3 Things 150+ Trail Cameras on Public Land Taught Us About Big Bucks!
Steve Sherk of Sherk's Guide Service in Pennsylvania is a big woods, public land deer hunter that takes trail cameras to another level. Steve spends a substantial amount of time analyzing trail camera photos from over 150 trail cameras each and every season. He was gracious enough to share that information with us on The Exodus podcast where we broke down everything he has learned from this extensive study.
This study spans across 100,000+ acres in the big woods of Pennsylvania and is focused solely around daylight buck activity during hunting season on public land.
To keep it short here were the best days for buck activity:
Watch the full length episode here:
#1. Does Temperature Impact Daylight Buck Movement?
One of the most glaring takeaways from this study is how the weather impacts the amount of time a big buck spends in the daylight.
When reviewing the data Steve collected, it was evident that the cooler the temperatures throughout the season were, the more daylight buck photos Steve would capture on his trail cameras.
In fact, when the low temperature was below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, daylight buck activity almost always spiked.
In October it was evident that the first good cold front would get the bucks up on their feet more often in the daylight, and even with slight warmups on the back end of the cold fronts, the daylight deer movement lingered on.
If you are able to choose, this study suggests that spending your coldest days in the woods is the way to go!
Take a look at the spreadsheet!
#2. Can October Bow Hunting be As Good As November?
Bowhunters spend all year waiting for November to roll around, but is waiting on November causing you to miss out on some of the best times to catch a mature buck on their feet?
Many roles come into play that increase buck activity as the rut nears, but most big buck killers you ask will say that late October is their favorite time of year to hunt mature whitetails. Steve's trail camera data would support their strategy's.
In both years of Steve's data, the time period around October 17- The end of October were some of the most active times for daylight buck activity. This suggests that this time period would be one the first times you can catch the buck that is filling up your SD Cards.
#3. Does Warm Weather Slow Down Daylight Buck Activity in the Rut?
When November comes around, we are all praying for the weather to cooperate. As this study suggests, we are hoping for temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or below average for your region.) However, warm weather has plagued most of the US during the coveted first two weeks of November more often that ever the last few seasons. Does this shut daylight buck activity down?
We believe this is very regionally specific, but Steve's data suggests that warm weather does in fact slow down daylight buck activity. In 2020 we had an abnormally warm stretch of weather from November 3rd until about November 15th where temperatures were averaging over 60 degrees for a high and 40 degrees for a low.
During this stretch, Steve's average daylight photos were only 2.75 per day. Compared to 2021 where the average temperatures were much lower at 48 degrees Fahrenheit for the high and 29 degrees for the low temperatures, Steve's average daylight photo count for that stretch was 19.
Don't take this information as us saying that the rut is not happening. Bucks are rutting somewhere the first few weeks of November. This information just suggests that for this region, on public land, most of the breeding is happening at night.
In Conclusion, saving your days to hunt the best weather possible can't hurt you. Be efficient with your time, and be efficient with your hunts! And oh yeah, Don't Sleep on October!
Written by: The Exodus Team