Holiday Gift Guide for Deer Hunters

The Deer Hunting Holiday Gift Guide You Need

Each holiday season, people spend an awful lot of time pondering what to get for family members and friends. While it’s good to be thoughtful about gift ideas, the process will be a lot easier when shopping for deer hunters if you use this holiday gift guide. And if you’re a hunter, feel free to nonchalantly leave this Christmas list somewhere your loved ones will notice it. Whether you’re looking for some new items for deer camp or simply want to add some new hunting gear to your collection, there are some great ideas in this hunting gift guide.

1. Pole Saw

For those with land to manage and tree stands to move around, having the right tools makes a big difference. Whether you have a limb blocking a shot from your tree stand or you just need to clean up some trees while doing timber stand improvement projects, the Muddy pole saw is the perfect companion. Its dual-purpose design allows you to use the serrated blade for larger branches and the pruners to cut smaller ones.

2. Trail Camera

Is there such a thing as too many trail cameras? We don’t think so, which is why it deserves a spot on this holiday gift guide. The Pro-Cam 16 Bundle provides everything you need to quickly put it out yet this winter or save it for next spring. Either way, the 16 MP camera takes great pictures or videos and the invisible flash doesn’t spook deer. This is a great hunting gift idea.

3. Shooting Bench

Having a sturdy and well-made shooting bench is important for sighting new rifles in or just plinking practice. The Extreme Shooting Bench has a steel benchtop and comfortable, padded seat, and the seat and top can swivel independently or in tandem. The rubber molded gun rest will keep your firearm sturdy and keep you on point. The bench is equipped with some interchangeable accessories, such as a gear hook, gear basket, and cup holder.

4. Safety Harness

If you’re willing to consider items on a holiday gift guide, there’s a reasonable chance you love the person you’re shopping for. What better way to show that than get a new safety harness for them? The Ambush Safety Harness is weighted for 300 pounds and should be used every time a hunter leaves the ground. As you do your holiday shopping, keep their well-being in mind.

5. Camera Accessories

If the person you’re shopping for wants to start filming their hunts, consider getting them a critical self-filming accessory: a camera arm. The Basic Camera Arm is a great introductory option for people to start filming their hunts. It is fully adjustable and has a quick-release mount to make things easier in the tree stand. A camera arm is a great gift idea for hunters.

6. Shooting Rail

When you have to shoot a rifle from a tree stand, it helps to have a shooting rail to keep you steady and improve your accuracy. The Muddy Universal Shooting Rail attaches to any tree stand setup and adds a layer of stability to help in that critical moment. This makes it the perfect tree stand accessory.

7. Seat

If you prefer to hunt from blinds (whether on the ground or in a tower stand), it can keep you more comfortable in different weather conditions. But to stay comfortable all day, you need a good seat. The Swivel Ground Seat is reasonably packable at only 15 pounds, and swivels 360 degrees so you can make the shot when needed. Since most hunters tend to opt for a 5 gallon bucket, this is a sure hit on this holiday gift guide.

8. Hunting Blind

If a swivel seat will impress, imagine their surprise if you got a new hunting blind for them. The VS360 blind sets up quickly and can fit a couple people comfortably. It has large windows with shoot through mesh and includes brush strips so you can quickly brush it in and disappear. Including hunting blinds on your holiday gift guide will quickly make you #1 on their list.

9. Game Cart

Depending on where you hunt and how close you can approach your hunting location, having a good way to get the deer out of the woods is an important consideration. The Mule Game Cart allows you to haul a 300 pound deer easily and the rubber coated handles make it more comfortable and ergonomic.

10. Lift System

Once you get a deer, it’s nice to have an easy way to lift it up to allow for easier skinning and butchering. The Magnum Lift System has a weight reduction pulley system to lift up to 500 pounds easily and by yourself. It has an automatic self-locking system to stop once you get to the height you need the deer.

Summertime To-Do List For Hunting Season

Getting Ready For Fall

It’s hot!  With heat indexes soaring near triple digits in much of the country, that last thing on your mind might be the fall deer hunting seasons.  Preparing for them shouldn’t be, however.  Regardless of the heat and humidity, if you expect to have success this fall, then you’d better get busy checking off the boxes on this summertime to-do list.

Trail cameras are a big part of your summertime to-do list:

As each day finds the buck’s antlers adding more inches, setting up and placing trail cameras is important if you want to know what kinds of bucks you have running around.  They will also let you know where they are – and are not – frequenting.

If you want to make your cameras a larger player in your summertime to-do list, be sure to place them strategically.  Water sources are always good places to set up a camera or two.  Beyond that, of course, look for well-used trails and set one up wherever you find one, especially if you find an area where more than one trail converge.  This will increase the number of pics you get, as this is an indicator that deer are coming from all areas your hunting property to this spot, or that it is a focal point in different travel routes for deer for some reason.

If you are lucky enough to find a licking branch, this is an absolute must for a camera.  And if you’re ahead on your summertime to-do list and already have all of your cameras set, pull one from somewhere else to place here.

If there has to be one thing to avoid on your summertime to-do list of setting out trail cameras, it would be to avoid putting them out in windy or weedy places.  If you do, every time the wind blows the weeds in front of your camera, or a leaf in front of it, it will snap a photo of nothing, and those get boring really fast.

One more no-no about trail cameras when thinking about your summertime to-do list is to try to avoid putting them in areas that will cause you to be too invasive in order to check them.  You don’t want to spook deer or allow them to pattern you before the season starts.

Scouting is a big part of any summertime to-do list:

Scouting doesn’t start as the season draws near; it should be a continuous process through the year.  Scouting in the summer is as good as any.  It allows you to identify travel routes and feeding areas that the deer are using when there is no hunting pressure, which can be invaluable for early season sits.

It also enables you to see how many, and what types of bucks, are hanging around.  Often, they are in bachelor groups this time of year, making getting an eye on them easier.

There is no need to go deep all the time on your summer scouting trips.  A lot of the time, you can spot bachelor groups of bucks and does feeding in crop fields from the road.  Or consider parking and walking a short distance to a fencerow, hill or other easy to get to spot where you can glass the area without tromping through the woods.

You’ll be surprised what a little scouting can do to improve your summertime to-do list, that even trail cameras can’t do for you.  Putting boots on the ground allows you to see well-worn trails, old rubs, and scrapes, identify water sources you may not have known were there and observe deer in areas where your cameras aren’t.  It also helps you pinpoint bedding areas, fence crossings and the like.

Treestand preparation and placement should be a part of your summertime to-do list:

A lot of people put it off until closer to the opener, but when going through your summertime to-do list, putting your treestands up and preparing them now should be on your list.

There are valid points to wanting to wait until closer to season to hang stands.  Deer patterns can change between summer and fall, requiring you to move a stand or two after putting them up, but overall, where you place your stands now will still be the right decision come fall.  For those always occurring instances where you notice deer using an area during the season where you don’t have one hung, keep an extra or two in the garage for just this reason, but you don’t want to wait until season approaches to hang them all.

If you have properly done your scouting and studied your trail cameras, you should already know where you need to hang them.

Sure, it may require torturous hikes through standing crop fields to hang them now versus later, but the extra work now will not only make you more prepared come fall, but it will also allow you to leave the area less disturbed as the season approaches.

 

Hanging stands, and all of the trimming, etc. that goes along with it takes a ton of time; time that really isn’t available as hunting season approaches when there are other things to do and get ready.  Doing it now may be hot and sweaty work, but will be so worth it come fall.

