Best Trail Camera Strategies for Your Summer

Trail Camera Strategies to Start This Summer

 

If you’re anything like us, you eat, sleep, and dream about deer hunting throughout the year. If there is a winter storm coming through, we’re thinking about the rut. If we’re sweating through a summer heat wave, we’re thinking about how to get ready for opening day. If that describes your lifestyle too, you probably also enjoy watching deer throughout the year by using trail cams. There’s just something special about trail cameras and how you can stealthily keep track of the deer herd on your property without them having a clue. Sure, you could start glassing fields or summer food plots in the evenings, but that takes more time than most of us actually have. Plus, you might not have any fields near you; maybe you hunt deer in a big woods setting where you can’t easily watch wildlife. These are the situations where having a few hunting cameras hung in key spots on your property can make a big difference to your hunting strategies next fall. Here are a few trail camera strategies to get you started this summer.

 

 

Top Trail Camera Strategies for This Summer

 

It’s not quite as simple as just throwing out a few trail cams in the woods and seeing what walks by. Sure, you could try that approach and you might get to see some wildlife eventually. But to get the most pictures, to get high-quality pictures, and to get information that will actually help you next fall, you need to focus on putting your trail camera in a spot that focuses deer traffic. Here are the best trail camera strategies for the summer.

 

Food Plots/Agricultural Fields

Food plots are great spots for getting pictures of deer for a few reasons. One, does and bucks alike need lots of calories in the spring to bounce back from the stress of winter. Throughout the summer, they need the food tonnage to build up their body weight and grow antlers to prepare for fall. This means high quality, protein rich forage! If you live in a forested area with very little agricultural food available, a single food plot is even more attractive to deer and your results will be better. Since it’s so critical for their survival, it’s probably the best place to hang trail cams on these locations.

 

 

 

For larger agricultural fields (e.g., corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.), the best location for game cameras might seem like the middle of the field where you can see the most deer. But since deer are creatures of the edge and will usually have set travel patterns throughout the summer, the best spot is generally along the field edge near a dominant trail. For smaller food plots (e.g., clover, cereal grains, brassicas, etc.), you can place a trail cam on a post in the middle of the plot without any issues. But really it comes down to just finding a spot that concentrates the activity and facing the game camera in the right direction. One thing to keep in mind is that facing cameras any direction but north will inevitably produce some glare in pictures at some time of the day.

 

Bedding Areas

Another reliable spot to capture deer pictures on your trail cams this summer is around their bedding area. After feeding throughout the night in destination fields or browsing in cutover areas, deer will shift to daytime bedding areas to chew their cud and rest. Often does and fawns will rest near or even within feeding areas, while bachelor groups of bucks will bed further away. Taking a quick scouting stroll from feeding areas and along main trails can lead you to bedding areas. They’re often easy to spot because of the oval depressions in the grass or weeds. If you’ve ever tackled a few habitat projects on your property, hinge cuts are great bedding areas to check out.

 

If you’ve designated some bedding areas as deer sanctuaries that are strictly off-limits throughout the year, try installing trail cams along trails on the fringe of the sanctuary instead. Be cautious about checking them too much towards the end of the summer when you want to really hold deer in-place. The bugs will likely be bad enough to convince you to only go once or twice the whole summer anyway. More than likely, you’ll find some small bedding areas outside of these sanctuaries too that you can set and forget until the end of the summer.

 

 

Travel Corridors

Of course, any main trails and travel corridors between the two areas above are also great spots to intercept deer movement. With a little desktop scouting, you can easily map these areas and find good potential corridors, but you likely have a few tree stands already hung in these areas anyway. Clear out the herbaceous vegetation in a spot along one of these trails so that you can get a clear trail camera picture. These small openings can also make deer pause long enough for a good picture.

 

When it comes to positioning your trail cams along trails, the common instinct is to place them so that the camera is off to the side facing perpendicular to the trail. Unfortunately, unless deer are really slow-moving, your camera will likely trigger too late and you’ll only get pictures of their rear end – hardly useful from a hunting perspective. Instead, try positioning your camera facing up or down along the direction of deer travel. Granted, you’ll still get pictures of deer moving away from you half the time, but you’ll get pictures of deer facing the camera the other half of the time.

 

 

Mineral Sites/Mineral Stations

Throughout the spring and summer, whitetails love to get an extra dose of minerals from the soil and plants around mineral stations. Lactating does need extra minerals to support their fawns, while Bucks need minerals to build their bony antlers. If you keep the station going for a couple years, you can easily train deer to keep coming back to it as a seasonal mineral source since fawns will be raised to use it. Eventually, the stations often become huge craters where deer have eaten the soil away. Luckily, you can easily set up a mineral site by scraping the debris away and exposing the soil in a given spot. Then you can incorporate some crushed mineral into the top inch of soil or simply place a block or rock on top of it. You can even place it on a semi-rotting stump, which will slowly absorb the minerals as well. But that’s about all it takes to set a station up.

 

If you’re installing one of these sites expressly for pictures, it’s best to locate it in a shaded understory area. Pictures from trail cams along fields and exposed sites often suffer from lots of glare, which greatly reduces the quality of the photos. But pictures within shaded areas can turn out crisp and clear any time of the day since light doesn’t interfere.

 

 

Water Sources

The final place that works great for trail cams are water sources, especially when paired with mineral sites. After eating something salty, we all crave a drink of water – deer are no different. Deer crave sodium due to the high amount of water they get in their metabolism during spring and summer. However, as the summer progresses and other waterholes or creeks go dry, a small water hole next to a mineral site will pull deer in. If you have natural wetlands, ponds, or streams on your property, you can easily locate mineral sites near them for the easiest solution. If you don’t have any water sources, you can easily sink a bucket, small rubber tank, or kid’s pool into the dirt to let it fill with rainwater. You can keep it cleaner by simply refilling it once you check cams. During hot summers or in southern, more arid areas, water sources can be the absolute best place for a trail camera setup, since it is such a draw for them.

 

How to Hang Trail Cameras and When to Check Them

 Once you’ve identified the spots and trail camera strategies you want to install this summer, it’s time to actually get them out. As already mentioned, pay attention to the direction you face your cameras, as south facing cameras will get lots of unusable pictures with a heavy glare. The one time you can get away with south facing trail cams is if you are in a forested or heavily shaded area. One of the best trail camera tips you’ll hear is to check the batteries and then recheck them to make sure they are fresh. You should also generally clear out some of the tall weeds, grasses, and even some brush in the area so you can avoid lots of false triggers. It’s a really deflating experience when you check your camera to find 1,000 pictures and 900 of them are of swaying grass. You can change the sensitivity level on many cameras to reduce this problem, but it still doesn’t hurt to make a small opening in front of the lens. Bring a simple folding saw with you when you enter the woods so you can easily cut any obstacles down.

 

Depending on where you’re hanging trail cameras, you may want to leave a trail to get back to them. For new deer bedding areas in big woods spots, for example, consider putting out some trail markers or trail marking tacks to help you find them again. This isn’t a good idea on public land, obviously, as would-be thieves could follow your tacks/markers right to the camera. But it’s a nice option for private land.

 

 

As far as when or how often to check your trail cams, it’s a tough call. The less you check them, the less invasive it is and more discrete your spying will be. After all, if you set it and forget about it for a few months, you can basically guarantee that you won’t interfere with the natural deer movement on your property. On the other hand, if your camera malfunctions after only a week of being outdoors, you could miss out on an entire summer’s worth of intelligence, which is just a terrible feeling (we’ve probably all had it happen at some point). Besides, we all feel the temptation to check them weekly. It’s kind of like Christmas morning when you get your chip and start to glance through them on the computer. If you have fresh batteries and haven’t had any issues with your camera before, let it sit in the woods for a month or two at a time, if you can bear it. If you’re not sure about your gear or if the opportunity is too great, then you’ve got two options. You can either charge right in making lots of noise (e.g., starting a chainsaw once in a while, driving an ATV, etc.), which will push deer away well before you spook them at close range. Or you can stealthily sneak in with scent-eliminating clothing and rubber boots to be incognito. It’s up to you and how your property is managed.

Good luck with your cameras this summer. With any luck, you’ll get some great pictures of deer to help guide your bow hunting on opening day this fall!

 

shed hunting

Increase Your Shed Hunting Success with Supplemental Feeders

How Supplemental Feeders Can Help With Shed Hunting

We’re sure you’re aware of it at this point, but shed hunting season is definitely here again. You’ve likely been getting text messages or social media updates from friends or coworkers who have found a couple shed antlers already. You’re also probably itching to get out in the woods and start looking yourself. Shed hunting can make for a really great day in the woods, but it’s always a little better when you actually find something. If you have snuck out a few times already but haven’t found anything, your luck is about to change by using these shed hunting tips. Using supplemental feeders, where legal, is a great way to provide a calorie boost for deer in your area, but it’s also a great way to concentrate your shed antler hunt. The best time for finding sheds is rapidly approaching across the country, so it’s time to consider this strategy if you’re not already.

Best Time for Shed Hunting

As we mentioned, this is just about prime time for shed hunting. People across the country have been heading afield and returning with brag-worthy deer sheds for a couple weeks now, but the action is about to really step up in most places. When to start shed hunting can be a tricky question to answer since it varies so much, but most people believe that February is the best month to find them. Technically, you could find them from December through March, but February is right in the average, sweet spot time frame for ideal shed hunting times. These trips also work well as far as post season scouting goes.

When To Shed Hunt

 

If you start shed hunting too aggressively and too early in the season, there is the possibility of spooking deer to other properties where they could shed their antlers instead. But if you wait too long to look, on the other hand, squirrels and mice will chew them up before you find them. If you primarily look on public land, other shed hunters could also beat you to it.  When to shed hunt is a balancing act and it always has its risks. One way to mitigate these risks is to only check out feeding areas early in the deer shed season and to be extremely stealthy while doing it. Deer will likely be bedded away from food sources, so you should be able to sneak in and check for sheds without disturbing them too much. As prime time comes, you can start pushing your search into bedding areas lightly, as most bucks should have shed their antlers at that point.

 

Best Places to Shed Hunt

Whitetails spend most of their time either resting in a bedding area or feeding in a feeding area. It makes sense then that you have the best chance at finding a shed antler in one of these two areas. Sometimes you can get lucky by finding one alongside a trail, but usually that only happens if a buck glances an antler off of a branch in the process.

 

But if you don’t have a winter food source available on your land, this can be a bit of a problem. That should be a goal to address this summer by producing some late-season food plots for the deer. But for now, there’s a way to feed and attract the deer to your property, and that’s where supplemental feeders for deer come in. Muddy Outdoors® has a 200 pound gravity deer feeder that will feed deer securely on your land. It has a waterproof lid with a locking mechanism and the spring-loaded pan system helps distribute supplemental feed only if an animal disturbs it.

 

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

 

 

Supplemental feeders are attractive to deer because they offer a high-quality food source at a time when natural browse may be the only thing available to them. In addition, you get to choose what type of feed to use, whether you stick to simple cracked corn or high-protein feed specific for deer.

 

This concentration of deer feeding increases the chance that a buck would shed his antlers in the general vicinity. As he feeds off the pan system, he also might bump his antlers, separating them from his head in the process. While the Muddy Outdoors® feeder is not designed to be an antler trap, the support bars can act like one. In addition, you can hang a trail camera near the supplemental feeder and keep a watchful eye on the deer that come to it. When you notice the majority of bucks missing their head gear, you’ll know exactly when you should start really shed hunting hard and pushing into bedding areas.

 

increase-your-shed-hunting-success-with-supplemental-feeders-pic-2 (1)

 

 

Caution with Supplemental Feeding

While the option above seems like a golden solution to your shed hunting woes, there are some cautions you should take before doing it. First, feeding deer may or may not be legal where you hunt. Check your state’s hunting regulations or call a game warden to see whether you can or cannot feed them. The concern that some agencies have is that it can concentrate deer activity into such a small area and increases the chances of deer making nose to nose contact. This might not sound like a big deal, but it can increase the chance of spreading transmissible diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or others in prone areas.

 

Deer are curious animals in that their digestive system gets really good at digesting certain foods as the seasons change. For example, since woody browse is often the only food source in winter for many deer, their guts get really good at extracting everything it can from a mostly fibrous, low-nutrient food. When they rapidly switch over to eating mostly corn from a feeder, however, it can create confusion in the guts. The microorganisms aren’t there to really digest the corn, causing it to flow right through the system without giving any benefits. This essentially starves them. That being said, deer are adapted to different conditions across the country. Midwest whitetails near an abundance of corn fields will still probably eat enough corn that it won’t harm them to suddenly experience a feeder. But it’s a different story for big woods bucks that never see a kernel of corn. The key is to slowly introduce supplemental feeding so they don’t have the opportunity to essentially starve themselves. If you haven’t fed deer before and especially if you live in a primarily forested area, start introducing very small amounts in your feeder at first (e.g., 10 to 20 pounds) each week. If you slowly increase the amount you feed them each week, they should have time to develop their gut flora enough to digest the corn. Of course, time and cost are both considerations with supplemental feeding for deer. It takes time to fill a feeder each week, and the cost of keeping it stocked can be on the pricey side.

 

Is Supplemental Feeding Right for You?

This shed hunting season, consider whether supplemental feeding could be used on your property. For those it works for, it can be a really useful tool to pick up some extra deer antlers, and it can be a great way to concentrate those monster whitetail sheds you’ve been looking for.

 

Shed Hunting

Using Trail Cameras to Figure Out When to Start Shed Hunting

Increasing Your Odds at Shed Hunting with Trail Cameras

Deer hunting season has ended but another season is just starting. This season has tremendous interest right now, making it a sport all of its own. We are talking about shed hunting and its season is starting right now.

 

Whitetail deer sheds command huge paydays for those that find large and unique racks and are willing to part with them. More so, shed hunting has moved from a hobby, or an accidental encounter to the weekend hunter, to a necessity as more landowners take deer management seriously on their properties. Sheds also make for a nice trophy on the wall of that buck you have chased all season and expended time and resources for, even if you were unable to harvest him. Sheds also provide a record of what bucks have made it through and some information on what this season may potentially yield.

 

The Biology behind Antler Shedding

 

To understand antler shedding, we have to start with some groundwork on what buck antlers are. Antlers are composed of bone-like tissue that starts developing in early spring. The growth phase of antler development, which goes from early summer until fall, is where a buck’s antlers are covered in a soft membrane referred to as velvet. This velvet is a layer of nutrient rich blood vessels that supplies the resources needed to build the antler mass. The nutrients, such as amino acids, minerals, proteins and others, are what many hunters and landowners try to supplement throughout the summer to promote this growth and thus yield bigger antlers.

 

how-to-trail-cameras-for-shed-hunting_Pic1

Antlers will growth rapidly for two to four months. As fall approaches, due to photoperiods, the levels of testosterone start to increase. The increase in testosterone constricts the blood vessels around the antlers and eventually causes it to die. Remaining velvet falls off or more typically is rubbed off as a buck begins to prepare for the rut. What are left are the hardened antlers we are so interested in during deer season. Antlers stay with a buck until about the middle of winter then they drop off. This antler growth process is repeated each year for the buck’s entire life.

 

The antler shedding (casting) part of this cycle brings us to the biology behind shedding. The process, both the growth and casting of antlers, is controlled by photoperiods and testosterone. However, there are many factors that lead to either early antler drop or late drop such as injury and social stress. Often times these factors do not hold a significant role, which is why the shedding process happens generally the same time of year each year. The main for this again is the amount of light, or photoperiod, available at a given point in the year. During antler growth, testosterone levels rise (antler growth) towards a peak (loss of velvet) and eventually decline into as winter sets in, which signals the physiological response of antler shedding. To complete the cycle, daylight starts to increase as spring and early summer arrives and bucks begin their new antler growth.

 

When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

 

Traditionally, shed hunting season starts in February and wraps up around the end of March. Certainly, sheds can be found throughout the year and usually can be picked up during spring gobbler season if the rodents have not consumed them all yet. However, the main focus of shed hunting is in these two months.

 

While testosterone is the main factor controlling antler drop, there are several factors that can have an impact on how these testosterone levels can change. The stress put on a buck from environmental conditions such as extreme winter weather and also contributing factors like poor nutrition or injury can all lead to lower levels of testosterone and accordingly expedite the timing of when bucks shed antlers.

how-to-trail-cameras-for-shed-hunting_pic2

Bucks that shed their antlers earlier than February are typically more mature, dominant bucks. These bucks are apt to shed early because their dominance gets them more involved in the rut earlier and for a longer period of time than younger, less mature bucks. Due to this, they can be left depleted after the rut and stressed to a point where antler loss happens earlier than other bucks in a region.

 

Conversely, late antler drop can be influenced by several different causes. First, unbalanced deer populations can create an atmosphere where some does do not get bred during the peak of the rut. In these highly skewed deer populations, does are being bred during the second rut and beyond. Bucks hold their testosterone levels up in these areas, which leads to them delaying the shedding of their antlers until late March or April. Second, first-year fawns that reach breeding weight their first winter will come into estrous. This usually happens well after the peak rut and is the main driver of the second rut in many places. Again, situations like these will keep bucks high in testosterone longer, delaying the shedding process. Finally, high levels of competition for does can cause late antler shedding. Mature bucks that have to spare more frequently to breed does produce more testosterone, which results in a later loss of antlers.

 

Reasons to be Shed Hunting This Year

 

Besides the fact that finding sheds can be profitable if you are good at it, there are other reasons to be shed hunting this year. First, finding shed antlers can give you some information about the buck that carried them. The most obvious fact is that he is still alive. Sure, a buck that shed those antlers may still have a misfortune in the coming months but making it past hunting season is the biggest challenge. Aside from car collisions and a disease outbreak, the odds are pretty good whatever buck left those antlers will be around come next season.

In contrast, dropped antlers do not always connect to that buck living in the area. Finding a shed clearly shows that a buck has passed through here but depending on food availability, weather conditions and other factors, he may or may not be a resident buck. In areas with high-quality forage and lots of it, bucks stick around. The opposite is true when harsh winters reduce food sources and poor habitats that make bucks more transient. This is where post season scouting for deer is important. Finding a shed can help you focus post season scouting on potential hunting spots for next year.

 

how-to-trail-cameras-for-shed-hunting_pic3

Second, spending time shed hunting is important for deer management on a property. Those that shed hunt religiously can start to put together the growth trajectory of individual bucks. Finding the same buck’s sheds year after year can piece together what he may look like this coming year. Growth rates will vary each year but by scoring an antler shed, even just one side, and comparing that score to last year’s shed of the same buck can give you an average growth rate. This is an advantage in compiling, albeit early, a hit list for the upcoming season.

 

The Big Question | When to Start Shed Hunting on Your Property?

 

Since we are on the precipice of shed hunting 2017, when can you be sure it is time to venture out and look for sheds on your property? The best way to decide when to go shed hunting is to use trail cameras.

 

Trail cameras provide a means to monitor the timing of antler drop in your area. You can use cameras to pinpoint when most of the bucks have dropped their horns. Also, trail cameras can track a specific buck to find that white gold set that eluded you during hunting season. With trail cameras, you can scout an entire property and even multiple properties quickly and determine when to go shed hunting makes sense.

 

Shed hunting success is all about coverage. The more miles you put on the ground the greatest chance you will stumble across shed antlers. Trail cameras, however, can save you valuable time. When to shed hunt should be based on when the majority of bucks have started dropping. Use your cameras to identify when about 50% of bucks have lost their horns. Your odds of finding sheds will be much greater when you know most bucks have lost their horns.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Surveys vs. Shed Hunting Scouting

 

Similar to why you should be shed hunting, post season trail camera surveys are a way to find out what is the overall status of the deer herd in your area. The most efficient way to accomplish this is by running a trail camera survey.

 

how-to-trail-cameras-for-shed-hunting_pic4

A post season trail camera survey provides more valuable information than summer trail camera surveys. Results with surveys this time of year can be used for determining population estimates, age structure, sex ratios and herd health after the hunting season. All of which drive what management actions are needed this year.

 

The differences between a post season trail camera survey and using trail cameras for shed hunting are how the cameras are setup.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Survey Setup

 

  • 1 trail camera per 100 acres. Ideal but use your best judgment based on topography and how you have observed deer movements in the past.
  • 1 photo burst with a 5-minute The most important setting when conducting a trail camera survey.
  • Run the survey for approximately 3 weeks before pulling the cameras and proceeding with the analysis. 1 pre-bait week, and 2 weeks of actual data, making sure bait is present at the site during the whole 3 week period.

