Over the long Labor Day weekend I managed to get up to my hunting grounds in north central Missouri. For anyone who’s been living under a rock, we’ve been in a severe drought all summer long (accompanied with record heat). Remnants of Hurricane Isaac broke the drought at last, dumping 3+ inches of rain on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday when I went out for some scouting in the area that I like to hunt, the ground was totally dry already. Go figure.
Pre-season Scouting Expedition
I went out at around 2 in the afternoon — the lull period — not expecting to see any game, but because I wanted good light to look for sign. Specifically, I was hoping to find evidence of deer activity — rubs, scrapes, droppings, and trails — as well as likely bedding areas and food sources.
I know that there’s plenty of game in the area. Last year I saw a flock of turkeys on several occasions, a couple of does, and a six-pointer. There are a few ridges and valleys in this area where we danced in the early season. I was 20 yards away from the buck one morning in late September, but alas, I couldn’t count four points in the pre-dawn twilight, and there was the antler point restriction to consider.
Here’s the area, which I’ve annotated with some of the things I saw on my scouting expedition:
The cabin is about a half mile northeast of the maps upper right hand corner.
Natural Tree Stand
They planted a food plot last year, and while it doesn’t seem to be planted this year I know that it’s a draw for local game. I found great evening ambush point (marked by a tree icon) where a game trail cuts across from the big field to the food plot. There’s a natural stand tree right above it – easy to climb, with a few large horizontal trunks where I could sit quite comfortably.
I like this because if I can avoid stand hunting on public land, I will, just to save time and energy of lugging my stand out to the woods.
I went into the woods and followed the dry creek bed down where it runs between two ridges. The ridge to the west (with the yellow polygon) has a well-used game trail atop it; that’s where I saw the buck and does last year.
But I followed the creek toward the clearing. Last year in that clearing I saw a couple of toms strutting for a flock of hens; it lasted for over an hour and was by far the coolest display of wild turkeys I’ve ever witnessed. I found two turkey feathers in the creek bottom as I approached the clearing, so I’m hoping they’ll be back.
The clearing is 20 yards across and flanked by two forested ridges. The one to the west (that I’ve marked with a bed) is especially intriguing. It’s at the end of the major game trail I mentioned, it’s high up and thick with cover near the point. The ground drops away on all sides from that point, so it’s got a great view from every direction. To me it looks like a natural buck bedding area, though I couldn’t find any sign to support this idea.
My current plan is to hunt the clearing, probably setting up inside the trees on the east side, as the wind is usually out of the west. Another possibility would be to set up along the game trail in the polygon area.
Too Early for Rubs and Scrapes?
Sadly, I didn’t come across any rubs or definitive scrapes as I’d hoped to. It may be a bit early for that yet, as we’ve had the drought and the weather is still quite warm. For a variety of reasons, I only hunt this particular area in September and October, so I’ll face a number of the challenges of bowhunting in warm weather, such as:
- Bugs, especially mosquitoes, will be horrible
- The foliage is thick since most trees haven’t lost their leaves
- Poison ivy and other toxic plants are still around
- It’s the pre-rut period, so ambushing a buck is especially difficult.
In any case, it’s nine days until opening day and I’m very much looking forward to it. Wish me luck this year!