Besides just hanging a stand and trimming shooting lanes, think a bit deeper.  Add clearing brush, weed-eating or weed-killing entry and exit trails to your summertime to-do list also.  Obviously, this isn’t necessary for stands on field edges and the like, but for those hung in the timber, think about getting rid of as much of the debris as you can along the trail in order to make those calm morning entries as quiet as possible.

Food plots should be on your summertime to-do list:

That’s right, depending on what you intend to plant, summertime is the time to plant food plots if you intend to have any.

A wide variety of crops can be planted this time of year, so along with all of the other things, there are to do, planting food plots are another item on a summertime to-do list.

Plants such as beets, oats, tubers, alfalfa, and greens like brassicas are all best when planted in the summer heat.  They are heat and drought-resistant and come up in time to coincide with when you plan to be hunting over them.

Safety, the most important thing on your summertime to-do list:

With all of the important things to get done on the summertime to-do list, none are more important than safety.  Remember that.  Whether scouting, tending plots or hanging stands, practice safety first.  Never ascend a tree without the proper safety gear, such as a Muddy lineman’s belt, and never check or sit in stands without a Muddy safety harness.  Once stands are in place, secure a Safe-Line to the tree so that on your first hunt of the year, you will be tied in the moment your feet leave the ground.

Conclusion:

There really is no off-season when it comes to serious deer hunting.  In fact, if you do it right, there is a lot more work to be done now than once it’s time to be out hunting, so don’t let summer slip by without taking some time to create and knock out a summertime to-do list for a successful fall.

Having The Right Amount Of Trail Cameras

Running trail cameras can no doubt be one of the most exciting things to do as a whitetail hunter. The feeling of inserting an SD card into a computer and anxiously waiting for the card to load so you can start flipping through photos is almost as good as the feeling of seeing a big buck headed your way while in a treestand. It’s often described as better than Christmas. Partially because of this, it can be easy to run a lot of trail cameras. Trail cams have their place when it comes to deer hunting and can be very beneficial to you in terms of helping you be a successful hunter.

The question that always seems to arise when discussing the aspect of using trail cameras is how many should you be using? Some hunters don’t like to use trail cameras at all, and some run them religiously. When it comes to how many you should be running, it’s not a black and white answer, but more doesn’t always equal better. It’s very dependent on how much hunting property you own or have access on, and what you can handle. That may be five trail cameras, it might be twenty spread across multiple states, or it could be seventy on a large farm.

Below are a few points outlined that can be a product of running too many trail cameras. If you find yourself in any of these predicaments, odds are you’ve bitten off more than you can chew when it comes to trail cameras. So, take a look at these points and ask yourself if you’ve found yourself in any of these scenarios.

There Isn’t Time For Other Projects

If you get to a point where you find yourself not being able to complete other whitetail projects because you spend too much time heading afield to swap SD cards, it may be time to consider how many you are running. There’s a lot that needs to get done in the whitetail woods throughout the entire year and if you start putting things on the backburner or find yourself not completing what you want to get done during a day or a weekend of whitetail work because of having too many trail cameras to check, that can signify you simply have too many. If you get to this point, take a look at how many you are running, and what you’d be able to get done if you cut the number of trail cams you have in the field.

You Can’t Stay Organized

When you start running a lot of trail cameras, things can start to get hectic when it comes to staying organized. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes into it that one may not worry about when only running a few cams. But when you start to run a big number of cameras, there’s a lot of batteries, SD cards and trail camera maintenance that you have to worry about. When you run a couple, it may not seem like a big deal, but when all of a sudden you have thirty cameras, it can be very challenging to keep all of this organized. It can be a good idea to label SD cards for specific cameras, create spreadsheets on where your cameras are and to number each trail camera. This can help, but when you get to a point where you’ve simply got too many and can’t stay organized, or forget about cameras, you’ve got too many.

You’re Always “Behind”

This is a big indicator of running too many trail cameras. When you run a large number of cameras, a lot of times you end up relying on the information they provide during the season by default. When you have a large fleet of trail cameras out and find yourself not hunting areas during the season unless you check a camera that has a shooter on it, this can put you into dangerous waters and often times lead you to chasing your tail. A scenario would be you check five cameras in a day in the middle of October, and on one of them over a bean field, you have a shooter that showed up five days ago. Because that’s the only camera you had a shooter show up, you hunt there and don’t see him. Well, that buck could have easily shifted food sources in those five days, and you should be scouting for the hot food source, not just checking trail cameras. If you find yourself doing this too much, it might be time to reduce how many cameras you’re running.

So How Many is Too Many?

Well, that is dependent on you and you only. What it comes down to is are you able to stay organized, can you still get everything else done that you need to and are you not chasing your tail because of trail cameras? For some people, they might be able to run thirty trail cameras on a large farm and be able to still hunt effectively while keeping all of their trail camera data organized. If you hunt multiple states, this might mean you can only keep track of a couple in the out of state areas.

At the end of the day, trail cameras are meant to be a tool to help you succeed at deer hunting. When you use them properly, they can most definitely provide you with information to make you a better hunter. But when trail cameras become relied upon, or when hunters get ahead of themselves and run too many, it can detract from other things that you need to do in order to be a successful hunter. If you get to a point where trail cameras take away from these other things or create stress because you can’t keep up with them all or stay organized, then it’s time to consider reducing the number of trail cameras you have in the field.

Muddy’s Trail Camera Schedule | Setups, Tips, Settings, and More

Trail Camera Tips | Muddy’s Trail Camera Schedule

If you’re like many hunters, your trail cameras are probably in full swing right about this time of the year. Early bow hunting seasons aren’t that far off, and bucks are starting to look pretty enticing when they pose for a portrait. But once the fall hunting season is finished, do you pack your cameras up and quit until next summer? Most people do, and they’re missing out on a lot of critical information about the deer they hunt. Here’s a comprehensive trail camera schedule you can use to keep tabs on the deer herd throughout the entire year.

But first, what can you learn from an annual trail camera schedule? Plenty. In the winter, you can keep tabs on deer to see which bucks made it through the hunting season and help you plan for next year, plus you might even find some shed antlers in the process. Spring means lots of new deer hitting the woods, so you can watch your clover fields as they fill up with pregnant or nursing does and bucks trying to recover from the winter. In the summer, you can watch bucks as they start to grow their antlers and develop a hit list for the current season. And then, of course, you know what fall means – lots of opportunities to learn where deer are bedding and feeding so you can put all of that trail camera work to good use and hopefully arrow a buck.

October Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • Cooler weather, great fall scenes, and lots of deer action all combine to create the most magical time of the year for deer hunters. But there’s a lot happening for deer and their habitats in October. For one, bachelor groups should all be split up as bucks shift ranges and get more competitive and aggressive with one another. The native vegetation should be drying up and most crops are starting to be harvested, which is reducing or changing their food sources to acorns, apples, and waste grain. Leaves fall in autumn, which drastically changes summer bedding areas and movement patterns. On top of it all, there are more hunters out in the woods to pressure deer. When all of these things combine, it’s what many people call the October lull. The best time to hunt the October lull is absolutely during and right after a cold front, which gets the bucks on their feet and moving around again.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • In this magical deer hunting month, the best trail camera setup location is on deer scrapes – either natural or mock scrapes. Bucks and does both start using scrapes heavily in October to communicate breeding statuses, which make them great focal points for trail cameras. If you can find a scrape (or make a mock scrape) downwind of a doe bedding area or within a funnel to a food source, you can be pretty confident you will catch bucks using it. 

Trail Camera Settings 

  • This is when trail camera tactics really matter for hunting purposes. Since your trail cameras will likely be located on scrapes, using photo bursts or videos are a good way to get great shots of the bucks in your area. Videos of bucks rubbing licking branches or making a scrape are exciting to watch! Also, make sure you know how to hide a trail camera – keep them well camouflaged with brush and off to the side of approaching trails so you don’t spook approaching deer. Check your trail cameras often enough to know what deer are there, but not enough to pressure them.

November Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • In most of the Midwest and even parts of the south, November means one thing for deer hunting: the rut. During this time, bucks tend to make mistakes, which means you can have a good chance to shoot one. Many a buck has been led to his doom by following a hot doe. The weather also typically takes a nose dive this time of the year, producing very cold temperatures and maybe even snow. Deer will really key in on high energy (carbohydrate) foods, including any remaining nuts, apples, corn, beans, turnips, and cereal grains.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • Like October, deer scrapes can still produce some great trail camera pictures since bucks are actively seeking does. Food plots can occasionally still catch bucks during the day if your property is very unpressured and secluded since does will still feed and they attract bucks. But if you’re using trail cameras on public land or you have a smaller pressured property, scrapes are the way to go. Funnels between bedding areas and food sources are also good, especially if you take habitat and topography into consideration.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • For November, you really need to know how to set up a trail camera. Bucks are usually hot on the hooves of any estrous doe they find, so the usual trail camera settings may not work well. The pace is fast, and you may miss the action if you don’t take the time to do the right settings. With a 6 photo burst or a 2 minute video, you can be sure that any doe that passes through will trigger the camera, but you will also catch the buck following her. 
  • Additionally, just like October, you should position the camera higher (about 6 feet off the ground) so it is slightly out of a deer’s immediate view. Use a stick behind the top of the camera to position it downward. Also, keep it angled about 45 degrees to trails approaching scrapes so you don’t spook the deer you want pictures of. 
  • As far as how long to leave a trail camera out in November, check them sparingly so you don’t spook deer, but often enough to know where you should be hunting. A good way to do this is to set up cameras near your access trails so you can easily check them while you enter or leave a tree stand location.

 

December Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • This the beginning of the hardest time in a Midwest whitetail’s life: winter. Cold weather, biting winds, snow, and a decrease in high quality food all work against them. In southern areas, there may yet be good food sources available for deer, but there’s definitely a change. In addition, most bow hunting seasons are still open and some late season muzzleloader hunts may also open, which can pressure them. While bucks are weary and worn down from the rut, they will still feed with does and may breed any that come into estrous late, but food becomes the priority for them in December. You may also want to harvest does for meat at this point in the season since it will be your last chance until next year. 

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • Since deer are transitioning to late season food sources (such as standing corn/beans, green cover crops, or turnips), the edges of these fields and trails leading to them are the best spots to hang trail cameras in December.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • For the last calendar month of the year in open field settings, you should switch your trail camera settings back to the time lapse function. You can choose the interval of how often the camera takes pictures and also what time of day it takes them (e.g., 2 hours before dusk, etc.). Hang it higher in a tree so that you can see the whole field, which may mean hanging it 10 feet up in some cases. In the dusk example, remember to aim it northeast so it’s looking directly away from the setting sun. This allows you to see exactly how deer are using the field and moving across it.

January Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • January is a tough time for whitetails. Bucks have been running all over their region chasing does down and fighting other bucks, not to mention dodging natural predators and us. During all that activity, they seldom stop to eat much either, which means they lose a substantial amount of body weight right during the coldest time of the year, when they need it most.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras  

  • In the mid-winter months, food plots and fields with standing agricultural crops (corn, soybeans, etc.) are some of the best places to hang trail cameras. Deer are looking for calories to help fuel them throughout the winter, and these crops will do that. Hanging a trail camera on a trail entering these areas also allows you to see what’s dropping for early shed hunting purposes.

Trail Camera Settings  

  • In winter, you will face two battles with your trail cams. One is the cold – it doesn’t take long for temperatures below zero to drain your battery life. The other is the snow – make sure your cameras are mounted to the tree or post above the snowline (4 to 5 feet is better than the usual 2 to 3 feet). Also, all the snow glare can make your photos turn out badly, so face them north to avoid the low southern sun. 
  • Because of the uphill battle against the cold and snow, you may want to check your cameras pretty regularly (every few weeks) if you want them to consistently take pictures. Otherwise, you may find that you arrive and your camera is buried in snow and has dead batteries. 

February Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • As with January, February is a hard month. In most areas, even standing crops can be picked over by now, forcing deer to rely on natural woody browse as their sole food source. Deer are also battling some of the coldest temperatures of the year, which means they seek thermal cover (e.g., thick spruce plantations, tall grasses, gullies out of the wind, etc.) whenever they’re not feeding.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • If there are still crop food sources available, these are still the best places for trail cameras. If you find that the deer have switched to feeding on browse in a certain area, try putting a trail camera on the trails leading from bedding areas to the browse. The trails are very easy to follow in the snow!

Trail Camera Settings 

  • Again, you will be facing the cold and snow in February, so hang your cameras higher than usual and check them regularly. Also, keep the trail camera placement facing north. 

 March Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • While southern hunters are out enjoying the woods in March, it is more or less the same as the other winter months in much of the Midwest, but it does offer a glimmer of hope. Temperatures start to climb and the snow pack may be melting slowly away. This can be one of the worst times for whitetails because they have browsed most high preference browse by now, but it’s too early for new growth yet. The melting of the snow may also reveal shed antlers for you to find.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • It seems most typical feeding areas are not attractive anymore and bedding areas are not easily accessible without spooking deer regularly. While that doesn’t matter for hunting purposes, you don’t want to stress the deer herd when they’re at their most vulnerable. Plus, if any bucks are still carrying antlers you would like to find, bumping them off of your property won’t help with that effort. Deer trails, especially where they cross a farm lane or hunting property road are fantastic. You can easily sneak in to check your cameras regularly without disturbing them, and keep tabs on when the deer are shedding their antlers.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • Since you’ll be using your camera on a deer trail, you need a relatively fast burst of pictures to capture the action as they move through. Alternatively, you could use the video mode too.

April Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • April is the turning point for the Midwest, as spring starts to slowly appear. The deep and shaded parts of the forests still contain very deep snow, but open areas melt fairly quickly. Deer may feed on newly exposed vegetation, but also still browse on whatever they can find.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • Deer trails and small openings are some of the best places for trail cameras this time of year. If you’re located further south, then perennial clover food plots and alfalfa fields will likely be greening up by then, and the deer will definitely be spending time in them. Plus, you have the bonus of scouting turkeys for spring turkey hunting with your trail cameras at the same time.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • In open fields, you shouldn’t have to worry about the snow anymore and there’s no growing vegetation that will interfere with the pictures, so you can resume your trail camera mounting height at about 3 feet off the ground to get a good deer eye level shot.

May Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • May is a very welcomed rest for whitetails because all kinds of natural vegetation starts growing like crazy again, including lush forbs, grasses, and tender new buds and twigs. Providing perennial clover fields on some part of your property is a great way to start feeding deer as soon as the weather warms up. Does are likely to give birth to fawns this month or the next, and bucks start to lump together in bachelor groups for the summer.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras  

  • In the early spring, it’s tough to beat lush green fields and food plots for watching does and fawns on trail cameras. Unless bucks have a distinct marking on them, it will probably be too early to start identifying any prior year bucks until their antlers grow back. Another good spot to hang your cameras in spring is a mineral site. Bucks, does, and fawns will all stop by mineral sites from spring through fall.  
  • One benefit of using trail cameras in the spring, especially along field edges or on mineral sites tucked into the cover, is that you can scout for turkey hunting still, and catch all kinds of other animals on camera, including black bears, foxes, bobcats, grouse, and many others.

Trail Camera Settings  

  • This time of year, you don’t have to necessarily worry about how to program a trail camera. You can really use whatever trail camera setting you want. If you’d like to get some videos of young fawns playing around in the fields, this is a great time to do it. If you’d rather just take pictures, you can set the delays and intervals to whatever you wish. In all likelihood, intel you get this time of year won’t tell you a whole lot about how to hunt next season. But if you’re a trail camera addict like us, you will just enjoy getting all kinds of great pictures.

June Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • When June hits the calendar, it’s time to start thinking about summer trail camera strategies. Deer will start hitting food sources and bedding areas pretty consistently throughout the summer. Bucks continue to build up their bodies and antlers by eating high protein foods and does need calories to keep up their milk supplies to feed their fawns. In highly productive areas, it’s not uncommon for a doe to support twins, so he needs to keep up the food consumption.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • It’s true that deer will reliably hit food sources hard in the summer, but food sources can be very scattered this time of year with all the abundant lush food available. Since there’s a lot of cover and no pressure from us in the summer, deer will often bed short distances from ag fields and food plots, which may be a great spot to hang cameras.  
  • However, better spots that will reliably attract deer include mineral sites and feeder stations. Where legal, these two areas will consistently pull deer in for great trail cam pictures. Corn is probably the best attractant for game cameras in these scenarios. Mounting trail cameras to a post or nearby tree is all you need to do.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • Again, you can choose your own preferences this time of year, but start focusing your trail cameras on taking bursts of photos when triggered, so you can be sure you get a few different pictures of a deer when it shows up to a mineral site, feeder, or food plot. Bucks will start to show some antler growth, and velvet pictures are amazing to look at. Try to stay away from your cameras during the summer, checking them only when you need to refresh your mineral site or feeder. While spooking deer this time of year won’t affect hunting, why pressure deer now if you don’t have to?

July Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • July is a similar story to June – deer continue to feed heavily to build up their fat reserves. Bucks keep building antlers and does keep fueling little fawns. The high heat and humidity may encourage deer to seek out water sources more frequently, which is definitely one of the best summer trail camera tips.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • Also like June, food plots, feeder stations, and mineral licks are the best spots to catch most deer (including bachelor groups of bucks) on camera. If you can pair a water hole or natural water feature with a mineral site, deer will stick around even longer for better pictures.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • As far as trail camera height, hang your trail cameras higher (4 to 5 feet) in the summer to avoid vegetation from blocking views, or occasionally visit your cameras to trim the vegetation down. Try to keep your cameras in the shade and pointed north so you don’t have a ton of pictures with glare.

August Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • During the month of August, a lot of native forbs and grasses start to dry out, causing deer to abandon them a little. Fortunately, soft mast trees (e.g., apples, crabapples, plums, cherries, etc.) and hard mast trees (primarily oaks) start ripening and dropping fruit this time of year. Deer will eagerly ignore most native forbs to feed on these highly nutritious and digestible fruits and nuts. Bachelor groups of bucks will usually be pretty visible in open fields as dusk approaches.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • If you have a grove of hard or soft mast trees that start dropping fruit, this could be a great place to hang a trail camera. Alternatively, you could place cameras on an established deer trail within a pinch point or funnel between the mast trees and their primary bedding area.  
  • If you don’t have any mast trees on your property, mineral sites and feeder stations will still attract deer. And placing trail cameras on field edges of large soybean fields this time of year will definitely still produce some good pictures.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • Follow much of the same advice for July (i.e., hanging cameras higher, pointing north, clearing vegetation, etc.).

September Trail Camera Schedule

Conditions 

  • Once September hits, most bow seasons open up and it probably feels like Christmas day to you. But for the deer, it’s the start of several months of harassment and pressure from us, not to mention changing conditions. September may have heat waves here and there, but you’ll notice temperatures start to cool down a bit. Bachelor groups start to break up a bit as they start shedding their velvet.

Where to Hang Trail Cameras 

  • For one of the last times of the year, food plots and ag fields are still a good spot to get daylight pictures of bucks. As the hunting season opens, most bucks tend to go nocturnal on many properties. Additionally, trails in between mast trees and bedding can still work well too. Just make sure the camera is pointed slightly towards the bedding area to get good afternoon/evening pictures.

Trail Camera Settings 

  • Keep your trail cameras taking bursts of photos so you don’t miss a buck moving through quickly. Alternatively, use the Muddy Pro-Cam 20 bundle (one of the best trail cameras on the market) to take time-lapse pictures before dusk to get an idea of which deer are using the food plot regularly. If you’re bow hunting, check your cameras enough to inform your hunting locations without putting too much pressure on the deer before October.

Time to Use This Trail Camera Schedule

There’s a lot of information in this article and we hope it hasn’t intimidated you. This trail camera schedule is meant to give you some new ideas on how and when to use trail cameras throughout the year so you can have the best hunting opportunities. Good luck this season!

 

Spring Turkey Scouting and Trail Camera Tips

Pre-Season Turkey Scouting with Trail Cameras

By: Blake Aaron of Aaron Outdoors 

For those of us not located in the deep south, turkey season remains what feels like centuries away. However, don’t waste your time by wishing the preseason away. There is still a lot of work that can and should be done. Many people do not utilize their tools and time wisely to pattern turkeys for opening day. There are many “sweet” spots on your properties that can be concentrated on. These turkey scouting tips should come in handy so that you can have your #MuddyMoment on opening day!

A great tool to utilize in preseason scouting is a trail camera. Trail cameras are vital to patterning birds. They can provide you with information of where the birds are feeding, strutting, dusting, and even roostingMuddy’s lineup of cameras gives you multiple price point options to choose from as well as tons of features.  Utilizing trail cameras to do the turkey scouting for you not only saves you time, but they keep intrusion low and do the scouting while you’re not there.

Where to Setup Your Trail Cameras for Scouting Turkeys

1. Haul Roads (logging roads/field drives) 

Turkeys love to travel haul roads through farms because, like humans, turkeys tend to travel through the path of least resistance (most of the time). Haul roads make perfect strutting lanes for seasoned gobblers. Many times, the gobblers will fly down off of their roost and on to haul roads to strut which makes them visible to hens that could be roosted close by and easy for the hens to find. Lastly, haul roads are very good for hunting late in the spring season. The foliage and grass has now grown, but the haul roads remain short, making it a prime area for toms to continue to strut.  

2. Mature Cedar Trees/Dusting Areas 

Cedar trees are a perfect place to set up cameras in the preseason because turkeys will use them to stay out of the weather. It also provides them a great place to dust. Turkeys will stay in flocks and dig out holes to dust in under the cedars. Where there are hens, there will be toms. These males frequently check out these dusting areas and use them as strutting zones as well to attract those dusting hens. Turkeys will use dusting areas throughout the season so finding these types of areas could be key to your success this season.  

3. Food Plots 

When hunters think of food plots they think of deer hunting, however, food plots are great places to utilize your trail cameras for preseason scouting. Even after a long winter that has led to lack of food in the plot, turkeys will continue to use the plot as a food source due to the amount of insects and worms in the ground that are easy to find. Also, green plots such as clover or wheat (if not too tall) will be a super hot spot to find a big tom(s). If you have more than one plot to hunt, utilize trail cameras to tell you which plot is being frequented the most by the turkeys as well as what times.  Plot watcher mode, which is a feature on the Pro Cam 20 and Pro Cam 20 bundle, is a great tool to use on large food plots.  Plot watcher mode allows you to custom set the time and amount of photos your camera takes, even if not being triggered by an animal.  For example, you can set your Pro Cam 20 to take photos every minute from 7 am to 10 am and you’ll be able to see if turkeys were in the plot at that time.

These are just a few areas that you can use to do some preseason scouting on your properties with your trail cameras. The more you scout, the better chance you will have at punching your turkey tag this spring! Good luck!

Summer Checklist | Are You Ready For Deer Season?

Summer Deer Hunting Checklist

If you live and breathe the pursuit of hunting whitetails the summer is obviously not a time to relax! For those of us ate up enough with hunting, the understanding is that deer season is a 365 day a year event. Sure our fortunes as deer hunters are made mostly during November, but we spend the other days, weeks, and months daydreaming about and preparing for deer season. In fact so much thought and prepping is put into deer season that it would be astonishing to see the thoughts and the to-do list drawn out on paper. The thoughts, ideas, chores, and what-ifs in your head should now be organized and prioritized into a deer hunting checklist!

Take notes and check off these to-do’s as you complete them. Whether you are just a couple months from deer season or just week if not days away from it, now is the time to ensure you are ready! Some may be a higher priority than others for you depending on your situation and property, but overall this summer deer hunting checklist should help organize what you need to be done!

After looking through the checklist keep reading for more detailed explanations of why these items made the list!

Offseason Deer Hunting Checklist

  • Plant/Manage Food Plots
  • Buy License/Read regulations
  • Utilize Minerals, Supplements, and Bait (or remove bait before season)
  • Check and Run Trail Cameras (full batteries, empty formatted SD cards)
  • Gather an Inventory (trail camera survey)
  • Scout for the Early Season
  • Tree Stand, Tripod Stand, and Box Blind Safety Check
  • Safety Harness and Safe-Line check
  • Sight in/Practice Bow and Firearm
  • Create Detailed and Organized Maps
  • Think Through Your Hunting Pack

Food Plots

Summer is food plot season.  Planting food for your deer not only provides extra protein for growth but forage to sustain your herd in the cold weather of the late fall and winter.  Planting food plots takes several easy steps although it can be time-consuming.

First, test the soil to find the pH or acidity level of the ground you wish to cultivate for your food plot.  Finding the acidity will help you decide the next steps such as liming and seed choice.  Lime is a base which helps bring balance to unbalanced soils.  If your chosen area has had the nutrients washed away on a steep grade or is higher in elevation, then you will want to find the right amount of lime per acre needed to balance the pH to help optimize seed growth. Second, choosing the right seed for the pH is critical.  Typically seed manufacturers will have the information on each seed and what pH the plant will grow in best. Taking into consideration what your goals are for a given location you will want to plant accordingly.  Having a mix of high protein plants with high carbs and sugar –rich plants can help you create a year-round optimized buffet for your whitetails.

In some cases, access to farm equipment is not possible.  Through the power of science, seed manufacturers have been able to develop seed blends perfect for simply throwing on the untilled surface of the earth.  Typically, these are perfect for food plots in the woods where small clearings make for perfect ambush locations.  To create a food plot in the woods it is important to spray the weeds and rake away any debris like leaves, rocks, and sticks. Seeds must hit the open dirt.  Carry a sturdy metal garden rake and have durable work gloves to protect from blisters.  Cut the canopy of the trees back as much as possible to maximize sunlight.  Lack of sunlight is what kills most food plot efforts.

Create/Organize Your Maps

As we review the surroundings it is a bet practice to review first from the sky. Whether you use Google earth or a physical topographical map it is important to mark on map points of interest to scout.  The aerial review provides a fresh perspective and can open new opportunities for stand locations.  By paying close attention to the contours of the land you can find hidden travel corridors which guide deer travel such as saddles and benches, hidden field corners and bottlenecks.  Marking on map points of interest to scout helps organize your efforts and make the best use of your time.  Physical maps like those made from HunTerra Maps are a handy tool to be able to have at home or in the truck

Plan What to Do with Your Trail Cameras

In the interest of time management, it is important to make trail cameras a part of your summer scouting checklist. Ensure each camera is in peak functioning form by checking each before hanging.  Check the connections at the batteries for corrosion.  Moisture can corrode metal coils and render a camera useless. The last thing you want is to set a camera up in a prime location and not capture any photos due to faulty or damaged wires.  Always buy fresh batteries and use cleared and formatted SD cards to optimize performance when scouting for deer in the summer.  Double check the straps on used to hold your camera to a tree are not dry rotted and risk dropping your expensive camera.  When setting up a camera make sure it is facing North to ensure pictures will not be ruined by glare.  Sun glare ruins photos at peak deer activity in the early mornings.  Check to make sure all branches are out of the way of the camera that could trigger the motion sensor as a false alarm! Summer is a critical time for inventory, so make sure you are utilizing them as best as possible. Proven summer strategies for trail cameras include mineral sites, trail camera surveys, time-lapse over food sources, and transition areas between bedding areas and food.

Mineral, Supplements, and Bait

Protein and mineral supplements are a storied part of any spring and summer scouting season.  In the heat of the summer, it is the best way to capture the photos to take inventory of the deer you really want to chase.  Especially in areas where the soil is lacking nutrients, supplemental feeding and mineral sites in states where it is legal may be your best option to help push the growth of your herd during the growing months.  Protein supplements are valuable and research tells us that finding a mix with 16-18% protein is optimal.  Minerals are also important for bucks and does.  During gestation and lactation does have high requirements for calcium and magnesium to supplement their growing fawns. A buck will utilize calcium and phosphorus by storing it in his body to use throughout antler growth.  Growing bucks require tremendous amounts of minerals as they are growing their bodies and their headgear! Be sure to take out these bait sites well before deer season if required by law!

Build Cover

As important as food is to the whitetail so too is cover.  Mature whitetails, both bucks and does, require safety.  Remember, deer are food and they know it all too well. Creating a safe place near food is a recipe for success. The best way to create your own safe place for deer is through the use of a chainsaw and hinge cutting trees. While cutting mature hardwoods is best under the eye of a trained forestry professional, there is plenty one can accomplish with a chainsaw properly cutting small to medium sized trees and scrub brush of little timber value to create a thick jungle of safety for deer. Cut properly, hinge cut trees will still produce browse for deer further increasing the value for deer. When cutting trees and brush it is important to use the following accessories.  First, always wear eye protection.  Wood chips and dirt flying everywhere from being cut can pose a serious threat to your eyes and face. A full face guard is advised. Second, always have a tool kit with the right equipment to deal with chains that may jump the track. A spare sharpened chain is a valuable asset as well.

