Using mineral and bait sites to inventory bucks for your hunting area.
By: David Shade
Everyone gets excited about the arrival of summer, schools out, vacations, beautiful weather and long lazy evenings. But a select few get excited for a different reason, new velvet racks! I think I honestly get more excited to see what new bucks have arrived and to see how much my returning bucks have added inches to their antlers.
So, let’s a talk a little bit about how to get an accurate summer inventory and what to do if some of your target bucks aren’t showing up consistently.
The best places to get summer pictures are obviously mineral sites, field edges and bait stations. We will go into each one of these and talk about how to optimize each site for pictures.
Mineral sites are probably one of the most favorite sites for getting images in the summer. I like to start mine early in the spring and usually keep using the same sites year after year if they produce. I like to pick spots up high if possible, in more open timber, the top of a ridge directly behind a crop field is a perfect pit stop for bucks heading to and from feed. Straight off fields are great too; especially if you locate it to hide from the sight of the field. I will use only black flash cameras and try not to bother the site. Mineral sites won't fill up an SD card like a bait sight so you can let them soak a little longer. I have used commercial and homemade blends, and both work fine, just make sure to check labels.
Bait sites require a little more work and planning. You will get a ton more pics not only of deer but non-target animals as well. You will be creating a lot more traffic in and out as well. Most of my bait areas I keep replenished every 1-2 weeks. I take no scent precautions in the summer other than I don’t let anyone else visit them. I assume that the deer will smell me and know what that scent is. I normally have them set up for easy access off a trail and always use the same trail in and out. I even go so far as to try to access the areas at the same time every week. Bait sites will see a big increase in usage in early August, especially by mature bucks. Again, I am a big believer in only using Black Flash cams and have seen a tremendous jump in mature bucks on cam since I switched over completely. August is a great time to inventory your bucks, and you will get most of them on a well-placed bait area.
Now, what about those bucks that are around but just are hard to get pics of? They exist, and there are some certain percentage of bucks that will not come to a baited area and may even spook away. Mineral licks will get deer that a baited area will not, even in the same area. It pays to have as many sites as possible without too much of a disturbance. I have personally seen areas 300 yards apart that will get entirely different bucks all summer long. Remember they are mostly in small summer areas. One last thing is I don’t mix mineral and food, once a site is working keep things the same. I have seen sites go completely dead when a different type of mineral is put out. If it’s working, keep it consistent.
Now I know many guys say "Why even bother, it’s nice to see, but most of those bucks will be long gone by hunting season." I say not so fast on that. I will give you many bucks do move especially when velvet sheds, but a high percentage do not. I have seen a majority of August bucks still in the area come fall, now it might be 400 yards away, but they are around.
Trail cameras are the most significant advancement in scouting for deer in the last 20 years, and if you don’t have them out all summer, you are missing a vast amount of information that could help you come this hunting season.
Still shots via Whitetail Habitat Solutions