Let's talk sign!

Discuss deer hunting tactics, Deer behavior. Post your Hunting Stories, Pictures, and Questions/Answers.
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Boogieman1
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Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Boogieman1 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 1:19 pm

I hear everyday on here about hunting fresh sign, not saying it's wrong at all. I don't know cause in my case I don't have any. Picture this..... Dry sandy rocky soil, ridges are hard pan clay meaning all the top soil has ran off into the drainages. Scrapes are not productive cause the soil doesn't hold scent. Cams placed on rub lines show to be a crap shoot. I also hunt very low deer numbers, the entire county all plants the same crop, and 90% of every tree is an oak. In my case a big fresh rub tells me I just missed him. I tend to have better luck figuring out the timing and being there waiting b4 the buck lays it down.

I'm just curious (based on diff circumstances) what is the strategy behind hunting fresh sign. Expecting a buck to do the samething everyday? Expecting a diff buck to do what the one that left the sign did? Or something else?

I see bucks using a routine in the summer but once the dove hunters storm the Milo fields in Sept which Is about the same time acorns start dropping they are here today gone tomorrow. Hunting fresh sign in my case would constantly leave me behind them. Early rut is prob the most consistent thing for me. If the wind/weather doesn't change I got a small window where there route is pretty predictable. Other than that I rely on historical data.

Don't want it to come across as I disagree, I just don't see it here. I've never seen a stomped down big buck path from constantly doing the samething in my life.


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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Whitetailaddict » Thu Oct 03, 2019 2:23 pm

I don't claim to be an expert but sign is dependent on time of year for me. Everyone has to figure out what works for them and what sign is good enough to sit. Experience will help learn from past observations. I believe in early season hot sign tells me a certain deer is in the area. That's all I need to hunt him. He may not be rubbing the same tree or scrape but he's around. Now as we move closer to the rut I think sign has to be really hot or you may be right that you missed it. The hot sign is likely telling you a hot doe is or was in the area. To me trying to time a deer doesn't seem productive unless you have history otherwise you're hoping a deer shows up in the same areas around the same time. Furthermore you would need to know its it's a deer you want before wasting time sitting in seasonal spots. Just my opinion. Also could have a lot to do with your low density area.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby UofLbowhunter » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:02 pm

Thats a good question, scenario, i really have a hard time with this in hill country until it starts raining enough to hold moisture! Those mountain guys could probably give some insight! My best indicators have been a fresh pile of poop that squeezes easy :P or a fresh oozing rub or still wet scrape when its dry, thats probably why i dont have much success in the hills. I have became a swamp hunter, its way easier to get on fresh tracks and other sign. ;)
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Kraftd
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Kraftd » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:43 pm

Rubs and scrapes, unless they are right outside of known or suspected bedding are largely just fun things to see and pieces to a puzzle that let me know there is a good buck in the general area. I suspect your question and comment is part rhetorical and part encouraging conversation to get folks thinking, since you obviously seem to have adapted your program to your conditions pretty well. That to me is the key to any of this. All these theories, ideas, and guidance are awesome, but they don't mean jack until you get boots on your own ground and start to bring your own pieces together.

If I see fresh big tracks going into a bedding area I'm targeting, that'll get me fired up. Nothing like hunting a point or an island and seeing a set of big tracks you know is from that morning heading in for an afternoon sit. Sounds like your conditions make that hard or unlikely. If I know a bedding area well, rub lines or scrapes opening up can be a good indicator when its being used, and how it is being accessed. Dan often notes this is how he pins down specific bucks.

Pre-rut on, I find that hot sign in the way of scrapes that are clearly getting hit daily, lots of tracks, rubs, etc. can be a good indicator of pockets of activity. I have pretty good success jumping right on things like that. Sometimes I'm a day or two behind, but often it gets me in the game during the rut. When I first started here Dewey made a post about waiting on annual cruising trails in his spots to open up and jumping on them. That one really clicked with me and I was almost immediately able to fine-tune a couple of long-time sets I have had previous luck in. Now with one of them I can almost predict being able to get on a good buck just by watching weather and a single trail crossing I can spot check with very little intrusion or scent being laid down. Three sits last year on the trail, two bucks down.