Stands

Getting your stands ready for the fall is a ritual of the season.  Checking stands for safety is of utmost importance.  Straps in particular that have exposed to weather for any amount of time in the fall and winter ought to be checked for weakness.  A dry rotted strap can easily break putting you into a rather dangerous situation.  Inspect the cables on all stands to look for any weaknesses and check the bolts for rust which can ultimately deteriorate the safety of a tree stand.

Glass

Resist the urge to sit in your stand to scout during the summer.  There is no sense if muddying up your area when you can scout fields from afar.  A lot of hunters have lost the art of simply glassing for bachelor groups. The reliance on trail cameras for the majority of their scouting has left this tactic underappreciated. Glassing summer food sources and travel routes from several hundred yards away can be critical when developing an early season hunting strategy. While basic 10×42 binoculars are plenty efficient, having a spotting scope with real magnification power like 20-60x60mm puts you far enough away from the summer action to not risk spooking deer.

REMEMBER: As always in the hot summer months and even towards the beginning of deer season it is important to always check for ticks!  Illnesses from ticks are an epidemic and hunters are perhaps at the most risk.  Always remember to spray down with deet or pre-wash your clothing in permethrin.  Keep all clothing sealed off to prevent ticks from crawling onto you.  A full body check after you exit the field is necessary and make sure to hang your clothes out after a hunt to let all the ticks crawl off.

The dog days of summer are no time to relax for the committed deer hunter. This is when the homework happens to create success in the fall.  While it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, setting a summer deer hunting checklist can help you organize your time efficiently and leave nothing to chance when the weather turns cold!

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 | The Pros and Cons of Finding “Dead Heads”

What You Should Do When You Find “Dead Heads” | Shed Hunting C.S.I.

 

Shed hunting provides you with an amazing opportunity to spend some time outdoors during the late winter months and really begin to take inventory of your deer herd.  Shed antlers can tell a story about the dynamics of the deer herd on the properties you hunt, and if you are willing to put in the time and put on the miles, there is a high probability that the time you spend shed hunting will often open your eyes to the “big picture” in terms of how and when white-tailed deer utilize different areas of the properties you hunt. Each year it seems every shed hunter comes across the unfortunate find of a dead deer while shed hunting. This encounter can go south in a hurry upon finding a “dead head”, the term used to describe a dead buck body. While this is a negative…there are some positive takeaways you should be aware of.

White Gold | Finding Dead Deer While Shed Hunting “Ep.2” 

Shed Hunting 101

Shed hunting can be compared to an Easter egg hunt for deer hunters.  We put out best foot forward and hit the woods in search of hidden treasures.  We don’t know what or even if we will find anything at all, but we lace up our boots and take to the woods with high hopes. If you love to hunt white-tailed deer, then there is clearly a level of enjoyment had when you put your hands on a shed antler.  No matter if it’s big or small, there is really something special about making a game plan and using the best information available to try and a locate a literal needle in a haystack.  However, aside from the enjoyment of adding to your antler collection, shed hunting can provide you with a wealth of information that can really help you be more successful in not only hunting white-tailed deer on your properties but managing for those deer as well.

  • Age and Survival

Probably the most obvious piece of information that you can learn from shed hunting is the age and survival of various bucks on your farm.  With the advent of trail cameras, deer hunters can keep a watchful eye on the deer on their farms.  This has enabled deer hunters to develop and almost personal connection with the deer on their farms, which allows them to quickly identify the antlers of most of the deer they have on camera.

If you are able to immediately identify the shed antlers as belonging to a buck you have pictures of, you automatically know that the buck in question made it through the deer season.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the deer will make it through the winter (harsh winters can kill) but it will at least give you piece of mind that the buck is still roaming the countryside and not at the taxidermy shop.

Though it is not suggested that you determine the age of a buck just based upon their shed antlers, you can closely estimate the age of the buck with multiple years of sheds supplemented with trail camera photos. This same history with multiple bucks provides you with information that will allow you to help determine the age structure of the bucks on your properties and can help you to compile your hit-list for next year.  Occasionally, you can even come across a new buck that has moved in from another area and decided to set up shop on your property.  Finding a shed antler that you do not recognize is often very exciting and can suggest immediate intel for next year’s hunting.

  • Areas of Use and Timing

Aside from some basic information related to age and survival, shed hunting can help to give you a better understand of your property and how deer and other wildlife utilize your farm.  Shed hunting can be a great time to evaluate everything from your entrance and exit strategy to the placement of your tree stands.

Shed hunting often requires that you hone in on very specific areas of your property, such as bedding areas, areas of dense cover, sunny south slopes, food sources, and transition areas.  Cover for deer can include areas that have had timber stand improvement conducted on them and are providing thermal cover and late winter browse and southwest facing slopes and hillsides. Food sources are always a go to for shed hunters. Food plots, crop field edges, or major trail ways to and from are not only likely places bucks drop their payload but are easy to check.  Spending some time out shed hunting in these areas can often give you some insight as to when and how white-tailed deer utilize these areas.  This can be especially true if there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground or if you find yourself shed hunting in wet, muddy conditions.  In these conditions, tracks and areas of high deer use are very evident and can often lead you to reconsider your overall hunting strategy and provide you with additional information to help you to be more effective when hunting deer in the fall.

Finding Dead Deer and “Dead Heads”

Finding dead deer, especially a buck, is something none of us ever want to have happen.  However, the unfortunate reality is that if you spend enough time out in the field shed hunting, finding dead deer is almost unavoidable.  Finding dead deer on your property, especially if it is a hit list buck can really put a knot in your stomach.  We would all much rather see those antlers in the back of the truck, than on the ground in a heap of bones and hair.  All that being said, if and when you do find yourself in this situation, it often provides a great opportunity to flip the switch from deer hunter to deer biologist!

finding-dead-deer-shed-hunting_pic1

Whitetail C.S.I.

When it comes to finding dead deer, the first step in “closing the case” is to do your best to determine the cause of death.  This is especially true if this happens to be a deer that you have a history with, as most of us start to build a certain relationship with these animals and for our own piece of mind need to know who or what dealt them their final blow.

The first step is to always know or check your state’s regulations regarding dead deer and dead heads. Contact your local conservation officer to determine the next steps. This is in order to help determine the cause of death concerning problems often encountered in these scenarios. The state’s concerns mainly relate to poaching and diseases. They will also often either let you take home the head or give you a permit to do so after coming out to the location.

After this determine if you, in fact, know that animal and begin to nail down the time of death.  Now, this may seem a little complicated but in reality, it isn’t.  You just need to ask yourself a few questions, such as “when was the last time you saw the animal or had trail camera pictures of the animal on the hoof?”  “Have you seen the animal during the hunting season?”  These are all great questions to start with to begin to determine the time death.  It is important to try to pinpoint whether the animal died as a result of bullet or broadhead or if they died by some other means such as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) or perhaps a collision with an automobile.

Pay close attention to the location where you find the animal.  If you find the dead deer near or directly adjacent to a water source, and if the antlers still seem to show signs of velvet or “sharp antlers” then there is a high probability that the deer may have expired from one of several deer diseases such as  EHD.  If the antlers show no signs of velvet and the animal is found in very thick cover, then it is likely that they sustained an injury of some kind from a human (hunting/vehicle) or predator and were seeking an area of seclusion to rest. Having closure is important and doing your best to determine the cause of death can really help to bring the case to a close and ensure you are not experiencing a bigger problem on the property!

