How to locate more bucks using trail cameras.
By: Nathan Unger
In order to shoot big bucks, you need to know big bucks are in the area. Hands down, the best way to compile that knowledge is through trail camera surveys. If you want to maximize the potential to harvest one of these giants these five trail camera tactics will point you in the right direction.
Let's start with what might be the most obvious of these trail camera tactics to maximize pictures of bucks. Mineral sites or protein feeders might be the easiest during spring and summer months to get quality pictures of big bucks. Bucks scour the landscape for protein and other minerals to consume in order to provide their bodies with the nutrients they need leading into the fall and winter months. Oftentimes, developing mineral sites are just as effective as any other means to capture great photos of whitetails. Some states allow minerals year round while others may not. This forces hunters to get creative with their camera placement. However, I know that not every state permits placing minerals out at all for deer to consume. Thus, as hunters, we need to identify other means of capturing elusive giants.
Food and Water Destinations
This may seem obvious, but several states cannot legally make use of mineral sites, so hunters rely on food, natural browse and water sources for camera data. Deer will congregate around these sources, and placing a camera at these destinations will help you identify the different time's deer are coming and going from each of these sources. You will also be able to tell which bucks are frequenting these food and water sources. However, it's going to depend on the time of year. Hunters might need to shift their cameras from food source to food source. During the summer, green fields such as clover and soybeans are dynamite locations to place cameras. During the winter months, corn and brassicas are hot foot sources.
Similarly, during the summertime, especially in dry areas, deer will flock to water. They have to just like we do. During late summer, placing your trail camera on or near a man-made waterhole can be a great tactic, especially where water is lacking. Locations are not limited to man-made holes. Identify creeks, streams and even puddles that deer stop by for a drink.
If you can identify a buck's summer pattern you will be one step ahead when you place a camera along with his route. If nothing else, this will help hunters take inventory of the bucks that survived through winter and bucks that are new to the area. During summer months and even into the fall, bucks are consistently moving from bed to food and back to bed almost every day. You can even include water in this equation as aforementioned depending on how dry your summer is. If you can place a camera in tight to a buck's bedding and let it soak during the summer months you will be that much closer to harvesting an early season buck when the season opens. You might be asking yourself, "What happens if the buck changes his core range by fall?" Excellent question. I would tell you that your camera set up is not in vain. First, you will have a good idea of the bucks frequenting the area. Secondly, while these bucks shift their range a little bit they will more than likely not change zip codes. This is especially true if the deer have not been pressured and human scent is absent from the areas.
Good camera tactics are not exclusive to summer months only. They can be just as effective during early fall and winter. In fact, this might be when you rely on them the most. If you locate where does are bedding during the early fall there's a great chance you will discover where the bucks are traveling during the rut. However, I would suggest trying to use historical data for this tactic. While identifying doe bedding is extremely important, if hunters choose to check their camera too often during the season the deer will catch on and likely shift their core area.
Pinch Points and Funnels
Finally, here's a tactic we can all employ. Even if you are successful with these other tactics listed above you will not want to leave this one out of your arsenal. For the most part, pinch points and funnels are used consistently year-round. Why? Because deer have to use them to travel from point A to point B. Placing a camera along these corridors familiarize hunters with buck travel patterns in the area. If a buck isn't using the corridor after a couple weeks switch it to a different point or funnel. Deer are smart, but can also be lazy. They will take the path of least resistance if they can.
Put these trail camera tactics in place this year and you're sure to capture some great photos of big bucks.
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