November deer hunting success is not entirely unlike giving birth to a child (don’t tell my wife about this analogy). If you know what you’re doing, get a little lucky, and put in your work nine months ahead of time, you’re in for a life-long memory.
The most important work predating November success is early spring scouting. It’s during this brief window between snowmelt and green-up that you can see the secrets of last year’s rut laid out like a book. Here’s what to look for when hitting the whitetail woods in March.
Identify Doe Bedding
The whitetail rut revolves around does, and so should any smart deer hunter’s strategy in November. Bedding areas are where females spend the majority of their daytime hours, which makes these spots top daylight destinations for bucks.
When scouting in March for doe bedding, look for brushy or grassy cover near popular fall food sources, such as oak flats, orchards, food plots, clear cuts, and ag fields. You might also find doe bedding areas along the edges of swamps or on ridgelines in hill country. With groundcover still sparse, you should be able to see clusters of oval impressions in the dirt or leaves, highlighting the beds of doe family groups. A multitude of beds is key, as a solitary bed is more likely a buck.
Once you’ve found a doe bedding area, explore the edge of this cover that would be downwind of the prevailing wind direction in the fall. This is a great location for a late morning November ambush.
Find Scrapes in Cover
Now is the best time of year to see scrapes from last fall—those being oval patches of dirt scratched up by bucks as visual and olfactory signposts. Scrapes can be hubs of buck activity, but not all of them are created equal. Scrapes found on the edges of fields are of limited usefulness to hunters, as they’re typically visited by bucks under the cover of darkness. But if you find a well-used scrape in thick cover, now that’s an entirely different story.
A scrape in a well-hidden area is indicative of high daylight activity during the rut. The only thing better than finding one secluded scrape is finding a cluster of secluded scrapes. This kind of sign is frequently found in transition zones between bedding and food, showing spots that bucks will often check for does at dawn and dusk. Locate and prepare a hunting location here now, then patiently wait until the 11th month of the year.
Locate Rub Line Pinch Points
Another sure-fire rut hunting location to pinpoint in March is a well-rubbed pinch point. Pinch points can come in the form of narrow brushy cover or a change in topography that forces deer to travel in a concentrated location. This kind of spot can be located by looking at aerial and topographic maps, but an on-the-ground confirmation is needed to identify the pinch points most heavily used by bucks.
Head to these spots as soon as snow disappears and look for defined paths in the dirt. Next, look for a series of orange slashes on the trees paralleling those trails. These tore-up trees are known as rubs, a form of deer sign created by bucks raking their antlers on tree trunks during the previous fall.
If you find a tight pinch point with several trails converging and lines of rubs radiating in multiple directions, you have located a terrific November hunting location. Pick several trees in the area that could be hunted from various wind directions and plan an access route that can get you into place well before daylight. These locations can produce action at any time of day, so plan to maintain your vigil from daylight ‘til dark.
Feature image via Captured Creative.