Effectively Using Trail Cameras During The Rut
By: Alex Comstock
The rut can be filled with so many different things happening. There’s the pre-rut, does popping into estrus making bucks seemingly go nuts, mature bucks do things out of character, and just like that, it’s all over. Sometimes it seems like the rut can go by in the blink of an eye. Everyone is always looking for an edge when it comes to deer hunting, and the rut is no different. So, when it comes to trail cameras, how can you use them to help give you an edge? Here’s what I do.
Stay Current with Trail Camera Information
The first thing that I think is important to touch on is that things are changing almost daily when it comes to the rut. If a buck cruises through your property in search of a doe, he might come through again the next day, or a day after that, but if you check a trail camera a week later, and try to hunt based on that information, he could be miles away by then. The rut is the only time of the year I’ll check trail cameras as close to daily as possible. Most of the time I stress letting them sit as long as possible, but that’s just simply not the case during the rut if I am trying to use a trail camera to help decide where I’m going to sit right now.
If I’m not going to sit all day, a common occurrence for me is to hunt the morning, and then mid-day I’ll check a bunch of trail cameras, and then decide where to sit that afternoon. If a certain trail camera shows heightened activity or a mature buck that has shown up in daylight within the past day or two, that could be enough to sway me to sit that stand. The biggest thing for me when checking cameras is to put stock into the previous day or two, but if I haven’t checked a certain camera for a while, I’m not going to hunt somewhere because a mature buck showed up in daylight multiple days two weeks ago. During the rut, things are simply changing so quickly, you need to stay up to date on current information and not worry about older information until next year.
Speaking of using old information next year, the other way I use trail cameras effectively during the rut is by going back and looking at data from years past. Often times you’ll notice certain windows of time when mature bucks will consistently show up in daylight somewhere, or you might even notice a certain time frame when a specific buck shows up in daylight. A really good example of this is a spot I hunt in North Dakota. It’s a relatively thick river bottom with a lot of doe bedding on it, and every year, regardless if I have mature bucks on camera in the summer or early season or not, I can bet that the second week of November, there will be mature bucks using the property, and they will show up in daylight.
It’s been consistent throughout the last couple of years, and through my visual sightings and trail camera information, I can conclude that if I want to have an opportunity at a mature buck on that property, I need to be in a stand as much as possible between November 12-17. I run quite a few trail cameras on this piece of public land, and when looking through photos from the last couple of seasons, there are two spots that immediately come to mind where between the two of them, I have photos of at least one mature buck in daylight everyday between the 12th and 17th the last two seasons. Outside of that window, it’s more or less a guessing game.
Having those previous years data from trail cameras can be extremely beneficial, because it helps you learn not only where to or where not to sit, but it can help you figure out your property. This certain public river bottom I’ve concluded is where bucks come for their second round of does. With there being so much doe bedding on this public land, I think that once bucks have bred does in their core ranges, they start seeking out does elsewhere, and cruise through this public land. They’ll do so a number of times over the course of that week, and if my trail cameras have taught me anything, it’s to be in a stand then.
What I love about trail cameras and the rut is that they can be such a unique tool in aiding you on where to hunt. You can check a card, and possibly decide where to hunt because of what a buck was doing yesterday, or you can be flipping through photos and decide where to hunt because of what a buck was doing a year ago. To me, that’s pretty cool, and it’s a testament to how effective trail cameras can be during the rut.
featured image - via @FlatlineWhitetails