2018 Hunting Challenge – Update

It has been about 3 weeks since I first posted about my 2018 Hunting Challenge and I have recently had some success scouting in the Sam Houston National Forest so I figured it’s time for an update.  I have never really scouted an area before, not even my own property in Mississippi, and I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew what I should be looking for and what it looks like, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to “successful”.  My idea of success would be to find an area that had all the elements that I think a deer needs to survive (food, cover and water) and find all the deer signs that go with it (deer beds, deer scat, heavily used trails, antler sheds, rubs etc.).  I won’t get into a lot of detail about the different scouting trips I made to the forest, so I will let the pictures do the talking.

First Scouting Trip = Failure

I hastily left my house February 18th with big dreams of stumbling upon sheds of monster bucks and endless amounts of deer sign.  Instead, as I drove down FM 1486 on my way to the national forest I noticed a kid chasing a mini horse on the shoulder.  I initially drove by like most people in front of me and then my conscience took over.  I couldn’t let that mini horse get hit by a car or let that kid chase it all by himself.  So, I busted a u-turn and pulled over so I could help take chase.  This lasted for almost 2 hours!  We chased that mini horse through pastures, thick woods and across the road onto a neighboring cattle pasture.  I finally made it to the forest to do some scouting and I ended up walking away with nothing.  I found zero sheds and barely saw any sign.  My challenge was starting to look like it was going to be a lot harder than I thought.


From top to bottom: Me and Takaih with his mini horse that got loose.  National Forest Wilderness sign demarking the Little Lake Creek Wilderness area where I did most of my scouting.  I walked through Little Lake Creek only getting out of the creek bed to scout areas I thought would be good.  I saw plenty of tracks in the creek bed, but almost none when I was out of it.

Scouting Access Points with the Family

I knew I would have to get my family out into the woods with me in order to do as much scouting as I want to do, so I had them tag along on a trip to help me get an idea of access points into an area I wanted to scout the following week.

My daughter can’t hike too far, so she gets to ride in the pack most of the way.  Doing this also gets me physically/mentally prepared for hiking in and out with all my gear during hunting season.
We had to stop for lunch which gave me an opportunity to look around.  There is a ton of thick underbrush in this area that had plenty of trails crisscrossing it.  I had seen enough on this hike and knew I would be back to scout the underbrush further.

Scouting Success and my first Dead Head!

Every Friday I am fortunate enough to only work a half day and it has been a blessing with this new hunting challenge.  I am able to get into the woods by noon and do some scouting until it’s time to head home for dinner.  This last Friday I went out to where my family and I went hiking so I could scout around the thick underbrush and it paid off.  I found multiple doe and buck bedding areas, trails and rubs.  This area also looks like it recently had a fire roll through it because I found quite a few burnt tree trunks and the undergrowth was incredibly thick, which is perfect cover and browse for deer.  There were a few places where I would hit a wall of briers and undergrowth that I could not get through.  This place had me excited and then it gave up my first dead head of the season.  After that I was over the top excited about the potential in this forest.

Burnt tree trunk surrounded by new forest growth.
Found an area that had what looked like multiple years of rubs.  The one on the furthest right looks fresh, whereas the other two look like they are from previous years.
Another view of the fresh rub
When you find 4-5 rubs in one area, you can bet that this is done by one buck and this is his territory.
I stumbled upon these vertebrae on a game trail and I had an idea of what they would lead to.
Honestly, I had no idea that it would lead to this!  I figured I would find a few more bones, but not a skull with antlers still attached
I hate to find this buck like this, but the size of him got me excited for the potential of the deer in this forest.
He was a pretty big 9 point with great mass to his antlers.
Packed the skull out which took me almost a hour to get through all the thick underbrush.
Back on the beaten path and headed to the truck

Renewed Optimism

I am pumped up to do some more scouting and for the upcoming season.  I have a lot more to do, but this trip gave me lots of optimism for what could be waiting for me this October.  In the next month or two I am planning on making numerous Friday afternoon scouting trips and shed hunts while also placing a few cameras.  Hoping to see plenty of deer walking around and praying no one steals my stuff!  I have heard too many horror stories about cameras getting stolen, but maybe helping catch that mini horse will keep karma on my side.

-The Family Outdoorsman

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