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.


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.


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!

Summer Deer Management with Trail Cameras |Running a Trail Camera Surveys

What To Do With Your Trail Cameras This Summer | Run A Survey!

Summer Deer Management with Trail Cameras |Running Trail Camera Surveys

Do you completely understand the deer herd on your deer hunting property? Many hunters would probably say yes without really thinking about the question. Understanding your deer herd is more than just being able to harvest deer consistently. Trail cameras can unlock information about the health of your herd and the number of harvestable bucks roaming around pre and post season. But there is more to it than just hanging a few trail cameras up and looking at pictures.

Starting with the Trail Cameras

Whitetail deer camera surveys are more than just hanging a bunch of trail cameras. First of all, if you want to have more than a lot of pictures at the end of the summer, you have to put some science and thought into how you place trail cameras on your property. It starts with choosing high-quality trail cameras. Cameras that are not top-end will give you less than adequate images to review, categorize and compile into actionable information you can use to manage the deer on your property. The best trail cameras for deer hunting are those that have some of the following qualities.

  • Fast Trigger Speed – first of all, is one of the more important qualities in a high-quality trail camera. Faster is better in most circumstances but ultimately it depends on how you plan to use your trail cameras. For those hanging game cameras for monitoring deer populations, trigger speed is less important because you are usually setting up a game camera over an area like a food source where deer are typically going to be stationary long enough to get quality images. On the other, trigger speed is critical if you are surveying trails. Slow trigger speed can be the difference between identifying a buck or only capturing a passing rump.
  • High Image Quality – In addition to fast trigger speed, high image quality allows you to differentiate different bucks on your property. Poor images from lower quality cameras makes it harder to clearly identify unique bucks, which is important when trying to calculate deer density. Good image quality also saves you time categorizing photos into shooter or not shooter buck lists because you can easily see all the attributes each buck has from the quality of each deer trail camera picture.
  • Battery Life- Finally, battery life is something many property owners do not consider with a good game camera. Perhaps the most significant deer trail camera tip is to choose a game camera that has a long battery life. Extended battery life is important for three reasons. First it saves you the expense of purchasing pack after pack of batteries to keep your cameras operating. Placement, the second reason, can be more remote since you are not having to go back as many times to change batteries. Third and final reason is fewer return visits to these trail cameras. Trail cameras – also known as game cameras as their name suggests, are cameras placed in areas where game are active or will pass in front of the camera, this often includes bait, trails, food sources, or water. With that definition, the name suggests that the game or this case deer, in order to be active, means no pressure. That means the more visits, more scent and disturbance, and ultimately pressure that can cause deer to change their patterns.
Muddy Outdoors Trail Cameras – Muddy Pro Cam 12
(Video) – High quality deer trail camera pictures from Muddy Outdoors newest game camera.

A good scouting camera can only get you so far. There is an art to getting great game pictures suitable enough to start making management decisions from. Trail cameras are commonly attached to a tree using the supplied straps. Step up security by incorporating a lock to secure it from any light-fingered trespassers that may come across them. Different trail camera mounts are also available if you are setting up a game camera to monitor a field or when trees are not where you need them to be to capture the best possible images. Mounts are nice because they can change angles and positions to place your camera in the right spot. Much of image quality relies on the type of game cameras you are using, however, there are a few deer trail camera tips that you can use to get better deer trail camera pictures. Focus in on the five C’s to capture good trail camera images; camera angle, contrast, color, composition and chips. Click below to dig into those trail camera tips.

Trail Camera Surveys

Managing your property for deer requires information. That information has always been collected, mostly through scouting and observation in the field, but trail cameras give hunters a technological advantage in collecting information. Summer is by far the best time of the year to monitor your deer herd population with trail camera surveys. Summer allows you to collect information like fawn recruitment, sex ratio, age structure of bucks and to compile estimates on deer density for your property. This information helps you to make informed decisions about how many deer can and should be harvested and whether deer habitat needs to be improved in order to promote better herd health. Trail camera surveys also provide pictures of the majority of the bucks on your property, which is a great resource to use to compile shoot and do not shoot photo books for the upcoming season.