 

when-to-sehd-huntpic5

 

Trail Camera Setup for Shed Hunting

 

  • Scatter trail cameras in the best places for finding sheds like food sources and bedding areas. Often trail camera density goes over 1/100 acres. This is in order to get more encounters and pictures over the entire property
  • Use a 3-8 photo burst or video setting on your Muddy Pro-Cam 12 to narrow down which bucks are shedding and to identify bucks vs. does once shed.
  • Run survey until the last buck has shed and check trail cameras every few days to determine when to go shed hunting.

 

when-to-shed-huntpic6

 

Best Places to Hang Trail Cameras for Shed Hunting

 

Positioning trail cameras for shed hunting is very much related to where you would place tree stands for late season hunting. This time of year bucks have reduced their core area with a focus on three main aspects; food, cover and security. Knowing this can narrow down two main areas to concentrate your trail cameras for shed hunting.

 

Food sources are key areas for deer in winter and one of the best places to shed hunt. Even though bucks are moving less and relying on fat reserves, they still seek out places that have late season forage. Food sources like standing corn, beans and winter food plots will all be attracting deer. Deploy trail cameras on main deer trails coming to these spots to capture bucks as they shed their antlers. If there are no remaining agricultural food sources, do not give up. The main part of a deer’s diet in winter is woody browse. Use deer sign like tracks and scat to pick out these areas as potential spots for trail cameras and ultimately shed hunting.

 

The trails leading to food sources are likely coming from bedding areas. If you are trying to determine where to find sheds, start with bedding areas. Bedding areas are providing cover and security in winter. Bucks will spend most of their day in these areas. Southern slopes with thermal cover and easy access to food sources outlined above are perfect locations to place trail cameras and hunting for sheds.

 

how-to-trail-cameras-for-shed-hunting_pic7

Putting It All Together

 

There are numerous shed hunting tips out there but it really comes down to dedicating yourself to shed hunting. It is a combination of an art and a science. The art is taking your time, covering ground and being able to pick out even the slightest protruding part of an antler on the ground. Where the science comes in is using trail cameras to time the shed hunting season and to isolate the most likely places bucks are hanging out in winter. Combining these two will put more antlers in your pack and support your management decisions this season.

 

When do whitetail deer shed antlers? It is happening right now! There are some people out there that are naturals at shed hunting. If you are like most, however, you need some help when it comes to shed hunting season. It is ok to hike through the woods in the hope that you will find sheds, but a better approach is to have a plan. Using trail cameras to identify when to start shed hunting and areas that bucks are frequenting will vastly improve your odds when it comes to searching for white gold.

Positioning Tree Stands for Late Season Deer Hunting

Transitioning Tree Stands for Different Phases of Deer Season

Archery season is over and by this time many hunters have sighted in their rifles for the annual firearms seasons in most states. If you have not already harvested a buck, you are likely anticipating these remaining days in the woods. Anything from bad luck in your tree stands to a nocturnal trophy on your trail cameras may have lead you to this point. Either way, late season deer hunting is a whole different ball game.

 

This time of year deer have been pressured by other hunters, gone through the peak rut and are dealing with the onset of winter. A trifecta of changes that whitetails deal with and change their patterns because of. Deer hunting strategies, particularly stand placement, have to evolve over the course of the season to follow mature bucks through these changing times. Your stands from archery season are, most likely, not where they should be for late season whitetail hunting.

 

Phases of Deer Season

Seasonal phases of whitetails should influence how you hunt and where you hang your tree stands. These phases can occur rapidly, so understanding them and knowing how to change your stand locations is important. This general background on the phases of deer season will lead us to our objective of setting up late season deer stands and discussing other tips for late season bucks.

 

  • Phase One: Early Season

During the early season, whitetails are focused on food. Tree stands should be concentrated around food plots, agricultural lands and mast producing woodlands. This is also where your trail camera setups should be placed to gather as much knowledge of the local deer herd you will be hunting.

Does and younger bucks will move towards these defined food sources in the last hour or so of daylight. Early season deer hunting stands placed downwind and at a point where you can access them with little to no disturbance are usually good bets for meat hunting. However, more mature bucks are going to be feeding in the early morning hours or after sunset. Here you want stands positioned near staging areas. These areas can be small food sources between bedding areas and the main food source or habitat features like saddles or wood rows where bucks will hang out until entering the food source.

