Tips & Tactics

Early Summer Trail Camera Strategies

Early Summer Trail Camera Strategies

By Mark Melotik

Spring is fading fast, and whitetail hunters will soon start thinking about a summer staple — trail cameras. To make the most of your early efforts to capture bucks on camera, we tapped some wisdom from longtime deer hunter and trail camera guru Tom Rainey of Browning Trail Cameras.

Q.  Lots of whitetail hunters will be getting their trail cameras in the woods by the end of June or early July. From our experience, this is one of the toughest times to capture mature bucks on camera. Agree or disagree, and why?
A.  I tend to agree it can be a challenge in that June-July window to get a lot of trail camera pictures and videos of mature bucks. Mostly because I don’t think they have to cover much ground to get through those months.
 They aren’t in rut, so they aren’t wandering around looking for does. The weather has warmed up, so they aren’t burning many calories and don’t need to travel to find as much food because the available browse suffices for most of their caloric intake. One of the few things in their daily routine during that window that will get them on their feet is water. And that’s because mature bucks need to consume a few quarts of water a day.
Q.  What are some of the best places to capture mature buck trail camera photos during June and July in typical farmland habitat?

A.  If, like most of us, you are really determined to get as much intel as you can during that time frame, I would seriously consider water sources. Mature bucks tend to bed close to a water source, and they will visit those sources to stay hydrated. It does not have to be a large water source; it can be something a small as a puddle. So if you’re not having any luck on one water source, you’ll want to monitor others for tracks to ensure you aren’t overlooking a spot.
 Other spots to consider in typical farmland habitat are maybe a good clover patch, or definitely a mineral source if they are legal in your state.

Q.  How about tips for the same time period, but this time consider big woods habitat?
A.  I tend to think big woods habitats can be a little bit more of a challenge, but I still think you can start by looking at water sources. In my area, there are a fair number of fresh water springs that feed creek beds throughout the summer. Also, if it is legal in your area to set up mineral sites, those are always a great option.

 Q.  What are some tips for checking non-cellular trail cameras to keep your hunting area as undisturbed as possible?
A.  First, I think scent control really matters, even this time of year. I use nitrile cooking gloves when handling any camera, battery or SD card. I also use scent-control sprays in the same space where I come and go. Rubber boots are a good idea, too. And making as little noise as possible seems to help.
 I also think it makes sense to limit how many cameras you set up in areas you don’t visit often. For example, I might trek off the beaten path with less than a handful of cameras. The rest will be in areas I typically travel. Whether it’s a field road on the edge of a tree line, a levee by a water hole or an old logging road we use regularly, I try to set most of my cameras in those spots because it’s not unusual for humans to be in those spaces. And even though it can be miserable, I recommend making your visits during the hottest time of day when most deer are bedded.
 Lastly — and I will understand if some people push back on this one — but in my personal opinion if you can visit those spots fairly frequently, I believe the deer become more familiar with the disruption. If you only go in there twice all summer to pull cards, they are definitely going to perceive an intrusion. But if you limit your noise and scent and be consistent in your visits — even if just once a week — I believe it offers a sense of familiarity and buys you a little margin for error when it comes to the scent and sounds you create.
 Q.  Any other tips for early summer camera success?

 A.  In general, I think the most important thing is to have a plan. When possible, use information from previous years to identify where you think mature bucks will be bedding, and start there. After you’ve given an area time to produce some good intel, don’t hesitate to move your cameras. Get a map, split it up into zones and do your best to evaluate which zone a buck lives in. Also don’t forget snippers and clippers. Leaves, weeds, branches and vines are likely to be in the way now. Trim them back and let those cameras go to work.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd