Using Last Years Trail Camera Data to Fill This Seasons Tag
By Alex Comstock
Often, deer hunters find themselves chasing their tail when it comes to hunting based on trail camera data. Let’s use this prime example – you finally have vacation time and are hitting the woods during the first week of November. After checking a few trail cameras, you’ve got a couple nice bucks hitting a scrape the last few days of October, and decide to hunt there based on that information. The problem? In the last couple of days, those bucks might have started seeking does, and aren’t in the area any longer. Now, this is only one scenario in which you could be hunting from behind when it comes to trail cameras. All times of the year, this can be happening. A great way to prevent it is simple. Start looking at those photos from years past.
Have you ever noticed a mature buck doing something that they seemingly did the year before? More often than not, this isn’t by chance. Time and time again, as I’ve listened to hunters that are consistently harvesting mature bucks, and combined with what I’ve learned and seen, it happens all of the time, and mostly you just don’t notice it. As hunters, we like to try and pattern bucks seasonally. Whether that be a food source early or late in the year, or trying to figure out their patterns during the rut. But, like I said in the intro, this can sometimes lead us to hunt from behind as I call it. A way to get ahead of a mature buck is to also try and figure out his annual patterns. This can be a great way to harvest a mature buck. Mature bucks are apt to do similar things in similar places from year to year, and knowing how to capitalize could make all of the difference.
Connecting The Dots
If you are trying to target a buck that seemed to start showing up in daylight last year in the latter half of October, or if a buck seemed to randomly show up three days consecutively in November, there are good chances those things will repeat themselves again. What I’m doing this time of the year is going through all of my mature buck photos from my trail cameras last season. I’m trying to figure out what sticks out to me, and how I could hunt using that information. The big thing is to not take those photos just for face value.
For instance, let’s go back to the example of a buck that showed up seemingly randomly three consecutive days in daylight during November last year. I’m using this example because I had this happen last season. Try and figure out why it happened. Were your trail camera photos of that buck on a downwind side of a good doe bedding area? If the answer is yes, then odds are he was there specifically to check for hot does. Guess what? There are pretty good odds he’ll show back up around those few days again this year to do the same thing given that he’s alive. I would also pay attention to what the conditions were in those days. For example, let’s say that buck showed up November 4-7 and the temps were cold, with Northerly winds. If it’s warm this year but cools down and those Northerly winds hit on November 6th, I would wait until the 6th, and hunt that area the 6-9. Bucks won’t always show up or do things the same to the exact day, but when the conditions are similar during a similar time frame, you may be able to capitalize.
Trail cameras are one of my favorite tools to be used for deer hunting. Sometimes in order to be successful though, thinking outside of the box is required. Hunting a spot based off what a deer did a year ago can be hard for some people. But the evidence is there, I’ve seen it first hand and have listened to others testify that it can work. Study those trail camera photos, take a gamble, and you just never know what could come of it.
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All photos via @whitetail_dna