 

The Positives of Finding Dead Deer

As deer hunters, we have to be willing to look at the bright side when things don’t go our way, and this certainly holds true when it comes to finding dead deer.  Believe it or not, there are several positive takeaways that can come from finding dead deer when shed hunting.

  • Closure

It has already been mentioned that closure is important for us deer hunters.  This is especially true when it comes to finding dead deer, especially if it is a situation where you have had an encounter with the animal while hunting.  No matter how hard we try, if you hunt white-tailed deer long enough you will have a wounding loss.  No matter how steady of a rest you have, and no matter how close of a shot, at some point, something will happen and we will make a poor shot on an animal.  It is just a fact of life.  So, finding a dead deer, especially if it is a deer that you perhaps thought you missed or shot and couldn’t recover can often bring a sense of relief and closure to the situation.  Although it may not have turned out exactly how you wanted it to, at the end of the day you can put a bow on the story of that deer and have an interesting story to tell the next time you show off the rack.

  • Age Information

It has already been mentioned that finding shed antlers can help paint a clearer picture as to the age structure of the bucks on your properties, however, there is only so much that you can learn from an antler.  In the world of aging white-tailed deer, the teeth reign supreme.  Though finding dead deer when shed hunting is an unfortunate situation, you have to be willing to take advantage of the circumstances and use the opportunity to collect vital age information.  In addition to collecting and scoring the antlers, be sure to collect the jaw bones as well.  There is no better way to age a white-tailed deer than by examining their teeth, and by aging the animal you can not only determine if your “on the hoof” estimate was close, but you can also pair this information up with your remaining hit list bucks and determine if they are likely older or younger than you previously thought.  This information can help you further refine your hit list for next year.

  • Preferred Cover

Shed hunting often requires that we venture into areas that we would otherwise leave unpressured.  Many deer hunters will identify these sanctuary areas that provide excellent cover for deer on the properties that they hunt and leave them be until shed hunting season rolls around.  An injured white-tailed deer will typically venture into an area of thick cover where they feel safe and secure.  If you are shed hunting these areas and happen to stumble upon a dead head, then you can feel confident to know that the area is, in fact, a critical area of cover for the deer on your property, and you can use this information to further refine your property management and hunting strategies in the future.

  • Score

Often, especially during the summer bachelor group period, you can have pictures of bucks standing side by side where you can directly compare their size. Any guesses you had on rack size and score from trail camera intel and observation periods can now be evaluated. This is a huge piece of information, especially when compared with age from the jawbone.

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Conclusion

Finding dead deer is going to happen, but if you are willing to look at the bright side, and spend a little time investigating the circumstances and collecting some basic information, you can really turn a lemon into lemonade.  Good luck this shed season, and we hope you find your fair share of white gold this spring!

Quick Note: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease?

Understanding the deer herd dynamics on your farm is critical for developing your hit list each and every year.  Unfortunately, deer diseases can sometimes play a role in determining how your hit list will shake out from year to year.  EHD is a disease that originates from insects that live in exposed mud flats along ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.  During extensively dry periods, EHD outbreaks can occur and can sometimes greatly reduce the deer population in a localized area.

Though most dead deer are found during the hunting season or while shed hunting, during an outbreak of EHD dead deer is often found throughout the summer months as well.  If you live in an area that has experienced weather conditions that would be conducive for an EHD outbreak, it would be beneficial for you to spend some time monitoring the water sources on your properties during and just after summer.  If you begin to find dead deer, especially bucks you may need to spend extra time monitoring trail cameras and determining what your hit list for the year may look like.  An outbreak of EHD can sometimes take years to recover from, and can certainly change your harvest strategy for the upcoming deer season.

Deer Feeders

Deer Feeders 101 | Deer Feeding Tips, Concerns, and Strategies

Tips, Concerns, Results, and Strategies Deer Feeders 101

Deer feeders create an interest for deer hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and animal lovers alike. Whether it’s simply a wildlife feeder in the back yard, in the wood lot next door, or a vital piece of your deer management plan, chances are you will encounter the want/need to own a deer feeder at some point or another. Surprisingly, deer feeders come in a variety of sizes, designs, and uses. From the general wildlife feeder to a critical supplemental feeding program, deer feeders can certainly pull their weight no matter the use. Given such use, it’s respectable to put together a string of helpful information, tips, strategies, and uses. Welcome to deer feeders 101.

Deer Feeder: A tool used to supply feed, usually in the form of grain (corn) or a specially blended deer/wildlife feed for nutrition, to deer or wildlife in supplemental feed programs.

Why Feed Deer?

More often than not a deer feeder’s use occurs on the most basic level you can imagine. Simple and consistent corn feeding throughout the winter months appears to “help” deer and other wildlife through cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. In fact, feeding deer in the winter is a big concern for deer, deer managers, and many states. This is why it is included front and center in this article.

Intervention in the form of a couple hundred pounds of “deer corn” can spell disaster for deer.  This is why states all across the northern stretches of the country restrict or outlaw the use of bait and feeding of deer. Some of this concern undoubtedly stems from the possible negative outcomes of gathering large numbers of deer in one place…diseases being the concern. Have you heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? That’s one of the big ones! However, another more likely concern that often goes unknown to the person supplying the feed is called acidosis. Acidosis occurs when ruminants (deer) consume large quantities of carbohydrates that are low in fiber, also known as corn toxicity. A deer’s diet during the winter consists of high fiber woody browse, not low fiber carbohydrates. With a sudden intake of grain, an increase and change in the microbial population in the rumen causes a fatal increase of lactic acid. Dehydration as a result of the buildup of lactic acid can be fatal in 24-72 hours.

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Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game. Five of the twelve deer found dead due to winter feeding in N.H.

However, concern over acidosis is waved throughout the Midwest and in areas where deer are already consuming corn. The corn maze of states in the Midwest such as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa have so much corn readily available (either standing or left behind from the combine) during the winter months that the deer’s rumen and microbial population is adjusted for feeding. This also is true for properties and programs where supplemental feed is already taking place.

The well-being of the wildlife and deer should always be taken into consideration first before your wants and needs of either supplementing nutrition or for simply observational purposes.

The Results of Supplemental Feeding

For the more advanced deer managers and deer hunters, supplemental feeding always looms in the back of the mind. The number one reason for interest in supplemental feeding is always centered around the obsession of antlers…at least for the most part. It is widely known now that age, nutrition, and genetics (in that order) are the important factors that determine antlers and a buck’s score. Age and nutrition in particular are what we as deer managers can actively manage. Age is simply managing your trigger finger and the ability to age deer on the hoof accurately, leaving nutrition as a 365 day a year obsession.

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Habitat, food plots, and supplemental feeding are all management efforts we as deer managers can continually improve it seems. For the point of this article we will focus on supplemental feeding.

The big question is “can a supplemental feeding program increase the size and score of the bucks on my property?”. The answer is yes it can. If you ask the question you can be sure a deer biologist or two have as well, and they have found the answers through research.

“A study in Texas found that bucks fed a 16% crude protein diet grew antlers that scored 20 inches higher Boone and Crockett, than did bucks fed 8% crude protein (Hamel et al. 1989)” – MSU Deer Lab.