Late season, find food and back track it to bedding, either literally, or by piecing together previous scouting. Again, for me that factors cold weather in, so may not apply to the situation you describe, but point is, gotta look at the big picture, keep an open mind, and adapt to your situation.
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elk yinzer
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby elk yinzer » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:56 pm

Mountain deer are similar. They are total nomads in October. I don't have as hard a time finding fresh sign, but rarely is there any sort of pattern behind it. Frankly first half of October in my areas is just not a productive time. The bedding isn't very consistent. Usually they are on acorns from a couple weeks before hunting season starts all through winter. They typically bed where they eat amongst the oaks. Once in awhile I'll find a really aggressive buck that maintains a smaller core area and just rubs the bejesus out of it. Buck doing that, usually two or three year old, nothing great. The big boys don't really rub too much until later in this month. We do still have a lot of scrapes and I start targeting areas where those are popping up mid-month. The fists active scrapes are almost always night sign, then a week or two later I start to see them tighter to where the does bed.

One tactical issue I have is that due to work and young family I rarely if ever during October get to hunt more than 3 days a week if I'm lucky and even that leaves almost no time for scouting. I'll find hot sign and sit on it, maybe I get some good intel from it. Even the best at doing this I notice are often a little off the mark then those micro adjustments are what closes the deal. But then by the time I'm able to hunt hot sign or intel again it is typically 3-4 days later. I really think I'd kill a lot more bucks early season if I had blocks of 3-4 days I could hunt, but I'm not about to trade off my rut vacation so for now it is what it is. It's really advantageous to be able to make that adjustment and come right back in the next day or the next advantageous weather rather than being at the mercy of workload and wife's tolerance for missing dinner and kiddo bed time.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby DaveT1963 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 11:12 pm

It is one method that works well in some environments and probably saves many older bucks in others. IMO there is a place for wandering and looking for sign, and then there are other areas where you had better have it worked out in advance. Some places there is moist ground for tracks, others not so much. Some areas have know food sources as a starting point, others not so much. Some edges are walkable, others not so much. And then there are bucks that just do not lay down a lot of sign and by the time you get close enough to their core they are already on to you. Other areas it works like a charm, you scout until you find new rubs, tracks, poop, etc., and then set up. Just one tool in the tool box, same with observations stands, glassing, shining, etc.... there are many ways to locate a good buck during season.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby funderburk » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:06 am

One of my goals this year is to focus on hunting hot sign consistently. But I do think it’s important to remember that lack of sign doesn’t necessarily mean lack of a mature buck. I’ve heard Dan talk about that revolving around competition or lack thereof.

The buck I killed a week ago was mature, but there was hardly any fresh sign other than a beat down trail leading to water. That was enough for me to throw a sit at it because I knew with a specific wind, if a mature buck was there, he would have to come through me.

It’s funny you posted this, because I’m still learning from that experience specifically due to the lack of big buck sign in that area. Kinda where my heads at, too...
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby stash59 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:48 am

Most everything you do with hunting is a big gamble. To highten the odds, you use the sign you can find. To increase those odds. Whether it's historical or in season sign. It's easy to guess wrong on all of it. But the more time you spend. Both out of season and in season. Out doing it. The better the odds of success.

Boogie with the success you have where you are. You'd do quite well in the Midwest!!!
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Kraftd » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:25 am

elk yinzer wrote:
One tactical issue I have is that due to work and young family I rarely if ever during October get to hunt more than 3 days a week if I'm lucky and even that leaves almost no time for scouting. I'll find hot sign and sit on it, maybe I get some good intel from it. Even the best at doing this I notice are often a little off the mark then those micro adjustments are what closes the deal. But then by the time I'm able to hunt hot sign or intel again it is typically 3-4 days later. I really think I'd kill a lot more bucks early season if I had blocks of 3-4 days I could hunt, but I'm not about to trade off my rut vacation so for now it is what it is. It's really advantageous to be able to make that adjustment and come right back in the next day or the next advantageous weather rather than being at the mercy of workload and wife's tolerance for missing dinner and kiddo bed time.


This for sure. The biggest eye opener of Dan's and some of the other journals and the THP deer tour last year, and reiterated this year was the time and effort it takes to tune in and kill bucks. Not gonna lie, seeing big deer go down early season, I had been left kind of frustrated with myself that I haven't had the same kind of success, especially in years I really put in off-season time.

I'm in the same boat as you. One to four sits a week, usually not back to back, and almost never full days of scouting leading up t them. Seeing those guys walk through how they hone in really helped me understand that disadvantage of not being able to keep on a pattern until you knock it out. I've come a long way with being able to get on does and little bucks on low deer density heavily pressured public, but a long ways to go on the limited older bucks.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Cchez » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:52 am

Boogie, not sure what part of the country youre in, but I'm also having a hard time find fresh sign. I'm by no means as experienced as a lot of guys on here, but i read something recently that i think was by former big woods hunter greg miller. He said that in some cases, he had a higher success hunting sign that appeared to be a week old vs fresh sign. He's catching those bucks coming back working a circuit. Like you said, it seems you feel you're just behind him hunting the fresh sign. Maybe giving this a whirl is worth a try?

