Using Trail Cameras To Pattern Bucks
Trail cameras are in the process of revolutionizing hunting. No longer do we have to spend countless hours of scouting to pattern bucks in our hunting area. A couple good trail cameras will do much of the work for you without disturbing your hunting grounds with too much human presence. Thereís a lot of information on trail cameras throughout the web, but too much of it is commercial looking to sell you cameras and not how to use trail cameras to best pattern the deer in your areas. In this article on trail cameras we wonít try to sell you anything. Our goal is to help you pattern deer better to increase your chances of success all with the help of trail cameras.
As a young hunter I always attempted to pattern the deer in my area, but like many other hunters I made one huge mistake in my thinking. You see like many I wanted to pattern the buck I was after down to the moment. As in at 5:00 tonight heíll be coming down this trail at which time I can shoot him. The truth is patterning bucks at best is knowing what areas and trails he like to frequent and which deer in the heard he will probably be running with. Trail cameras will give you this information, but nothing is guaranteed.
To say Mr. Buck will be coming down this trail at a given time isnít realistic and thatís where a number of hunters make their mistake in trying to pattern bucks. Deer are very unpredictable animals and keep in mind if that buck was spooked just once during the day heís entire already unpredictable schedule is now thrown off. Using Trail Cameras To Pattern Bucks For the purpose of this article weíll assume your trail cameras have already identified for you the buck youíre after. Now that the trail cameras have shown you this buck itís up to you to use the cameras to give yourself the best chance of being at the right trail and at the right time to field your trophy.
You might notice I keep saying cameras and not camera. A single trail camera will provide you some good results, however having multiple trail cameras will help you pattern much better, particularly by using the time and date stamps and logging all activity on your computer or tablet. Thankfully with each passing year trail camera prices continue to fall while the trail cameras themselves get better and increase in technology.
Some hunters use their trail cameras in the fall right up until rifle season and I must admit I was one of them at first. A couple of years ago I learned thereís more to scouting with trail cameras than just the second half of the year. By having a couple cameras set out throughout the year Iím able to monitor the entire heard in my two hunting areas.
Immediately after hunting season is when I get some of the best information off my scouting cameras. Itís that time of year we are asking ourselves which of the bigger bucks in the area survived hunting season and which filled somebodyís tag. Some of these big bucks appear to disappear for months after the season leaving a lot of hunters believing they may have been taking by someone from out of town. Having my trail cameras set up immediately after the season has answered that question several times now and seeing one of the already trophy bucks in the winter just after the season has ended leads to day dreams of how big heíll be next year as I zero in on his patterns with my trail cameras.
By using my cameras throughout the year Iím also able to monitor which deer are the leaders and which are subordinate. One of the keys to patterning deer with trail cameras is knowing which deer are most likely to be together. Bucks may not be the best of friends during the rut however if two bucks are known for being around one another then chances are they will be in the same general vicinity even during the rutting season.
Another huge plus for using trail cameras year around is they allow you to know the herd in your area in particular which deer have a home base in your hunting grounds. Two years ago now a buddy of mine got a great picture of a monster buck off one of his trail cameras in late October. No one had seen the buck before and my buddy really thought he was on to something. We set up a couple of my cameras throughout his hunting grounds, however never did get any pictures of the buck. Since my buddy doesnít use his trail cameras all year what he didnít know is this buck was probably heavily in the rut and roaming through from a far off area looking to spread his seed into another group of does. My friend spent countless hours scouting a buck that could have been several miles away. If he had used his cameras throughout the year he would have known this buck wasnít part of the local deer herd and the fact he was able to get a picture of him off his trail camera was fluke.
The size of tree a buck chooses to rub or spar with is often a good indicator of deer and antler size. This isnít the case with scrapes. The size of a deer doesnít determine scrape size. Hereís where once again trail cameras will help you pattern deer. Your trail cams have given you all the information you need about the deer herd, but along comes the rut and the buck you thought you had patterned is acting different. You come across a line of very active scrapes, but are it from the buck youíre targeting or one of the other subordinate bucks. Placing trail cameras to monitor these scrapes should tell you within a couple of days if these scrapes belong to your buck or is one of the subordinates just trying to sneak in for a little action.
Keep in mind bucks will often return to the same scrapes year after year. Even if the line of scrapes you set your trail cameras up around didnít show the trophy you were looking for maybe next year the buck you caught at the scrape will be a lot bigger and letís not forget the year after that. This is one reason I heavily suggest you begin logging the activity from your trail cameras on a tablet or in your computer. Once you start building a little history from your trail cameras pictures youíll be able to pattern your trophy a lot better. Within a month or two of tracking your scouting camera pictures based off the cameraís date and time stamp you should begin to see a pattern develop of which animals will be where.
Yet another key to patterning is knowing how your Target Buck will react to pressure. Once again this is where scouting cameras will help you. Patterning deer might be considered easy during the summer when deer are feeling little if any hunting pressure, however come hunting season deer are likely to feel quite a bit of pressure. Monitoring this change in deer behavior is one of the most important ways to pattern deer.
You need to know where the deer are going to be when the pressure is on. You can do this by heavily monitoring trail camera activity during the early hunting seasons such as small game and youth hunts. Deer will be feeling the hunting pressure then and will react by going into different regions of your hunting area. By using your trail cameras with different set ups when you expect hunters to be in the fields youíll be able to pattern where the deer head in times of trouble. Trail camera activity on Saturday and Sunday will show you a different perspective as hunters hit the woods. Chances are any scouting camera photos you get Saturday evening will help guide you as to where deer are heading in times of trouble by knowing which they are coming from as the hunting pressure of Saturday drops off as night approaches.
Few of us have the luxury of having the woods to ourselves during hunting season so knowing how the deer will react to danger and what areas of your hunting area deer are most likely to head to during times of stress gives you a huge advantage when all bets are off.
Patterning deer isnít easy, but trail cameras will give you a huge advantage that past generations of hunters didnít have. Start out by using some of the simple ideas mentioned in this article and remember to plot all of the activity from your cameras and you will greatly reduce your chances of nailing that trophy buck this year all thanks to a little work and your trail cameras.
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