Scouting velvet bucks during the dog days
It’s a phenomenon worthy of its status among serious deer hunters…
the transformation a buck goes through during the antler-growing season. Within the deer family are the only animals with antlers, and antlers are the fastest growing tissue on earth. Growing up to a ½-inch per day, watching these velvet summer beauties is major preparation and excitement for cooler days ahead. Trail cameras are one of the best ways to accomplish this.
Monitoring the Deer
During the summer, bucks are in their most relaxed, social mode. When you find one buck, you often find several as they hang out in bachelor groups. Even though they are so relaxed, just like during hunting time, it’s important not to tromp on their territory too much. Be ‘invisible’ to them as much as you can. Check your trail camera no more than every two weeks. I’ve heard of some people checking their cards every day or every few days. While someone might get lucky on a decent buck, it’s not about the bucks you get on camera… it’s about the bucks you don’t get on camera. A mature buck is not going to stand for the pressure and will scare and move out of the area.
The same goes for your camera. A white-flash trail camera is a big no-no when it comes to dealing with whitetails. While many still swear by it because they get plenty of deer on trail camera, again, it’s not about the ones you get on camera, it’s about the ones you don’t. Most of your mature bucks will scare and you’ll likely never see them again. When it comes to deer, use an infrared trail camera so you don’t have the bright white flash. When you are using a trail camera for deer to hunt, it’s not always about getting the best photo, it’s about getting photos of bucks without them knowing you are there, for the most part, and keeping them around.
Luckily, this time of year it’s easy to avoid the deeper deer territory and still monitor your bucks. Instead of scouting in the timber, many bucks can be found in open fields, often feeding in the evening. This allows you to set your trail cameras at locations, such as away from the timber or only at timber edges, so you can have easier access and not put pressure on the deer before hunting season.
Beans are the most common source to find bachelor groups; however, hayfields, especially alfalfa, are also popular. If you’ve had a dry spell of weather with extreme heat, a watering hole is also an excellent choice. When you can find a location near food, water and shelter, we call that a ‘hot spot’ to put your trail camera as it covers all the deer’s needs and drives bachelor groups.
Mineral is another important factor of summer. During this time, bucks are growing their antlers and those nutrients are being pulled out of their bodies. They desperately need additional nutrients and by providing mineral, you can not only help them, but also help yourself locate them. Does also need the mineral after giving birth and nursing to fawns, and it can benefit a young deer’s structure and growth as well. When in a large field, setting up your trail camera on a mineral site will help draw the deer to your camera.
When setting up a trail camera on a field, walk the edge to find your best trails and deer sign to help pinpoint some movement. Also think about your background. Since the bucks travel in groups, you’ll often have more than one deer in the lens. Point the camera toward your best chance of catching more deer also in the field, and if in a bean field, it can help to have the camera set to ‘skyline’ your bucks so you can still see their racks clearly even in dark evening photos.
When checking your trail camera, do so in “off” times, such as in the middle of the day. In the heat of summer, it is less fun for you at this time, but you won’t be scaring the deer away as if you check in the early mornings or evenings. The deer are also trying to beat the heat, so this is when they’ll be visiting the fields. ~JP