Opening day of deer season is less than two months away for bowhunters, and three months away for gun hunters. That sounds like plenty of time; however it is very easy to get a late start on scouting. For a chance at a successful opening weekend of deer hunting, one must find the deer and pattern the deer.
One hunter’s advice I listened to a few years ago when asked about his secret to success was obvious and clear. Hunt where the deer are. That kind of says it all. Scouting is the process in which we find out that very thing.
This year one of the places I have to hunt is planted with soybeans. That makes it an ideal area to bring in deer. Sure enough, after checking the edges of the field I found plenty of tracks. After back tracking the trails I located points of entry from the woods to the field.
The next step is to determine when the deer are coming to the field and to catalog what deer are available. The easiest way to obtain this information is through the use of trail cameras. Trail cameras come in several varieties. Just a few years ago cameras were separated into two types; film and digital. Now nearly all trail cameras are digital for two reasons. The first is film became expensive because it was a one-time use because of processing and if there was an abundance of game and movement, a roll of film would disappear on the first night. Second, film is pretty much obsolete now as digital cameras and cell phone cameras have taken over the market, much the same way compact disc destroyed the market for cassette tapes and records.
Trail cameras are now separated into flash and infrared styles. Flash cameras tend to burn through batteries quicker and are more invasive. They also invite theft as the flash can be seen clearly in the dark. Infrared cameras are less alarming to both animals and humans. They also can burn through batteries depending on the settings due to the number of photos it can take. The fact is, without the flash, the deer tend to stay in the area longer.
Where the camera is set up also determines the types of pictures you can get. Since I have just started using the camera this season my goal is to see what I have and when they come through. For this, I have set the camera near their entrance point to the field and baited the site with corn. This will show me when the deer are coming out to feed and how long they are staying in the area. It also accomplishes the other goal of cataloging what deer are in the area.
If you are a trophy hunter, the advice changes slightly. Instead of hunting where the deer are, you need to hunt where the big bucks are. That is where the cataloging comes in. I am not hunting just for trophy bucks, but I would like to take one in velvet. That only leaves the opening weekend or two as viable opportunities before the bucks start removing the velvet from their antlers. Seeing what deer are in the area also gives me an idea of the buck/doe ratios and the number of fawns born during the spring.
Over the next few weeks, the camera will be moved to different locations in order to find the best area to set up a stand to hunt deer during legal shooting times. If done properly, scouting with the use of the trail camera can show you both where to hunt as well as where not to.