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Armchair Whitetail Scouting

by Steve Flores 21. March 2011 13:16
Steve Flores

Flying under the whitetail radar, while effectively locating your next trophy from the comfort of your own home, is actually easier than it sounds using these three steps.

Record Books
They may not have the glitz and glamour compared to other methods used to uncover whitetail hotspots, but don’t kid yourself regarding their value.  If properly utilized, record books are the next best thing to someone actually telling you where the whitetail hotspots are located.  You see, most individuals are reluctant to reveal their exact whereabouts when they experience any type of consistent success; especially when hunting on public land, and without a doubt if the animal is of Pope and Young caliber.  However, upon entering their trophy into the record books, they must at least divulge the general area of the harvest.  And that is where this entire process begins. 

Another good source of information is your local taxidermist. They are witness to a large variety of bucks and usually know the exact details of the kill. (i.e. harvest data: time, date, location)

Searching through the most recent edition of P&Y records will ultimately tell you (among other things), where the best bucks is being taken.  Finding a hotspot is as easy as calculating the total number of entries for any given county within the state you are researching.  Obviously, when you find a county that is consistently producing a high number of record class bucks, then that is where you will most likely want to concentrate your efforts.

Topo Maps
When using the lay of the land as a guide for stand placement, whether you’re in an entirely new spot or on very familiar hunting ground, the first thing you need to do is realize there are 2 types of terrain features….Positive and Negative.  Both will influence deer movement.  Your job is to utilize the clues found on your topo map to determine which types your area holds and how the deer are going to respond to them.  Then, act accordingly.

 

Don’t dismiss the amount of information contained in a topo map. Take your time and study one of your area before actually walking in on foot to further investigate.

When looking at your map, try to find negative terrain features that funnel deer movement into a pinch point.  For example, a small drain possessing steep side-hills that eventually turn into gradual slopes near the top is an excellent illustration of how negative terrain can funnel and influence deer movement.  Ideally, any deer moving through the area will most likely cross near the top, where the slope is not as radical.  An actual observation of the land should reveal heavy trails at the top which will coincide with the “widely spaced” contour lines from your topo map. For the most part deer are lazy and will often take the path of least resistance; as long as it provides them with the safety needed to get from point A to point B. Use this behavior to your advantage when thinking about possible stand locations.

Positive terrain features on the other hand will include, but not limit themselves to: ridge-top saddles, shallow creek crossings, overgrown logging roads, bench flats, and/or gradually sloping hollows.  In the past, I have set up in saddles discovered using only a topo map and long range observation, and struck pay-dirt my first time in the stand; mainly due to a bucks tendency to use a low lying saddle when crossing over a ridge in order to prevent sky-lining himself. 

Scouting Cameras
You should already have a good idea about where you are going to hang your camera based on the info (lay of the land) gathered from your maps.  Within that chosen area, consider setting up your camera near recently discovered “pinch points”.  Ideally, you’ll want to be set up in high traffic areas; somewhere near bedding/feeding locations or along the transition routes in between. However, if you are unfamiliar with the locale, it may take a little more investigating to discover such places.

 

Scouting cameras are your eyes when you are not there. Set them up in the right locations and they can pay off in a big way.

  Not only can game cameras reveal travel patterns of target bucks known to frequent your area, they can also provide evidence of NEW bucks that have moved in for any number of reasons. 

While conducting your search, look for heavily used trails leading to pinch points that choke deer movement into a confined area; increasing the likelihood that you will capture useful images.  Remember though, that the overall goal is to remain under the whitetails radar, so try to conduct your camera hanging/scouting before the season starts.  Also, do your best to get the camera location right the first time in order to avoid disturbing the area any more than what is absolutely necessary.  If you have thoroughly studied your maps, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Finding a good location to hang your treestand will be much easier having followed these three tips......

and the rewards will be well worth it!

Conclusion
Locating your next trophy without tipping your hand can be difficult to say the least.  However, with a little more homework, and a lot less footwork, you can accomplish far more than you thought possible.  Remember to utilize the information found in record books and harvest reports to get you headed in the right direction.  Then, obtain a topographic map of the area and study it as if your life depended on it. Lastly, go in and hang a scouting camera based on positive and negative terrain features and see if your hunch was right.  My bet is you will be going back very soon to hang a stand. Good luck and God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Mock Scrape.

by John Mueller 2. November 2008 14:58
John Mueller

Making a Mock Scrape 

Last Saturday I found a great spot for a mock Scrape. There is a long ridge that slopes down along a small creek on my property, creating a natural funnel. At the end of the ridge is a nice trail leading from my field that crosses the creek. I found a small branch that overhung the trail. This is very important. There must be a low overhanging branch to make the scrape under. The deer also leave scent on the branch with their forehead glands. As you can see in this picture I also broke the branch to add a little visual effect.

