There is always something to be learned from putting up trail cameras and scouting before, during, and after deer season.
This was a year of firsts when it came to hunting deer on the property where I primarily hunt. For example, trail cameras were all over the property instead of just a few. There was also extensive pre-hunt scouting that took place almost every evening and morning for several weeks before bow season even started. The results were pretty incredible.
We made a point to put up cameras and check them weekly all through the summer, and especially when rut movements really started to dictate behavior. Even though we didn’t see any albino bucks like this guy, it was still pretty neat to watch buck activity slowly creep from nocturnal to daytime as rut activity increased.
We saw bachelor packs of summer turn to lone bucks in October, followed by pictures of does with bucks in hot pursuit. We also captured many pictures of big bucks from early on all the way through the peak of the season, as seen below.
What I learned from this was that the biggest buck on camera was never seen in the daytime. The whereabouts of that jerk remained a mystery. The smaller bucks that were seen on camera over and over again were also seen from the stands, and well within bow range. The larger bucks on camera seemed to only move right at last light, and only when does were in sight.
Cameras on the property also showed us the home ranges of where bucks would enter and leave our woods as well as few smaller buck’s core home ranges where they never really left. They were stars of the trail cams, with pictures being taken almost daily.
Scouting goes hand-in-hand with trail cams and it’s all about placement. Finding new deer trails, and locating fresh scrapes or rubs, is the name of the game when finding good locations. Looking for these hot spots of activity also told us exactly where new stands needed to be placed based on the activity in the area.
I actually made a ground blind as my core hunting spot for this year. This ground blind was created because there were no adequate trees nearby for a stand and the deer activity demanded my attention. Had this blind not been created at the end of a field ditch line, the buck that I took that was chasing a doe would not have been within 300 yards of the only permanent stand on that side of the property.
Coincidentally, this same buck was captured on a trail cam, about one and half miles away, on the very night before the morning I took my shot.
This guy was simply cruising after any hot doe he could find, and this doe ran by me with him in pursuit on the same game trail where all the pics and scouting predicted they would go.
The above picture was taken just before my shot. At that current time, he was about 60 yards and closing. As seen by the picture below, things worked out well.
Trail cameras and scouting will be your ticket for a nice buck next season, so start planning on where to put the cams in the woods and where you’ll be scouting sooner rather than later.
All photos via the author, Brad Smith