5
Miles Scouted: 40.5
Sits: 0
Arrows Flung in Practice: 142
Hours on Stand vs Hours In-Season Scouting: 0
Deer Seen on Stand in Range: 0
Deer Drawn On: 0
Deer Missed: 0
Deer Shot: 0
Deer Killed: 0

Thursday, April 2, 2020

DS20 Part 13: The Big Hill

Last night was a great scouting mission. This was my first time going to this location, I initially found it by cyberscouting the mi-hunt website. From what I could see on the computer, it was in an out of the way, overlooked place with an oak ridge that borders a small wetland that has a small trout stream running through it. People from other regions would probably call it a creek. The creek bottom is extremely dense pine and cedar with some aspen mixed in. The oak stand was supposed to be small, only about 100 acres, but as I was driving towards it, I realized it was much, much bigger. The whole surrounding area was oaks mixed with pines, flats mixed with steep up and down hill country. I drove into the area on a two track that doubles as an ORV trail. My plan was to walk the transition between the oaks and dense creek bottom.


I parked a half mile or so away from where I wanted to cut across to get a feel for the place. The top of the ridge was rolling hills of mature oaks and immature pine trees. Plenty of cover for deer to move around and feel secure in the daylight. When I got to the oak ridge I was kind of shocked by how tall and steep the hill was going down towards the creek. It was more like southern OH hills and I decided to replan my scouting route. Going in, I was certain the best bedding was going to be in the creek bottom, but seeing the size of the hills, I started thinking about possible hillcountry bedding, too, and realized this place was going to need at least one more scouting trip this spring to cover everything.

I decided to go from a south facing point on the topo and work my way north and scout the bottom first. I know, I know. Hill country bottoms are notoriously difficult to hunt. But I was really torn. The best bedding cover is down in the wetland around the creek. There is also water there. I’m sure these deer use both the hills and creekbottom as bedding areas based on various conditions. I worked south along the ridge towards the point and marked an area that had a good amount of doe scat. When I got to the south facing point, there was a monster rub that was probably 2 or 3 years old. The kind of rub that screams mature whitetail.


I looked all around but didn’t see any sign that a deer was bedding on the point. Which made sense, the rub was old, but, I was hopeful. There was a faint runway going down the spine of the ridge. I followed it down until I hit the transition line to the creek bottom, and then followed the transition line back north. It was open, but not open, if you know what I mean. The Oaks and pines came right down the hill to the edge of the thick cover. In places I could hear the creek, which is at high water, gurgling over rocks and logs, but I couldn’t see it. A deer could safely eat acorns along the edge and dive into the cover or run up into the cover on the hillside if danger came. There was another large, old rub. The kind of rub height that I would think was elk, but it wasn’t elk. A little way on I had three pileated woodpeckers fighting or doing some kind of mating ritual. That was cool. And then a scrape. I felt rushed at that point and was losing light due to being down in the valley and didn’t take the time to inspect it for tracks. 50yds later, I found another monster rub with three smaller rubs nearby. Losing light fast, I hiked up the ridge shortly after.






This is definitely a place that can grow a nice buck. I can’t imagine many guys are going to go down in that valley to hunt deer. The packout will scare 99.999% away.

The thing I’m struggling with now is how to hunt a deer down in that bottom? Gonna need to search the forum archives to find tips on hunting lower elevations. Maybe if I get close to the creek and let it pull my scent away from the woods? Definitely going to throw a trail camera up at this spot to see if anything survived to the coming season.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

DS20 Part 12: A New Swamp


Scouted a cedar swamp marsh last night after work. The blue dotted line is my planned route, the yellow dashed line is my actual route. Parked on the side of the road at what turned out to be 20yds from an old logging trailhead. The logging road is the solid red line. I didn’t know it was there and decided to check it out after I did my scouting loop if I had time. Accidentally, I came to the end of it on my way back to the car and walked it back. Overall, there wasn’t a ton of deer sign. Typically in cedar swamps you will see a fair amount of tracks and some muddy runways. I didn’t see a lot of either. The tracks I did see were smaller. There was a TON of deer scat. Pretty much everywhere, which I attributed to deer who had yarded there this winter. It was challenging to find beds, but I did find two for sure beds and one that is probably a bed but I’m still going back and forth on it in my head. I also found a couple tall rubs, one that was mid thigh high to about the bottom of my sternum. I’m 6’ if that gives you some scale.



The surprise of the evening was a large island in the swamp. The topo showed a small hill, but in person it was much larger, maybe three times longer and twice as wide as the circle on the topo. The hill is shown on the map by the white shaded oval. Trees on the island were small and medium aspen/poplar, pines and cedars here and there. I saw a few ash and maple here and there, too. No oaks. Other than natural browse, I’m not sure what the “hot” food source in the area for deer here would be. There is some hill country a mile or so away to the east and a small farm a mile west. There wasn’t a lot of people sign. There was a small creek crossing on the logging road that someone laid some cedars across as a bridge. There was a trail along the NE side of that hill island that someone had discretely cut circles of bark off of trees as trail markers every 10yds or so. There was a pair of chest waders hanging in a tree that someone forgot or left there on purpose after they sprung a leak. And of course, there was a ladder stand.



This was the most photogenic of the three beds. The good thing, I think, was that the best deer sign wasn’t near the human sign. I feel like the area with all of the rubs would be a good contender for a trail camera. I may put one out there looking south over the north transition between the marsh and cedar swamp where most of the rubs were. That is definitely the best place for a stand, and there were a few trees that would work well for that area. Definitely a good place to hang a stand this fall for a hunt or two.

