Using Trail Cameras to Scout Core and Non-Core Area Bucks

Start seeing more bucks in the stand by employing this simple trail camera concept. 

By: Jeff Sturgis

Trail cameras are arguably one of the most versatile tools to locating and pattering a target buck. With the improvements of trail camera flash styles, battery life, and and overall efficiency trail cameras are a must for any serious hunter. 

So now that we have a trail camera how do we harness the full potential of these little deer scouting machines? 

We reached out to Jeff Sturgis and asked him to share his knowledge and opinions to start seeing more bucks on trail cameras and ultimately from the tree stand. 

Here's what he had to say:

Trail cameras allow me to fairly conclusively place bucks into 2 categories, including Core or Non-Core bucks.

Core Bucks

A core buck is a buck that I capture pictures of, in and around shooting hours, at least 2-3 times per week. A core buck is likely bedding on or very close to the land, and I target those bucks any time there is a cold front in the forecast, all season long. As long as a core bucks is present, you should be hunting him. The one time a core buck is not as predictable, is during the peak rut or late season feeding patterns. You should never wait until the peak rut to hunt a core buck, because he has a 50:50 chance of traveling on your neighbor's at that time.

Non-Core Bucks


A non core buck is a buck that you capture infrequent, nighttime pictures of. An example could be 1 picture in late September at midnight and a couple other pictures in early to mid October at 11 pm and 3 am.

That particular buck isn't nocturnal and just sitting near the camera waiting to get up in the middle of the night. Instead, a non core buck likely lives at least a 1/2 mile to a mile away or more, in his core area. In his core area he already has his desired amount of Fall food and cover, as well as nearby doe family groups. He will often not leave his core area unless he is pressured out of the area by hunters, or during the peak to post rut phases when he has exhausted his rutting efforts in his own core habitat.

You should always preserve stand locations to hunt a non core buck, until the peak and post rut phases, possibly the gun season opener and during late season feeding patters (if you have significant food).

Trail cameras have specifically allowed me to scout core and non-core bucks since the late 90s, with over a 90% success rate on harvesting specific target bucks in several states. By determining where a buck's core area is, I expect to be able to hunt that buck at specific times of the season, during a specific time of the day and in a specific stand location. Using trail cameras (and buck sign) to determine a buck's core status, allows me to create an extremely effective and efficient plan of attack on any buck in the neighborhood.

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