Posted on Nov 16, 2020 by Chad Sylvester
As the deer hunting season comes, things can get hectic in a hurry and staying organized can be something we all fall behind on. One thing we've learned over the years of interviewing the best whitetail hunters across the world is this....They all stay organized and remain meticulous through the entire season!
As we laid out this article, our goal was just that, to help you stay organized leading to a successful deer hunting season. So, hopefully this will help you get ahead of your trail camera shifts as we break down each part of the season by early and long term strategies for both regular SD card trail cameras and cellular trail cameras.
But before we dive in, it's important to understand the meaning of Short Term and Long Term trail camera strategies so let take a look.
Short Term - Camera strategy where the trail cameras will be checked periodically with the intent of using the data collected in or throughout the season.
Long Term - Camera strategy where the trail cameras will not be checked periodically but only after months of collecting information with the intent of the data collected be used in future seasons.
We start in the early season. Most deer seasons throughout the Midwest come in around the October 1 time frame, so we're calling the early season October 1 - October 20. This is really the time frame where bucks have started to range out from their summer patterns and find where they will call home for the fall.
For standard SD card cameras with short term objectives (cameras will be checked periodically), we like to focus our cameras around non-intrusive food sources with the goal of inventorying the local deer herd. These locations will include fall food plots, exterior ag fields, or white oak stands along the edge of a field. Also, where legal, bait/feeder stations.
For cell camera locations, or standard SD card camera locations with long term objectives (cameras will not be visited for months), we will be a little more intrusive because we do not plan on returning to the site after the camera is hung. In these scenarios we focus our cameras in bedding areas, staging or transition areas, food sources close to bedding cover, and any other destination close to bedding.
Pre - Rut
As the fall rolls on, we come into the pre-rut time or what some call the signing phase. For the purposes of this video, we allocated October 21 - November 4 to pre-rut/signing phase trail camera locations. Depending on the property and location in the US, your time frame/dates may vary. During this time, scraping activity has really ramped up and bucks are becoming more active during day light hours.
For standard SD card cameras with short term strategies during the pre-rut we are still monitoring the fall food sources, but also adding cameras to travel corridors, pinch points, perimeter scrapes. We are still being cautious with our intrusion and how often we are checking cameras during this time period.
For cellular cameras or long term SD card cameras, the strategy doesn't change a lot from the early season. We are still focusing on more intrusive spots close to security cover and/or bedding. However, if camera numbers are limited, we will shift those cameras to scrapes close to security cover. Primary scrapes, and community scrapes close to security cover will be a key inventory indicator for what bucks are traveling through during day light hours and also a solid gauge of when breeding active is about to shake loose.
Now, we are in the rut. The mecca of whitetail deer hunting. The rut has many different phases... seek and chase, peak breeding, lockdown, etc. So to keep it simple we are calling the rut November 5 - November 25 for all intents and purposes. Human intrusion is less of a deterrent during the rut so the trail camera strategies changes quite a bit.
For standard SD card cameras with short term objectives, we are focusing our camera inventory on doe bedding areas, pinch points, funnels and cruising travel corridors. This information is time sensitive during the rut so check your cameras as you feel needed.
With that being said, cellular trail cameras can be deadly during the rut. We like to run our cell cameras on down wind edges of doe bedding, scrapes near doe bedding, and in heavily used funnels. Again, the M.R.I. can be what makes the difference between killing that buck, or being one step behind.
Post Rut/Late Season
Once the rut winds down, deer are back to the bed to food patterns of the late season. By this time deer are heavily pressured and are less tolerant to human pressure. So, it is important to be non-intrusive with your trail cameras strategy. However, most of us with tags remaining unfilled, the late season is our last chance for success. With the clock ticking and the pressure on, it's ultra important to take advantage of any short term strategy intel. At the same time, long term strategies can pay big dividends the next time you find yourself still grinding it out in the late season.
Standard SD card cameras with short term strategies will be focused on destination food sources and stand locations setup to hunt the movements to that food source. One thing to note here, camera locations at stand locations should only be checked when hunting that area. The goal with this type of strategy is to first get confirmation of that buck using that particular food source and then verify his travel route with your stand location cameras upon good hunting weather days. Ideally, a cell camera is what you want to place at your stand locations.
Cell cameras and long term strategy cameras will be shifted to primary or community scrapes to monitor when the does that have not been bred are coming back into heat or when yearling does become mature enough to be in estrus. We've seen this long term data hold true and consistent on several parcels where yearling does will become sexually mature between Dec 25 - Jan 3rd. Data for your particular parcel may vary depending on the deer herd and available food, however collecting the annual data for next year is the key here.
We hope this trail camera calendar helps! Be sure to shift those cameras a couple days ahead of the time frame to stay on top of what is going on in your area. If you find any value in this article, we'd be humbled if you would let the world know by sharing across social media. Be sure to check out more of our content on both YouTube and our Podcast. May the spirit of the whitetail forever enrich your soul!