2020 Stats
Money Spent on New Gear: $443.20
Miles driven for Scouting or Hunting: 471
Hours Cyberscouting: 11.5
Miles Scouted: 232
Sits: 0
Arrows Flung in Practice: 141
Deer Seen on Stand in Range: 0
Deer Drawn On: 0
Deer Missed: 0
Deer Shot: 0
Deer Killed: 0

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

DS20 Part 11: Swamp Oaks

You hear that? You hear angels singing that hallelujah song? I can. They’ve been on full blast in my head since I found out that the big point that goes out in the marsh I talked about in my last post has an island of mature oaks in the center of it. There is also another island across the marsh on the other point that was kind of cut out of the screenshot I took.



Definitely gonna to need to scout that other point, too, while I’m out there this weekend. I’d really like to hit both points in the same day, dial in where bedding is, and then knowing where the oaks are, start thinking about different stand locations for different winds.

So I changed my scouting plan, basically doubling the mileage to 6 miles. That will be a full day, gonna need to pack a lunch.


This whole area of the marsh feels like its ideal for a South or Southeast wind based on the terrain and the nearest two tracks for access. It could definitely work for a west or east wind, too, as deer could move to either side of the islands or points. The islands seem like they should be the place to bed for a northerly wind. It will be interesting to find out if the sign matches up with all that. Either way, it will be a great learning experience.

2020 Stats

Money Spent on New Gear: $443.20
Miles driven for Scouting or Hunting: 411
Hours Cyberscouting: 11
Miles Scouted: 29.5
Sits: 0
Arrows Flung in Practice: 141
Deer Seen on Stand in Range: 0
Deer Drawn On: 0
Deer Missed: 0

Monday, March 30, 2020

DS20 Part 10: A Plan



I watched the DIY Sportsman's latest YouTube video about his workflow for scouting marshes. I really enjoyed this video as it made me realize that while I've often got a plan for which terrain features I want to scout, I don't really plan the day as well as he does or make great use of my time. 

For example, the spot I talked about scouting in my last post was not a good choice to scout after work, way too much ground to cover and I was basically in a spot where I almost had to walk out when I got to where I wanted to scout and now I should probably go back one more time. 

The first spot to use his work flow jumped right out at me- a giant marsh I found this winter that looks fishy. Here is the route I've planned out, its about 3 miles and will probably need a saturday or a sunday to have enough time to see everything I want to plus have time for any audibles. 



My plan is to walk the main transitions from cedar swamp to marsh, and see whats been using the islands. Satellite imagery looks like there are runways galore going through the marsh, we will see what they look like on the ground. Check out the sign around the little island on the other side of the creek. 



This is a small chunk of this marsh, its going to take 3 or 4 more scouting trips to cover the rest. The west side really intrigues me as it is VERY difficult to access. My plan is to work from east to west. If I could get it down to two trips, that would be great, but I think I will need three. Maybe I will camp out there this weekend, do some social distancing, and knock the whole thing out at once?

I need to find a few shorter routes for after work scouting. I think 1-2 miles for an after work scouting route would be about perfect. 

I cleaned my arrow building/fly tying bench off in my man cave this weekend. Gonna take me a while to be able to find anything with everything where "its supposed to be now" 



2020 Stats 
Money Spent on New Gear: $443.20 
Miles driven for Scouting or Hunting: 411 
Hours Cyberscouting: 9.5 
Miles Scouted: 29.5 
Sits: 0 
Arrows Flung in Practice: 141 
Deer Seen on Stand in Range: 0 
Deer Drawn On: 0 
Deer Missed: 0

Saturday, March 28, 2020

DS20 Part 9: Along the Highway


Scouted a small part of a large chunk of land yesterday after work. Its roughly 2000 acres, so still a lot of ground to cover before I feel like I know it. I'd really love to post some topo and satellite maps of it here but I'm just too paranoid. But let me tell you why I'm excited about it. 1, censored. 2, it has some amazing topography and habitat types. 3, one side borders a heavily trafficed road.

I love places that border major roads. People ignore them, and deer get pushed into them for that reason.

I got about a mile and a half in and really hadn't seen much good sign other than a large'ish buck track in a saddle, and then I climbed to the top of a long ridge that pointed out into a cedar swamp. As I got to the top and stopped, a turkey gobbled. First one I've heard this spring. I sat there and he gobbled again few minutes later. I tried mouth calling him in and he went silent.

I saw a nice pile of buck poop. Got on the west side and started seeing sign. FINALLY! I followed a runway that spiraled along the side then down the point into the swamp. No large tracks, looked like a doe runway, but it took me to an area that looked like deer and even elk were spending a lot of time this winter. Felt like bedding cover but no visible beds. I got down into the swamp and found a massive old rub, there were even some time marks from 2019. Because of the size of the tree, I was thinking this might be an old signpost rub, but still not certain.

This had me really excited to keep exploring but I was losing light fast because of the hills and hiked out. Definitely going to be back to learn more and explore other corners of the property, especially the area that border the highway.

2020 Stats

Money Spent on New Gear: $443.20
Miles driven for Scouting or Hunting: 411
Hours Cyberscouting: 8.5
Miles Scouted: 29.5
Sits: 0
Arrows Flung in Practice: 141
Deer Seen on Stand in Range: 0
Deer Drawn On: 0
Deer Missed: 0

DS20 Part 15: Hidden Hills

Scouted a hill country spot yesterday. I’ve never physically been to this section of land though I’ve driven past the area a million times...