Summer Scouting for Whitetails

Posted by: Jordan Howell on Jul 22, 2012
Page 1 of 3

Effective scouting is as much a part of hunting as climbing into a treestand in November. It is also one of the most overlooked aspects of being successful.  As summer progresses, bowhunters start to get antsy in anticipation of the upcoming season.  We all want to "get out there" and see what kind of deer are in the area and which ones we may have a chance to hunt when fall finally arrives.  Yes, the urge to start scouting can be overwhelming.  However, without the proper approach, scouting during the summer may do more harm than good.  You see, scouting and EFFECTIVE scouting are two different things.  When it comes to mature bucks…..less is more.

ss1

Summer is the best time to see deer during daylight hours.

For the purpose of this article we are going to focus on how to effectively scout for mature bucks during the summer months.  When I say mature, I mean bucks that are 4 years old or older.  And, although mature bucks are more visible during late summer than at any other time of year, they are still extremely wary so caution must be used.  In order to maximize my scouting efforts, while still flying under the whitetail radar, I concentrate on the following methods. 

Method 1
The first tool I use is trail cameras.  Trails “cams”, as they are commonly called, are invaluable to hunters who want to keep an accurate inventory of their deer herd while keeping intrusion minimal.  When selecting a location for a trail camera, there are several factors to consider. Most important is access; how will you access the camera in order to check it.  Ideally, you want a spot that is very easy to get to without spooking any deer, so forget about locations that are deep inside your hunting area. The better approach is to stick to the fringes. I prefer locations that I can almost drive right up to.  This allows me to swap camera cards and re-fresh the bait in a little over a minute, and then leave; keeping human intrusion to a minimum. 

Once I know the general area I want to place my camera in, I then narrow the location down to those that will receive a good amount of "natural" deer traffic.  Sites such as gaps in a fence, trail edges coming into a major food source, or land bridges over irrigation ditches are all excellent choices.  Once I have found a site that offers both good access and natural deer movement, I set my camera up.  If at all possible I will face it pointing north.  This diminishes the chance of getting sunspots and glare on the photos regardless of the time of day. 
I also place attractants in front of the camera. (Make sure to check local regulations before using attractants in your area).  From early spring through Fall I like to use mineral attractants.  Right now I am using “Whitetail Antler Magic” by Heartland Wildlife Institute.  They also make a mineral attractant called Whitetail Lick Magic.  Once the camera is set in place I try not to check it any more than once a week; sometimes every two weeks.  Historically, I tend to get the most mature buck pictures between July 1st and August 15th.

 ss2

Attractants will help place deer directly in front of your camera.

When you download your pictures don’t just look at them….study them.  And not just the deer themselves, but everything in the photos.  For example, if a particular buck always approaches the camera from the same direction, there is a good chance he is bedding in that direction.  That will give you a starting point as to where to begin hunting.  There is a lot of information that can be learned from trail cameras if you take the time to properly study them.  Without a doubt, they allow the hunter to be in the woods 24/7; which is a big advantage when trying to formulate a plan to hunt a particular buck.

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Jordan Howell

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Nebo, IL
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