Trail Camera Tips and Tactics for Summer-Time Bucks
Author: Chad Alan Jones
When it comes to getting inventory on which bucks are in your area during the summer, camera location is everything! Sure, you can put a camera out on the edge of a field, but if that field doesn’t contain a food source then don’t be surprised if you're left with an empty SD card when you go to check it. I have spent many years and more time than I care to admit to figure this out. Within this time, I have been able to craft my own system and how I am able to pattern these deer to better my odds come opening day. Here are just a few of my tips and tactics that will hopefully better your chances at being successful!
Food Plots/Agricultural Fields
Food is king for deer and always will be. Food plots and agricultural fields are ideal spots for getting pictures of deer in the area. While bucks are in bachelor groups, they will provide great insight on the caliber of deer that will be roaming around once they disperse from hanging out together. During the summer, bucks need the food to build up their body weight and grow antlers to prepare for the fall. This means high-quality protein rich food! If you live in an area with very little agricultural food available, then planting your own food plot might be your best option. Once you have a field that is producing an edible source of food, then put a camera on the edge of the field as deer like to travel on the edges. I prefer cellular cameras so that I don’t have to physically check the SD card, as you do not want to pressure deer on a food source. I found that when I did this, I only got nighttime pictures of the bucks. I also point the camera facing north as that is the direction least affected by sun glare in the mornings or evenings.
Mineral Sites/Mineral Stations
During the summer, whitetails crave extra minerals! Lactating does need extra minerals to support their fawns and bucks need minerals to build their antlers. So if you decide to make a mineral station, be sure to check your laws ensure that it is legal in your area. Placing crushed or rock form minerals are a great way to capture good pictures of deer. Some of the biggest deer that I have gotten pictures of every summer are mainly coming to mineral sites.
Finding a reliable water source is highly beneficial during the brutally hot weather. Deer will seek out that water hole even if they have to travel further distances to get to them. Place a camera on a tree or on a post overlooking the water hole. You will more than likely get pictures of just about every deer on property at some point. If you don’t get many pictures at the water source, then that tells you there is another option for water nearby that they are utilizing instead.This will quickly tell you to go ahead and move your camera to another location.
Another reliable spot to capture deer pictures on your trail cams this summer is around a bedding area. After feeding throughout the night in destination fields or browsing in cutover areas, deer will move to daytime bedding areas to digest their food and rest. Does and fawns will rest nearby or within feeding areas, while bachelor groups of bucks will bed further away. Once you have located their bedding locations, install cameras on the outer perimeter. If possible, use cellular cameras so that you don't have to go in to check the SD cards and pressure the deer. I also recommend spraying an insect killer on the camera so you don’t have spiders building webs on the lens of the camera. This can force you to go back in to where the deer are bedding to remove it. If you go into a bedding area too many times, it will force the deer to move. This could cause your entire hunt plan for the fall to change. It can even cause you to change blind and stand locations.
Of course, any main trail and travel corridor between the two areas above are great spots to intercept deer movement. With a little scouting, you can easily find these areas and find good locations to place a camera to capture what is using the trail.
When it comes to positioning your trail cams along trails, the common instinct is to place them so that the camera is off to the side facing perpendicular to the trail. Unfortunately, unless the deer are really slow-moving, your camera will likely trigger late and you’ll only get pictures of their rear end. Be sure to place your camera at roughly a 45 degree angle off of the trail so that you can get good pictures of the entire deer as they are walking by. The best thing to remember when placing the camera for this, is to try and capture as much of the trail maximizing your chances of getting full pictures of the deer.
Just remember that when you are placing cameras be aware of your surroundings. Is there tall grass or limbs hanging that could trigger the camera to take pictures when it’s windy? Cut the grass and limbs down to ensure you don’t get 5000 pictures of nothing. Is the area in a spot that occasionally floods? If so, make sure you place that camera high up on a tree so that you don’t end up with a camera underwater. Is the camera on property that has issues with trespassers? Invest in security cables, lock boxes or place them well above the line of sight in trees so they can’t be easily discovered. Most importantly, are you putting the camera over a bait site? If so, be sure to use a high storage capacity SD card and prepare to chew thru batteries at a pretty rapid rate. You will have pictures of every animal on the planet coming to the bait. My recommendation? Put your camera settings on a two picture blast every three minutes. This can vary depending on the amount of traffic you are seeing.
I hope you are able to utilize some of these tips and tactics to capture some high quality images of a buck you're chasing with aspirations to end up on the wall!
- Chad Alan Jones
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