Early Season Success | How to Pattern Bucks with Trail Cameras and Pre-Season Scouting
In the dead of winter, it seems like the cold and the snow will never go away, each day longer and more treacherous than the last. While a warm fire or a cup off hot coffee on a cold winter day will always have a place in our hearts, the warm sunny glow and giant velvet racks that emerge with the summer months are constantly on our minds! Before you know it, the leaves will turn from green to red and yellow, bringing on the most sacred of seasons. Take advantage of the summer while it lasts by scouting velvet bucks to improve your chances at some early season success.
You’ve probably heard it said before, and it’s for good reason. Your first time in the stand is the best opportunity you will have to get a crack a mature buck. Yes, the rut get’s big bruisers up and moving and the late season gets them hitting the food sources consistently. However, what neither of these offer is an opportunity to pattern temporarily unpressured bucks with trail cameras and pre season scouting weeks before the first day of season. This opportunity, the time allotted to scouting velvet bucks, can mean the difference between holding on to your tag late into the season and wrapping it around a set of antlers on opening day.
Trail cameras have opened the eyes of hunters everywhere to the secret lives of dominant bucks. Before there existence, we could only guess as to where these deer were feeding after dark and what travel routes they were using to return to their beds in the morning. They have become our most valuable tool for patterning and scouting velvet bucks during the summer and throughout the season. To get the most out of your trail cameras in the early season, its absolutely necessary to learn how use them to pattern bucks in the summer and early fall.
Mid to late summer is a good time to get your cameras up and running. We put them over mineral sites and destination food sources where we know lots of deer are moving through. The bucks typically have some antler growth at this point, enough to get out blood pumping anyway. By checking them every few weeks, we can monitor the antler growth of bucks in the area and start to determine which ones are worth perusing during the early season.
When September rolls around, we hope to have pinpointed some bucks using a food source consistently. We use our knowledge of the property to try and guess where they are bedding and find a spot between their bed and the food to run a trail camera. Small staging area food plots are ideal for this kind of setup. This is the most critical time for patterning bucks and pinpointing their movement.
Cross your fingers and hope they stay on the pattern through the first day! Most opening days are right on the verge of bucks transitioning from their summer range to their fall range. You may just be in for a wild first hunt of the season. By scouting velvet bucks during the summer and using trail cameras to nail down a pattern, you can have early season success!