Trail Camera Surveys


Trail camera surveys are conducted in mid-summer as antlers mature and again in late-winter after hunting season but before antler drop occurs. Pre-season surveys provide information on herd health including fawn recruitment as well as giving you a glimpse at what type of bucks are lurking for the upcoming season. Post-season surveys give you a “what happened” look. These surveys can identify survival rates from hunting season and qualitatively look at the overall condition of the deer herd as winter approaches.  Why these two times of the year for conducting camera surveys? In order to analysis your property, unique bucks have to be identifiable. Mid-summer and late-winter are times of the year when antlers can be used to I.D. bucks confidently.

Finally, the number of trail cameras needed depends on the size of your property. The goal is to capture as many pictures of each deer on your property as possible. Based on a deer’s home range size, a rough guide is to use one camera for every 80-100 acres. The more cameras the better but at about 40 acres the law of diminishing returns kicks in and any additional cameras are just wasting batteries. Try to position each camera near the center of each 80-100 acre section of your property in general, but more importantly near areas that deer will frequent like food plots, mineral sites or watering holes.

Summer Trail Camera Strategies

Summer is in full swing. Deer movements during this time of year are mostly driven by food availability. Position game cameras along field edges or near food sources like orchards or food plots to capture the most pictures as part of your survey. Where legal, you can use bait or mineral sites to attract deer into range of your trail cameras in areas like large forest tracts that have limited available summertime forage. Either way, food is number one on the minds of deer this time of year so it only makes sense to hang a camera where you are going to get the most deer trail camera pictures. Also do not dismiss water sources as an option for positioning a trail camera. The summer heat and increased consumption of food tends to force deer to travel to a watering hole at least some point during the day. These areas can be a place to capture deer trail camera pictures of bucks that may only be coming to your property for water and nothing else. Information like this learned from alternative trail camera placement strategies is invaluable and can be helpful to get a complete picture of the deer on your property.

The Actual Deer Survey

A typical trail camera survey should be conducted for two weeks. Check game cameras at a minimum during the survey to keep your results as natural as possible. When the survey is over, take your pictures back to your computer and start the exciting part of going through the hundreds of image you have captured. Retain each deer picture as all are important for a complete analysis. Use the pictures to classify and count each unique buck. Count all mature does and fawns. A good deer trail camera tip is to save all the buck images to a separate folder so you can come back later and easily classify them as a shooter buck or not. At the end of this exercise you now have the number of unique bucks and total number of does and fawns. All that is left is some simple math to calculate an estimate of your property’s deer population.

  • Bucks – The math here is easy. The number of bucks is simply the number of unique bucks captured by your trail cameras during the survey.
  • Does – Divide the total number of doe pictures by the total number of buck pictures. Then, multiple that result by the number of unique buck pictures.
  • Fawns – Same calculation as determining your doe population estimate. Divide the total number of fawn pictures by the total number of buck pictures then divide that result by the number of unique buck pictures.
  • Total Deer Population – Add together your results for bucks, does and fawns to get an estimate of the total deer on your property.

That is it! You have just completed a simple process to use game cameras to acquire baseline data on your deer population scientific enough to make management decisions on herd health and harvest requirements. More importantly, the numbers are beneficial to detect trends across multiple years. Trends like how your population is growing (or shrinking) or is the adult sex ratio becoming unbalanced are easily observed with data tracked from trail camera surveys from year to year. Finally this exercise allows you to be able to recognize bucks in the field more quickly so that harvest decisions in season happen without even thinking.


In conclusion, trail cameras are an essential part of your whitetail deer management plan. A well-executed trail camera survey can provide insights on herd health, deer density and even uncover trends from year to year that can drive decisions on management. If you are not already using camera surveys to check in on your property’s deer herd, summer is a perfect time to pick up a few Muddy Outdoors trail cameras and get to it.