 

Additional Content: Mock Scrapes in the Early Season

 

  • Phase Two: The October Lull

Not long after deer season starts, deer seem to disappear. Full food plots and soybean fields quickly turn to ghost towns. The reasons for this drop in deer activity are debatable. The October lull can still be hunted but understand that deer are changing their patterns in response to food source changes and preparation for the upcoming breeding season.

Successfully hunting the October lull does not necessarily mean a change in tree stand placement but rather a change in hunting strategy. Focus on hunting cold fronts, sitting all day and finding acorn crops. Since the rut is looming, the last thing you want is to over hunt a good area and ruin it for the rest of the year, including rifle season. Avoid hunting tree stands in prime areas and save them for later in the year. Hunt, or move, stands near bedding locations and heavy mast areas for your best chance in this phase.

Additional Content: Hunting the October Lull

 

  • Phase Three: The Pre-Rut

As October comes to an end, the October lull gives way to the onset of the rut. Pre-rut bucks are actively out producing rubs, scrapes and defining territorial boundaries. These signs are useful in how to pick a tree stand location. Setup along active scrape lines and ambush points for bucks working rub lines.

Bucks are active in this phase and daytime sightings are common. They will be clearly staying within their defined home range but out during shooting hours and harvestable with the right tree stand placement.

Additional Content: Hunting the Pre-rut

 

  • Phase Four: The Rut

The time every hunter looks forward to is the rut. Does are coming into estrus, bucks are chasing and the deer movement throughout the day picks ups. This time of year, usually around the first week of November through December (varying depending on your location and a host of other factors), is when you should have tree stands up in major travel corridors. Doe movement in these areas will have bucks following. Rut hunting 101 says stay all day in your stands because the mature buck’s schedule is completely out the window. He can appear alongside a doe or be called in at any time and if you are not in stand it is an opportunity missed.

Additional Content: Rut Hunting 101

 

  • Phase Five: Lockdown

The chase is over and bucks have their pick as most does are now in estrus. Mature bucks will lay with does anywhere from 24-28 hours until breeding is complete. Thus, mature bruisers are likely vacant from an area for a few days, leaving only younger bucks still searching for a mate available to harvest.

Emphasis hunting tree stands near thick cover and other doe bedding areas while hunting the lockdown phase of deer season. Be patience as a buck will eventually come out of lockdown and move again in search of another doe.

Additional Content: Hunting the Lockdown

 

  • Phase Six: Post Rut

Buck activity picks up slightly as mature whitetails seek out the last remaining does that have not been bred.  Stand placement in the post rut hinges on those same areas you hunted during the peak of the rut, such as main travel areas and funnels. Travel thoroughfares are likely spots to catch a mature whitetail pursuing an unbred doe.

Food sources also come back into play when hunting post rut bucks. Deer, in general, are depleted and are looking to regain calories lost over the course of the last month or so. Cold fronts play a role here as the bulk of winter months are looming. Acorns and remaining agricultural fields are good tree stand locations generally but especially as cold fronts approach your hunting location.
Additional Content: Hunting The Post Rut

These phases of deer season are not a complete, definitive guide by any stretch. Each phase is far from having a clearly drawn line or timeframe from which one can decipher the end of one phase and the start of another. However, they do put into perspective the idea of how a whitetail changes during the course of a hunting season and some basic approaches to deer stand placement strategy over the course of the season.\

 

Late Season Deer Hunting

With the rut behind us or perhaps just finishing up, the rest of the hunting season can be lumped into what is called the late season. Sure, some second rut activity may start up here and there but for the most part, rutting is over and bucks and does are back to turning their attention to food sources. Hunting bucks late season often marks the start of rifle hunting in most states. Late season stand placement either means transitioning your tree stands back to early season areas on low-pressure properties or focusing on pressure points near food sources for pressured deer.

Whitetail 101 Episode 17 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

 

With the rut concluding, bucks are back to food sources. The need to replenish reserves for the looming winter are great. The catch is, food has changed since the beginning of deer season (phase one). Somewhat unlimited forage has been cut, picked or killed off by frost by this time in the year. December and the months ahead until spring leaves mature whitetails with fewer options to fill up on. Mast producing areas and winter food plots are prime areas to target for late season deer hunting. Also, areas with remaining standing corn or cover crops like winter wheat or rye can also pull deer out.

