By Josh Profitt
If you are anything like me, whitetails never leave your mind. It's a habitual mind game and puzzle to figure out, if you will, that fills my thoughts 365 days a year! And that drives my wife crazy! Replaying old hunts and the memories made, the successes as well as the mistakes I've made along the way - it all leads back to one thing......THE CHASE! The chase keeps me coming back for more, time and time again. Well, that and the mental game of trying to figure out the every move of these night walking , racked animals we call "target bucks".
I've been chasing whitetails for over 25 years now and people often ask me, why or how I do what I do. As most serious whitetail hunters do, I like to keep my hunting secrets and locations in my hip pocket but I will say there are 3 things that I depend on the most. As I call them....The tried and true of my hunting game.
The first is my "woodsmanship". In 25 years, a man can make a lot of mistakes, learning from those mistakes is what separates great hunters from average hunters and average hunters from poor hunters. Whether you're a fast learner or fast at making mistakes, learning how to adapt and make the proper changes to prevent the same mistakes from happening over and over is key to becoming a better woodsman. There are some things in life that are learned in time, some learned by experiences, and others are learned by simply putting boots on the ground. My woodsmanship has been learned through all three and I've tried by best to retain a thing or two along the way.
The second tried and true to me is my bow. A couple of years ago I picked up a Trad bow to make things a little more challenging for myself and I've yet to put it down. Don't get me wrong, it's important for you as a hunter to do what is best for you, use the tool that you feel comfortable with while in the field. I personally just wanted to set a goal for myself and achieve something I've never done, it may not be for everyone and that's completely fine. I value the heritage of hunting, it's literally my greatest passion and I wanted to feel that in my soul with every pull back of the string and release of the arrow.
The use of trail cameras is my 3rd most dependable ally. If ranked by most importance, I'd say the use of trail cameras are my most valuable asset by far. I started running trail cameras when they were big, bulky and used 35mm film with D cell batteries.....If that tells you anything. I've tried just about every brand of camera on the market and over the years I've built an arsenal of over 40 cameras on one large tract of public land. It's no surprise I'm an Exodus fan, not only because of the products themselves but also because of the company and what they stand for in the hunting industry. You won't find a better camera, a better company or better guys to stand behind their product.
I may be starting to sound like a guru, whitetail pro, or whatever you want to label it but I'm just an ol' boy from Kentucky that loves to hunt. I've been blessed over my lifetime to achieve some success and I humbly want to share of the my steps and methods I use to move in on Target bucks year after year.
Plan your work and work your plan
First, I start with a game plan. Rolling into early summer when the temperature starts rising so does the anticipation of velvet bucks; What bucks made it through the previous hunting season and what new bucks will show up. Its always good to have a solid game plan to help maximize time efficiency. The baseline of having a game plan is being organized.
For me being organized starts with my trail cameras. I like to start out by numbering every camera, along with two SD card's with the same number as the camera. Camera #1 gets card #1. I apply passwords to all my cameras and a fresh set of batteries along with a cable lock.
While my cameras are soaking, I take the time to digital scout. I look for food sources and bedding areas. This not only helps me define areas to run my trail cameras but also really helps cut down on foot travel and time.
Generally, I leave most of my cameras in a similar location/area or on the same tree all season but I do keep 5 to 8 cameras ready to relocate on fresh sign, scrapes, rubs, and hot travel corridors used only during the rut. This will help keep your curiosity levels at bay. This, in my opinion, is where you should use your cellular cameras if you have them. You should be scouting along the way into these areas attempting to find fresh sign for these mobile cameras. In my opinion during the rut MRI can be key and this is a great way to obtain it with trail cameras.
Do's and Don'ts - Based on my experience and opinion
We all make mistakes and that's one of the best ways that we learn. One of the biggest mistakes I see is when people trust there cameras over their own judgement. A trail camera is a tool to help find and pattern game, but it should never take the place of your woodsmanship or be the end all be all. Trust your gut! More often than not, I see hunters checking their cameras too often. when a photo of an animal is taken, that data is already past tense, so what is the big rush to check it? Let the cameras "bake" for longer periods of time. This cuts down on human presence and scent which will in turn provide less accurate data.
Save your money over time and buy quality cameras and batteries. One quality camera is better than three cameras that give false impressions of what's actually gong on in the woods. Buying lithium batteries saves money in the long run and is like a shot of nitrous for your trail cameras. Generally, when running lithium batteries they will last a full season in photo mode. They also ensure better night time images at longer distances.
Back to being organized...I organize all my photos using DeerLab. Choose whatever filing system that works best for you but DeerLab allows me to gather information over time, tracking that info by date, time, and location. This changes the game for me and give me the history/annual data I need to hypothesize to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The time and effort put in is greater for me than simply looking at a photo of a big buck and not doing anything else with that intel.
Thanks for reading!
Josh Profitt - Exodus Blackhat