To improve your hunting strategy, learn what deer signs look like and what they mean.

But first, Julie Geiser of Nebraska Game and Parks said, print maps of hunting areas to mark as you find signs and make notes on deer sightings, observations about their movements and game trails before or during the season.

If you have a good GPS unit, save these coordinates and the device will lead you back to the same spots.

The major types of signs to watch for are droppings, tracks, trails, feeding and bedding areas, rubs and scrapes.

“The amount of droppings you see indicates how many deer are nearby, and the freshness indicates whether deer are currently using that area,’’ Geiser said. “Droppings can also tell you something about the particular deer that left them. Extremely large clumps are a sign that a large deer is in the area. And because mature deer often defecate as soon as they leave their beds, droppings near thick cover might give you an idea where that large deer is living and which direction it travels.’’

A set of deer tracks may also provide important information. If a track is dry and eroded, it is an old track.

If it’s fresh and well-defined, the track may be only hours old. If you find large hoofprints, a mature buck probably made them.

“Does often travel in groups, so if you find a single set of tracks, it’s likely the tracks are from a buck,’’ Geiser said. “When walking, a large buck has a longer distance between tracks than an average deer, and bucks are prone to dragging their hooves.”

The best game trails often lead to thick bedding cover or dense escape areas. Finding where several trails merge into a heavier, single path increases odds of seeing deer. Using a trail camera or doing early-morning and late-evening scouting will help you determine if deer are using trails during the day or strictly at night.

Rookie hunters sometimes waste too much time hunting nighttime travel corridors. These are usually open areas and easily accessible.

Watch for feeding areas with fresh deer signs, and look for trails leading to feeding areas. Seasonal food sources will change trail use.

“Bedding areas have mashed vegetation from resting deer. Don’t spend too much time here, or you might scare deer out of the area; find a trail where deer can be intercepted moving to or from bedding areas.’’

Rubs are important signs when hunting bucks. A series of rubs shows the path a buck follows, at least on some days. Setting up on fresh rub lines can increase the amount of deer a hunter will see.

Scrapes are cleared oval areas on the ground where a buck pawed out vegetation and urinated over its tarsal glands to attract does in heat. The best scrapes are fresh and damp with little debris on them.

Most will have a tree branch overhead that a buck has bent or broken and left scent on. Placing a stand or blind downwind of these scrapes can be worthwhile whether hunting for bucks or does, as does will visit the scrapes and check for scents left behind.