 

Notice the broken branch above the deer.

 

 

Then I brushed all of the leaves from a 3’ diameter circle under the branch with a stick. After removing the leaf litter I made some long scrapes in the dirt like a deer’s hooves would make. I like to make it look as real as possible. You can add some scent if you want, but I have found it is not necessary.

 

When I returned on Sunday to check the scrape a deer had worked it and added another a few feet away. I then went and got my trail camera and set it up on the new scrape. I had lots of action in just a few days. Right now is a great time to make mock scrapes. The bucks are really hitting the scrapes hard at this time. It’s a great way to see what bucks are in your area. Here are a few that worked my mock scrape.

 

 

This guy looks like an old bruiser.

 

Another big bodied visitor.

 

A good young buck working the scrape.

Notice that all of this activity is under the cover of darkness. That is why I usually don't hunt over scrapes. But it is a great way to get an inventory of your bucks. You can get your trail cameras and scents right here on Bowhunting.com in the shopping section if you need one.

Big Buck Rubs - Excitement turns to disappointment.

by Scott Abbott 29. October 2008 05:41
Scott Abbott

As I round the outside edge of the standing corn field en route to stand with intentions of checking my Moultrie Game Spy 4.0 camera that is located on the back side of a standing corn field I see a nice fresh rub.....  Looking closer, that rub is on the tree my game camera has been attached to for the past couple months!  I couldn't wait to see what laid down the nice rub on the stout tree.

                                                                                  He didn't tear it up, but it is a good rub none-the-less.

As I approached the camera I could see the screen was blank.  My first thought was, "I hope I got photos of the buck who did this before the batteries died!".  Of course no such luck.  The batteries had been dead for almost a week.  These moultries have excellent battery life, this encounter just didn't work out for me.  The biggest let down of the episode is that I struggled to get any decent bucks on cam at this property this year.  I was pretty excited to see the rub and who left it after my lack luster summer camera results here.

I plan to hunt this property tonight and will walk past this camera on my way to my stand set, I will be sure to have fresh batteries ; )

 

Here is the view from behind the camera to the corn.

Deer Hunting Scrapes - It Won't Be Long Now!

by John Mueller 27. October 2008 13:50
John Mueller

IT WON”T BE LONG NOW

  

            The scrapeing is going on strong at my place in IL right now. I found a hot scrape last weekend and set my Moultrie I40 up on it. I was pleasantly surprised this weekend by the results. I got pics of a quite a few different bucks using it. Most of the big guys were at night but that may change in a week or 2.

 

            Here is a pic. of a real nice 10 pointer I had an encounter with 2 weeks ago right at dark. I had him at 40 yards but couldn’t see my pins. At least he is still around.

 

 

The Big 10

 

I got a few action shots of the bucks with their antlers in the branches too. I may have to change the I40 over to the video mode. It has that option built in.

 

I can almost reach it.

 

 

Giving it a thrashing.

 

 

 

 

         Another visitor. 

 

 

Big bodied 8 pointer.

 

 

            If you’re interested in putting a trail camera on your own scrapes, you can order yours right here on Bowhunting.com. Check out the trail cam section

  

Moultrie I40 Trail Camera Review

by John Mueller 29. September 2008 12:52
John Mueller

I put 2 Moultrie I40's into use almost a year ago and have been very impressed with the results. That is after I updated the software. It seems there was some type of glitch in the cameras originally. They would produce a whiteout image when in the IR mode on some pictures. After downloading the update from the Moultrie website onto the SD card and then loading it in the cameras my units have performed very well for me.

The Moultrie I40.

 

The daytime pictures are some of the clearest I have seen from a trail camera. The 4 megapixel camera produces very sharp images.

2 turkeys in my food plot.

A doe in the plot.

 

The one feature I have mixed reviews on is the IR Mode of the camera. It was one of the reasons I had originally bought the camera. To get away from the flash going off in the woods and possibly scareing the deer. This model uses Infrared Illumination to capture lowlight and nighttime photos. A band of 72 IR bulbs glows red to take the lowlight pictures. These photos are black and white images.

 

 This is not supposed to spook deer. I do catch some of them stareing at the camera while it is taking their picture. The bad part about this is it takes a lot of daylight to get the camera off of the IR mode. When my camera is in the woods 90% of the pictures are IR mode even in daylight. The only way I get color daylight pictures is to have my camera on a food plot or open field. The black and white images are great for just cataloging your deer and seeing what is out there. But if you want to frame some of the photos or show them off on your favorite website, the color pictures work much better.