 

positioning-tree-stands-for-late-season-deer-hunting-pic1

Trail cameras are going to be very helpful to identify which food sources bucks are using. The colder temperatures synonymous with late season hunting can push bucks into food sources earlier in the day, earlier than you have seen them all year. With trail camera tips for late season deer hunting, you can effectively mark these timings and position late season deer stands accordingly.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – Food Sources

 

 

  1. Inside corners of food plots or fields are used by mature whitetails to enter and feed in food sources. Setup down wind, preferably in a tree stand on a bottleneck just off of the field.
  2. Habitat hubs are places where two or more ridges, wood strips or creek bottoms converge. If you can find one of these stops on a known buck’s travel cycle (think bedding to food) with your trail cameras you are in business.
  3. Defined edges can be anything from a change in timber types (oak to pines) to a cut field edge along an oak stand. Either way, deer will travel edges, especially around mast producing areas to pop out into food sources.

 

Another late season deer hunting tactic during this “last phase” of deer season is going to be pressure areas. If you are hunting on public land, rifle season is going to see an increase in hunter pressure. Deer, especially bucks, are not going to wander out into open oak flats or fields to feed with hunters roaming around. The pressure will have them forced back into heavy cover areas adjacent to food sources. They will still feed but positioning tree stands will be much more important.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – Pressure Areas

 

  1. Heavy cover will hold bucks that have been pressured out of their normal routines. Transition tree stands to areas that are adjacent to reliable food sources.
  2. Off the grid is a late season deer hunting tactic to find undisturbed bucks away from any late season hunting pressure. Hang a stand deep in the backcountry or on a farm that has not been hunted, along well-used
  3. Alternative food sources are places for stands that can relieve some late season pressure. Instead of sitting over a food plot, look for cut corn fields with some standing rows or groups of hickory or beech that will draw in deer.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tree Stand Placement – The Right Tree

 

Late season bucks require transitioning your archery stands to late season locations. Those who blindly hunt in stands without understanding tips for late season bucks will have a mediocre hunting season at best. Once you know where to move your stand, a good tree to put it in makes all the difference.

 

Tree stand setup tips should include a tree that is:

 

  • downwind of where you expect to see deer or where they will be coming from.
  • as far as possible off of the hunting area, food, sign, travel areas, etc. as you can comfortable shoot successfully.
  • multiple stemmed for concealment and positioning accessories.
  • large enough in diameter for good stand placement

Trophy Pursuit: Persistence from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

Late Season Deer Hunting Tips

 

Changing up your tree stands in the late season for whitetails is only part of being successful. Your strategy also has to adapt as deer are looking winter right in the eye. After you have your stands positioned for the late season, here are a few hunting tips to increase your chances on a mature late-in-the-year buck.

 

  1. Hunt late. Buck activity coupled with the cold temperatures makes it more productive to spend your time hunting the afternoon and evening rather than the early morning.
  2. Practice shooting, again. Range time is great over the summer but remember that late season deer hunting will have you shooting with heavy clothes and gloves on. If you have not already practiced shooting in these situations pre-season, then hit the range again before you sit in your stand with a rifle.
  3. Weather watching. Whitetails will be motivated by storm fronts so keep an eye on the weather and plan hunts around approaching and departing winter storms.
  4. Keep checking trail cameras. Vital information can be observed from late season game cameras. Keep them up and checked regularly to pinpoint where to ambush that hold over buck.
  5. Explore new areas. Late season is a good time to grab a mobile tree stand and explore some new hunting spots. Setup when you come across good sign (trails, scat, old rubs, etc.) and use it as an opportunity to also find a new spot for next year.

 

In the end for those of us still in the woods with an empty tag, late season whitetail hunting is all that remains until we cap yet another hunting season. Successful or not, each hunting seasons has its ups and downs. Pressured, tired bucks require a different approach such as transitioning tree stands and thinking about late season hunting strategies. Late season deer hunting is not for the faint of heart. But, these late season tips can be your ticket to success if you still need to fill a buck tag.