Going back to fresh sign, i know i've heard dan an other guys say how the fresh sign that gets them fired up is when its relating close to known bedding. Last weekend i abandoned a spot i thought would be good in theory (i'd never been there), hardwood point jutting into a swamp with a beaver pond, but once i got in there there wasn't a single oak to be found, 0 rubs or scrapes, and 0 poop. There were 2 faint trails leading from the swamp onto the tip, but there were no tracks and nothing to suggest anything was coming through regularly. I opted instead to hunt a friends property where i knew a really nice 8 has been feeding.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby Thesouthpaw » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:57 am

Similar to mountain hunting in WV, where there are just rocks all over the place. In situations like those, I tend to hunt terrain features over anything. Benches, saddles with dropping oaks is a good place to start, especially this time of year.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby greenhorndave » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:15 am

Right or wrong, I am hunting areas with softer ground. I want to see a track of some relative age and some turds. I'm ok with looking at a beat-down grass trail, but it don't mean much to me when I see it cut through the grass but don't see any tracks in a 10-yard radius where it meets a dirt transition, especially when skirting/circling potential bedding areas from a safe distance. That, to me, says that nobody is home. Why on earth would I set up there? I might have in the past because I was sure something had to be bedding there, but I'm not doing it this year.
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby 802bowhunter » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:23 am

greenhorndave wrote:Right or wrong, I am hunting areas with softer ground. I want to see a track of some relative age and some turds. I'm ok with looking at a beat-down grass trail, but it don't mean much to me when I see it cut through the grass but don't see any tracks in a 10-yard radius where it meets a dirt transition, especially when skirting/circling potential bedding areas from a safe distance. That, to me, says that nobody is home. Why on earth would I set up there? I might have in the past because I was sure something had to be bedding there, but I'm not doing it this year.


Lots of times in the mountains if I cant find a good track do to dry ground watch where there browsing on young trees u will see in the leaves where most of the deer go...watch for the faint tracks that go around the tight brush bucks with nice rack always take the wider easier route if u see a track that goes around two trees that are 18" apart you know there rack probably has a 20" spread and its a mature buck.
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greenhorndave
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby greenhorndave » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:45 am

802bowhunter wrote:
greenhorndave wrote:Right or wrong, I am hunting areas with softer ground. I want to see a track of some relative age and some turds. I'm ok with looking at a beat-down grass trail, but it don't mean much to me when I see it cut through the grass but don't see any tracks in a 10-yard radius where it meets a dirt transition, especially when skirting/circling potential bedding areas from a safe distance. That, to me, says that nobody is home. Why on earth would I set up there? I might have in the past because I was sure something had to be bedding there, but I'm not doing it this year.


Lots of times in the mountains if I cant find a good track do to dry ground watch where there browsing on young trees u will see in the leaves where most of the deer go...watch for the faint tracks that go around the tight brush bucks with nice rack always take the wider easier route if u see a track that goes around two trees that are 18" apart you know there rack probably has a 20" spread and its a mature buck.

Definitely good advice. Appreciate it. But would you just move on if you don't see those faint tracks?
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Re: Let's talk sign!

Unread postby stash59 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:46 am

greenhorndave wrote:Right or wrong, I am hunting areas with softer ground. I want to see a track of some relative age and some turds. I'm ok with looking at a beat-down grass trail, but it don't mean much to me when I see it cut through the grass but don't see any tracks in a 10-yard radius where it meets a dirt transition, especially when skirting/circling potential bedding areas from a safe distance. That, to me, says that nobody is home. Why on earth would I set up there? I might have in the past because I was sure something had to be bedding there, but I'm not doing it this year.


We need to realize hot sign can be alot of things. Dave in your grassy trail instance. If there isn't any dirt/mud near enough by. Maybe it's 1 clump of fresh larger poop. Even a ways out from bedding. Or large tracks in a field, even some distance away. But the bedding the grassy trail comes from leads to bedding that correlates to when a buck is using said field. So maybe an observation sit, a little farther back from the bedding will provide a sighting of a target buck. Actually seeing a buck is really hot sign. Course the buck could quit bedding in that area that night, but!!!

Alot of this boils down to a previous season's or seasons' history. Dan's Rome buck is an example. He knew that when everyone started talking about starting to see the buck. Near the road in fields. That the buck would soon be bedding nearer the does that lived on the public. When tall rubs started showing up on the bucks route from previous years. On the public, Dan pounced.

But yes, in some parts of the country. Fresh sign is going to be harder to see.
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