How to Scout for Deer in March

Brow Tines and Backstrap

How to Scout for Deer in March

Posted 2023-03-08T10:38:00Z

Get a jump on intel for next fall by scouting right now

March is an incredible time to scout. Just get it done before green-up. Image by Bill Konway

When scouting in September, the times when most hunters do it, you instinctively want to cover lots of ground and look for fresh sign, but you're leery of pressuring the deer you'll hunt in a few weeks. So, you play it safe and poke around the edges of fields and woods. You find some tracks and early buck rubs. But these are only the corner pieces of the puzzle. All sorts of interesting things, the clues you really need to know, are happening inside buck core areas.

Going on a few scouting runs now, in March, is a great way to begin to unlock these secrets. You roam every inch of a property, not giving a flip if you bump deer. Hit every ridge and crevice of cover, searching for key sign that you might have missed last season. Take notes and drop pins on a land app's aerial of the property. Over the summer, study your notes and start to connect the innermost pieces of the puzzle. You'll be ahead of the game when your bow season opens in September or October, especially if you stay on the lookout for these three clues:


As you walk a property, try to cut and follow deer trails. Walk and learn where a run goes from Point A to Point B. Expect main trails to fork into narrower secondary paths that link food sources and thickets. Walk those too. Does and bucks, the habitual critters they are, will walk those trails again this fall.

Along the trails, note food you might have missed last year, like a grove of white oaks on a ridge or honeysuckle browse on the edge of a swamp. When a deer path crosses a creek, bends around a sink hole, or veers through a fence gap, mark those bottlenecks because they will funnel deer this fall. Make notes and drop pins on all these clues.

Think about it. When you find a well-used deer trail in October but only check its fringes, you think you know where it comes from or ends up, but your theory is abstract. But walk a trail from end to end now, and you know where it goes. Imagine how much that will help your planning for this season.


Signposts blazed by bucks five months ago or even a year ago still shine like beacons. When you run across antler-scarred trees as thick as your ankle, drop pins. You've likely located some segment of a core area where a good buck hung out last fall. If the deer survived hunting season and isn't hit by a car over the summer, he'll be back. Or another buck will find and occupy the area since it offers a good mix of food, cover, and escape trails.

Scout the core of a core area. Look for ridges and brushy knolls laced with clusters of big and small rubs, which are perfect spots for a buck to curl up with his back to the breeze. Get down and dirty. Sitin potential bedding areas to get a buck's eye view of the surrounding terrain and cover. You'll see how a big deer hides and peers downwind for does and predators.

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After snow melt up North and before full green up in warmer climates, last fall's buck scrapes are easy to see and find. Look for the old, pawed-out ovals and broken licking branches, and scout the terrain and cover around them. Note where bucks scraped and rubbed at the intersections of trails. Look for clusters of basketball scrapes on the fringes of doe feeding and bedding areas. Look for community scrapes the size of truck hoods, where both does and bucks deposited rut scent four months ago. You might find fresh tracks there, since research shows that some whitetails visit community scrapes year-round.

Prep for Bow Season

As you snoop for old sign, look for trees that offer strategic views of intriguing feeding, bedding, and funnel zones you find. Potential stand locations 20 feet up are easy to see and evaluate in the barren trees before leaf out. Drop pins where you plan to hang new stands in a few months. When scouting private land now, I often carry a pruning saw and cut spots for new tree stands and step ladders. Work done in advance will let you hang stands efficiently and quietly this fall. If you hunt public land, make sure tree pruning is permitted.

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