Being an avid whitetail deer hunter, I’m always searching for ways to improve my chances for success in the field. The best way I’ve found to increase the odds of bagging that trophy buck is to scout as much as possible.
The invention of game cameras has taken scouting to the next level, allowing hunters to know exactly what deer are moving through their hunting area.
With game cameras being so popular, I thought it would be good to share some pointers that I have learned over the years. Hopefully these tips can better your chances for success this season.
Check with Caution
Checking cameras can be very exciting. It is important not to be overly anxious where you become careless. Remember that you are entering an area that you will be hunting, and your approach when pulling SD cards should really be no different than if it were deer season.
Wearing rubber boots and spraying down with cover scent, are good ways to keep chances of being detected to a minimum. The best time to check your game cameras is in the middle of the day, when deer activity is low.
During deer season, I like to check them after the morning hunt. It is also good to always carry extra SD cards for quick replacement. Check the cameras as often as you feel it is necessary but remember, the more you frequent the area, the greater your chances are of getting detected.
Don’t forget that the goal is to pattern the deer, not to let them pattern you.
So you are getting pictures, but what are you learning?
Several years ago, I started taking notes in efforts to get some kind of pattern on our deer herd. I was amazed how much the photos were telling me with the data collected. Hunting a ranch that is almost five hours from my house, I still manage to document weather conditions.
This is done by looking up the weather online for the area closest to my hunting location. I record the moon phase, temperature, wind direction, wind speed and barometric pressure for each day. While most camera brands provide some information, I’ve learned that they are not always 100% accurate.
The next time cameras are checked, simply record the daily deer activity. The more elaborate you are, the easier it will be to find a correlation between weather and deer movement. This information can help you decide which hunting spot is best for certain conditions.
For precise results, it is very important to have the correct date and time settings on your cameras.
Two is Better Than One
Running multiple cameras at your setups can be very beneficial. I typically like to point two cameras facing opposite directions, which can cover an area more effectively.
An additional camera can tell you which direction the deer are traveling. This can also provide a good indication where they are bedding, which gives yourself an edge when choosing appropriate stand locations.
Utilize this valuable information when planning routes to and from your hunting area. Another benefit to having a second camera is it can serve as a backup, just in case one of them fails. There is nothing more frustrating than opening the cover of your game camera, only to discover that no pictures were taken.
Don’t Forget About the Young Bucks
It’s easy to overlook pictures when you are searching for your next wall hanger. On our place, we don’t start shooting bucks until they are at least 4.5 years old.
Scrolling through 10,000 or more photos per month, makes it easy to skip over those yearling and 2.5-year-olds. Fact is, those deer are the future, and it will be those bucks that will have you losing sleep three to four years down the road.
I have a special folder on my desktop for the young bucks. It’s fun to try to find facial markings or characteristics that help identify those deer, allowing to track their progression throughout the years. Just think, you almost overlooked the buck of your lifetime in the making.
Remember these tips the next time you set up game cameras or pull SD cards. They may help better your chances for success in the field, just like they have for me.
Images via Zach Jones