Deer Feed Requirements

16% crude protein is the agreed upon percentage of protein intake that maximizes antler growth, however, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Often time feed containing 18-20% protein can help balance protein intake that is significantly lower in the other portions of the deer’s diet, when natural browse and protein levels of food plots/crops might dip below 16%. It also important to note that the protein requirements of deer depend on age. Mature adults do not need the higher protein requirements that fawns or young bucks need when developing. MSU Deer Lab.

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Other than protein, minerals are also a thought pertaining to deer feed. In general, macro-minerals and micro-minerals are fulfilled by vegetation or eating the soil in natural licks. However, when it comes to deer management, it is always best to be safe. Identifying limiting factors of a property such as cover, water, or food is easy. When it comes to minerals a generally safe approach is ensuring the deer feed of choice contains the basics. These are mainly calcium and phosphorous.

Deer Feeder Advantages and Design

Knowing that a supplemental feeding program supplies benefits to the herd, and knowing what deer feed should consist of, the focus can now be turned to the feeder itself. A deer feeder offers several advantages over simply placing feed on the ground. Why? By knowing what goes into deer feeder designs, you discover their advantages. Access to feed and protection of feed are the most obvious advantages. The original thought towards a feeding program is usually brought on by a hard winter, or by the need to create an attraction for your trail camera/hunting site. The next thought is in the process you are currently in…research! You are trying to find out exactly what deer feed to use, if supplemental feeding programs work, or you are looking for deer feeder designs. That last one…deer feeder designs is because you are thinking of building your own. Why not, right? Seeing as how this is deer feeders 101, we have arrived at the same conclusion…sure, why not? Here is what makes a great deer feeder design…or a checklist if you will, to what a feeder needs in order to be successful.

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  • Waterproof – Nothing is worse than soggy, spoiled, and molded feed.
  • Locking Lid – A locking lid gives you the satisfaction that the feed is not only waterproof but its safe from nuaisance animals.
  • Durable – it has to survive rough weather and some of the biggest raccoons that appear more bear-like than a raccoon.
  • Dispenser – A deer feeder needs a dispenser of some sort. This comes in the form of a port, a broadcaster (spinner), or a port/agitator.
  • Large Quantities – Feeders with large quantities equate to less time filling. This is less time on your part but also less pressure associated with the feeder.

Sure you can build one or go ahead and come the conclusion that buying a sturdy feeder will last longer and will inevitably be more successful. We offer a 200lb Gravity Feeder, and by design, it features everything it needs…simplified to be a very successful deer feeder.

Muddy 200 LB. Gravity Feeder | Muddy Outdoors Product

(Video) MGF200 Gravity Feeder is unlike any gravity deer feeder on the market. It features an adjustable spring-loaded dispenser and agitator. This feature keeps the feed broke up and dispensing while animals feed. The feed is lockable, and the lid is user friendly but cannot slide off like other feeders. If you are looking for a new gravity deer feeder, check out Muddy Outdoors.

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

PRODUCT FEATURES

  • Waterproof
  • Locking Lid
  • Spring-Loaded Dispenser and Agitator
  • Dispenser Easily Adjusts

PRODUCT SPECS

  • CONSTRUCTION: Steel
  • HEIGHT: 61” Fill Height, 42” Feed Height
  • CAPACITY: 200 Lbs./ 33 Gallons;
  • WEIGHT: 44 Lbs

Deer Feeder Strategies and Tips

If applicable, and if legal, these tips can be taken into consideration to either spike the efficiency of the feeder or the scenario of hunting over the feeder. Either way, these feeding tips excel the situation beyond a feeder sitting in a field! The diagram below helps paint the scene for your imagination.

 Deer Feeder Placement

Obviously, if you are in the research phase of either building or buying a deer feeder chances are you have a spot already picked out on your hunting property. What makes a “good spot” for a feeder? To start, high traffic areas are a must. However, you also have to factor in accessibility of a truck, ATV, or side-by-side that can reach the feeder. It is also important to think about what else should be paired with a feeder such as water, other food sources, security, proximity to bedding, and in states where it’s legal, your stand or blind. Another critical thought should be thrown in concerning human pressure. If the feeder is out in the open such as a large crop field or can be seen by someone driving on a road the anxiety of deer at the feeder will be high (not to mention potential poaching or theft problems). Keeping the feeder back in secluded, low anxiety areas can increase feeding and feeder success. Considering these factors can get a bit overwhelming so here is a list in order of how you should think about deer feeder placement.

  1. High traffic area
  2. Accessible via truck/ATV
  3. Human pressure/seclusion
  4. Ask yourself the question: “Does it work with my hunting strategy?”
  5. Proximity to other food sources
  6. Proximity to water
  7. Proximity to bedding

 

 

The diagram above is a common, or a slightly above average Midwest hunting property (the terrain and amount of timber is a blessing). As you can see, feeder site #1 utilizes all of the checklists and even goes above and beyond by integrating a bit of hunting strategy. Water, food sources, a plot screen, bedding areas, and access are all present allowing the site to be optimized for deer usage and traffic. You will also notice another feeder site…this is where hunting strategy really takes off.

Deer Feeders and Hunting Strategies

Even if your state does not allow hunting over bait you can still create the attraction and central hubs for deer socialization. These usually take the form of food plots and crop fields, but by adding other factors like water, feeders, scrapes, and minerals you can create an even more popular destination that imprints in the mind of the deer herd. This impression stays with a deer even well after the bait is removed. Hunting strategy in relation to deer feeders should focus on this aspect, again regardless of whether or not bait is legal to hunt over or not.

From the diagram, you can see two feeder/bait sites. By creating two “social hotspots” pivoting on food sources you can create hunting opportunities for two scenarios. The wind dictates hunting…period. Bow hunters live and die by this simple observation and strategy. By installing and running two feeder sites, one for north winds and one for south winds, you create hunting opportunities regardless of the prevailing wind. This reiterates the fact that there is much to think about before a deer feeder is placed and filled!

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Deer Feeder Site Necessities

What is the ideal set up for a feeder site? Think about the obvious needs. With deer coming in continuously the feeder makes the ideal site for trail cameras. Beyond cameras, it also is an ideal site to create the idea of “social hotspots”. Mineral blocks and scrapes are also items that can add to the attraction and usage of the feeder sites. When it comes to trail camera usage check out the blog below on Trail Camera Tips. It gives insight into the setup, settings, and tips for each scenario such as a camera over feed.

A couple more tips for feeding deer out of a feeder include two tips that can greatly help the success you achieve with a site. When filling/re-filling feeders, spread a bit of feed around the feeder…especially when you are introducing a feeder for the first time on a hunting property. Also be cautious of the scent, not for pressure but for nuisance animals. Take hand sanitizer or a field spray with you to spray your hands before going from the feeder to your trail camera. Feed scent on a trail camera could create enough interest for a raccoon to destroy the camera in search of more food!

Conclusion

Is a supplemental feed program beneficial for your deer and hunting? Yes. Can a deer feeder integrate and enhance your hunting strategy? Yes. Should you use a deer feeder on your hunting property? It depends… If you have the need or want for more attraction, can keep up with the demands of running a feeder, and have checked your state’s regulations on feeding deer then the answer is yes! Keep an eye out for more content on deer feeders and hunting strategy on the Get Muddy Blog.

Was this article on deer feeders 101 helpful? Leave a reply! Whether it’s a simple question or comment we would appreciate the feedback!

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 AccessoriesSupplemental 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.

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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.