Some of the neat features of this camera are:

1. 3 different still picture settings for picture quility.

2. 2 different video settings. (which I have to figure out so I can put my camera on some scrapes this fall)

3. Uses SD Cards, which most digital cameras use now. I use my camera to view them in the field.

4. A laser aim pointer to adjust where the unit is pointed.

5. Time, Date, Temperature, and Moon Phase stamped on the picture.

6. Uses 6 D-cell batteries that last a reported 150 days. I have had mine in operation for almost 1 year and am on my second set of batteries( still have 65% charge)     Truely extended battery life.

7. Easy to set up and reset after checking.

Nice and simple to operate, not a lot of switches or buttons.

8. Does the scouting when you're not there.

Some things I would like to see changed:

1. The SD Card is in a very awkward place to get to. Unless you have very long skinny fingers. There are many other places this could have been put.

Here you can see the SD Card just to the left of the white label.

2. The unit is a big black box. A grey or softer color would not stand out nearly as much. Harder for the deer and would be thieves to see.

3. No real way to lock it to the tree.

4. It does make a bit of a click when the shutter opens.

All in all I have to say the pluses far outweigh the minuses on this camera. I am very happy with the service my 2 units have given me in the year I have had them. No problems at all after doing the original upgrade to the software. And I have not heard of another unit with the battery life of the I40. If you would like to try one of these out for yourself. They can be purchased right here on Bowhunting.com by following the link below.

Final Preparations For Bowhunting Season

by Justin Zarr 21. September 2008 16:38
Justin Zarr

It never seems to fail; no matter how good our intentions are for getting stands hung and trimmed out months before the season starts, life seems to find a way to deviate us from those plans.  In my particular case, I've been planning a wedding for the past 13 months which has taken a lot of time away from my normal routine of scouting, stand hanging, and general preparation for bowhunting season.  In fact, it's less than 10 days until the Illinois archery season opens and I haven't purchased my tags or even shot any broadheads yet!  Although I do plan on getting a few shooting sessions in this week if at all possible.  I'll be back in town on October 5th and plan to hit the ground running when I get return, so it's definitely time to start getting things in gear.

This past Saturday Mike and I spent some time hanging the last few stands, trimming the last few lanes, and making the last of our pre-season preparations at our local hunting spots.  It's amazing to me how grown up some of these stands can get after only one season.  Shooting lanes that were clear last year have grown over and needed a little bit of TLC before the season opens, which is just what we gave them.  I was able to give my Hooyman Extentible Tree Saw its first workout of the year and overall I was happy with it.  I'm a little hard on my saws and pretty critical of their performance, but overall it held up well.  It definitely works better as an extentible saw than a traditional hand saw as the handle was a little flimsy for my liking.  My Felco hand saw still can't be beat for standard duty, but for those pesky limbs and twigs that are out of arm's reach, the Hooyman works great.  I would definitely recommend this product to any bowhunter who does a lot of standing hanging both before and during their bowhunting seasons.  If you're interested in trying one out, we have them for sale in our shopping cart right here on Bowhunting.com for only $38.99.

We also happened on our first rubs of the year as well.  With the bucks having shed their velvet their testosterone levels are starting to pick up a bit so we should be seeing more and more rubs pop up over the next few weeks, and pretty soon a few scrapes as well.  I can't wait!


This is the kind of stuff that should get every bowhunter excited for the fall!  We found this fresh rub in a heavy fencerow between two standing corn fields that connects two small woodlots.  It's a great place to catch a buck traveling if they leave the corn up.  But once the corn comes down these bucks don't like being caught out in the open during daylight unless they're chasing a hot doe in November.

Speaking of hard horned bucks, I got my first trail camera pictures of bucks who had shed their velvet.  One is a tight-racked 10 pointer that I have several pictures of throughout the summer months.  I originally thought this buck was older than he really is, as he looks like a 2 1/2 year old buck to me.  He also exhibits the exact same characteristics of so many other bucks on this property over the past 6 years we've been hunting it.  Narrow rack, short brows, and G3's that are every so slightly longer than his G2's.    I don't think he has the genetics to blow into anything huge, but I guess we'll have to wait and see over the next few years if he makes it through.


This buck is a perfect representative of the type  of genetics we have on this particular farm.  Year after year, fresh crops of bucks pop up with racks that look identical to one another.

