Scouting is key in being successful anywhere you hunt. Every great hunter logs in a lot of hours surveying their hunting areas. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to get out and physically scout you area with today’s technology and resources like www.thehuntingchannelonline.com you can prepare yourself with a game plan to help your hunt go successfully.
First gather as much information as possible the west is mostly public land so there is a lot you can find out from maps and fish and game depts. Simple techniques will improve you chances of scoring.
Game sign: find tracks, signs of eating, droppings, determine age of sign.
Water is a good place to start for any type of game in the west, due to our arid environment. However water is generally more effective in the early season during the hotter drier months. Western game is highly adapted to the dry climate and during the colder months may not need to water as frequently.
Keep an eye on the weather if it has been dry and warm water may be your best bet.
Start locating large water holes on your map, the smaller holes may not hold water year round so you have a better chance at finding water in a larger hole. Locate those holes off the beaten path because in times off low precipitation the large holes near roads will have more hunters then game. Then after you have chosen a few pin-point those one that are near potential bedding and feeding areas.
Bedding areas are consistent throughout the country animals are gonna seek cover or in open areas vantage points. In the desert mesquite bottoms and washes will hold deer/ javalina in the day especially in hotter weather. Shady areas in the desert are often safe havens for game from the sun.
In open Timber deer and elk will generally bed down on hill sides in thick cover that has multiple escape routes. Open prairie land or antelope country deer will seek out any for of shade such as overhangs, thick sage, rock outcroppings, and any trees that may be present.
Antelope on the other hand prefer to hide out in the wide open and will rely on their eyesight and speed to protect them. Wind plays an important part of bedding areas, animals will always bed with the wind in their face. Also, they will try and find areas that they have a good view in most directions and have the wind covering their weak side.
Since the west offers a wide range of habitat and terrain food sources can vary drastically. Also most game in the west are browsers, which means pretty simply that they eat almost anything to survive, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have favorites. So it is vary important for you to analyze the signs to get a grasp on what the animals are feeding on. When analyzing sign some key points to look for is: 1) A lot of tracks from the same animal near or on a visibly eaten food source. A lot of tracks from the same animal generally means the animal was standing there eating for a longer period of time, which generally means it is a more predominant food source. You can now look for areas that contain good quantities of this type of food while you are glassing 2) the height at which the food is being eating, when tracks are not very visible you can make educated guess by examining the bite marks and the height at which the occur to help determine if this is you are hunting or not 3) Age of the sign. Do the tracks have loose debris in them? Wind will often blow small debris in tracks as they sit for a long time. If the debris is pushed into the track it generally means it is more fresh. Do the tracks have dirt cast off or moister in them? Dirt cast off usually means a more fresh track moister can mean it was from at least the day before. I like to make a my own track next to a track and compare the differences to help me age it. Are the chew marks still wet with syliva or juices from the plant, Has the plant or fruit begin to brown or wilt where it was eaten? Obviously a fruit dripping juice or grass that is greener and moist at the tips is probably pretty fresh.
Typical food sources:
Big Timber or Mountains:
Here are some Good Links for some game specific info:
MULE DEER: http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/range556/Appl_BEHAVE/projects/deer_browsers.html