The second buck was the first antlered deer photo I've gotten all summer on what we call the "main farm" property.  It's hard to be totally sure, but I believe that we got a few photos of this particular buck last year during the late season.  At the time he had what looked like a fresh wound on his left side and we wondered if he would make it through the season.  Well, if this photo is indeed the same buck (and I think it is) it looks like he's doing just fine.  He appears to be either a 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 year old buck with either very small or no brow tines.  I'm sure I'll get a few more looks at him this fall once I get my cameras over some scrapes, so I'm looking forward to getting to see his rack a little better.  This is also the 2nd group of photos from my Cuddeback Capture and so far I've been very happy with it's performance.  Flash range is good, batteries are holding strong after nearly a month, and I haven't had any motion-blur problems like I did with my Cuddeback Excite.  For a $200 you can't beat it right now.  Check them out over at Trailcam.com, we have them in stock and ready to ship!


It's a little hard to tell from this small photo, but this buck appears to have some healed-over scars on his left side just behind his shoulder as well as right in front of his hind leg.  I think this is the same buck we got two photos of last year during the late season.

This will probably be my last update until October as I've got a busy week ahead of me followed by my wedding next Saturday (GULP) and then a week-long trip to Mexico.  I should be nice and rested when I get back and ready to get in a tree and shoot something!  Good luck to everyone who is hunting - be safe and shoot straight!

    
Summer wouldn't be complete without at least one trespasser randomly walking through the woods that are clearly posted with "NO TRESPASSING" signs on all 4 sides.  I just wish the photo was a little bit more clear so I could make out who this jackrod is, and what we's got in his hand.  Kinda looks like a camcorder to me??

Trail Camera Review - Predator Evolution

by Todd Graf 7. September 2008 06:19
Todd Graf

Predator Evolution digital trail camera –First and foremost, please don’t get this post confused.  This review is on the Predator Evolution trail camera, not the new Predator Xtinction trail camera. We are still waiting to get a new unit in our hands for testing. I heard they are having some difficulties getting parts but they are on the way shortly.  As soon as we get a new unit and have a chance to try it out we will let you know.

The Pros:

The video mode is super cool on mineral licks and scrapes! This is probably one of my favorite features of this camera.  Still photos are great, but there's just something about watching a big buck working a scrape from close up that gets me excited.  Plus having multiple angles of the buck's rack can allow you to see all those little  stickers and kickers that are sometimes hiddenin standard photos.  The LCD touchscreen is cool for programming the unit and viewing photos in the field.  More than once I have found myself heading out for an evening's hunt only to stop and check my photos on the way in.  The Predator Evolution is a very compact trail camera which makes it easy to carry around the woods in a fanny pack. The unit comes with a screw-in bracket for attaching the camera to trees easily.  What makes this particular bracket nice is that by simply removing a pin you can take the camera off the tree to making changing batteries and reviewing photos easy, and simply replace the pin to secure the camera when you are done. It works well and is one of the better attaching mechanicsms that I have used.

The trigger speed on the Predator Evolution is also a huge plus.  To put it simply, it's probably the fastest trigger speed of any camera I've ever tested or owned.  I've gotten a ton of pictures of birds as they fly by the front of the camera, which is pretty impressive.

The Cons:

The battery life of this unit is not the best in the world, and replacing 10 AA batteries every few weeks can get expensive quick.  My advice would be to buy rechargeables as soon as possible.  You'll thank me later!  Also, the images are kind of small. I wish you got a little larger picture so you could blow them up if you got a cool shot.  Sometimes it can be difficult to see all the details of a buck's rack or body, especially if they are a little further away.  The last downside to this camera is the performance of the LCD screen in really cold weather.  Just like your cell phone if you leave it in your truck by accident, the LCD screen gets extremely sluggish when it's cold, which can make reviewing images tedious.  And when it's that cold, you don't have much patience for staying still too long!

This photo shows how good the day time photos can be.

 

Here I must have had the unit programmed improperly, as there was plenty of daylight but yet it still took an IR shot.

Not sure why these bucks bucks got freaked out, the unit is very quiet and has no flash.

The IR flash range on the Evolution is decent, but not great.  I am hoping in the new Xteniction unit's IR will reach out further.

Of course I save the best for last - All bowhunters and dee hunters in general  will like this - if you want to get some great videos, this unit can do it!

Check out some of these videos....

Struting Turkey Video

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3310603642800468404

20 Plus deer in Field - Pretty cool. You know at least one good buck has to be out there somewhere!

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9007518874748441970

Buck at Licking Branch

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8990171210984315572

 




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