Like a kid at Christmas, I clicked through each picture hoping for just a glimpse. Fingers crossed, praying to the deer gods that he survived another season, I finally saw what I was waiting for. There he was, in all of his velvet glory. Hefty mass, a wide rack, and eight points; buck number one on my 2013 hit list has earned his spot–early in June.
All throughout the warm summer months, bucks without a care in the world make their presence known. It’s fun to watch them feed in crop fields and dream about just how big those velvet antlers will grow!
All the velvety anticipation aside, summer trail camera use is a very controversial topic because of the fact that they are not foolproof. Some cautious hunters don’t bother to hang a trail camera until September. Other brave souls run them all year long. Many well-meaning hunters accidentally ruin a perfectly good season by being sloppy with summer trail cameras. A few false moves, getting a bit too close to a bedding area, a trail of human scent, and the deal’s off–that shooter will find someplace else to hang out.
It’s important to remember that almost every bull, buck, or boar will change his feeding patterns come hunting season, so treestands and hunting plans should not be based on summer movement. However, summer scouting is a great way to get excited and to take inventory. With the help of ScentBlocker products and a little woodsmanship, summer trail camera scouting can be a fun way to keep tabs of the local herd. Here are a few tricks to cautiously enjoy a trail camera this summer.
First and foremost, being scent-free is crucial here. This goes for all game animals; deer, elk, and bears. The animals do not know what month it is, and don’t care why a human is invading their sacred territory. They just know to panic. So, in order to keep the game around, it’s important to not alert them to the hunter’s presence.
Being truly committed to a scent-free strategy is a four-step process beginning indoors. For summer trail camera maintenance, we won’t worry so much about diet and will focus on keeping the body clean. Be sure to take a scent-free shower, and wash with all of the proper shampoos and soaps that ScentBlocker offers. Use body conditioner and breath gum as well. Second, treat any clothes to be worn in the woods as hunting garments wash them properly in scent-free detergents such as ScentBlocker’s Trinity clothes wash. Be sure to recharge activated garments with a round in the laundry dryer before embarking into the woods as well. As usual, store this scent-free, charged gear in a ScentBlocker Dry Bag or Compression Bag and do not get dressed until safely in the field.
Lastly, be sure to spray down literally everything with Ti4. I recommend using it on the exterior of all your clothing–boots, hat, and gloves included. I also generously soak the camera in it after I am done hanging it. Don’t forget to spray parts of the tree that were touched as well; seriously, anything that came in contact with potential human scent needs to be handled with Ti4.
The best place to hang a summer camera is in a high-traffic area. I typically find them to be at pinch points, fence crossings, water holes, popular trails, feeding areas, and so on. The camera should be in a place where a lot of game will be, and they won’t mind a bit of human interference now and then. With even the most scent-free regimen in place, the animals will hear truck doors slamming, talking, the quad running, and branches being cut. Place the camera in an area well away from the security of their bedding zones, so that if they do sense human presence, it won’t be so alarming.
If there are no real obvious high-traffic areas, create some. With landowner permission, tie fences down for an easy crossing, fall a few trees to create a funnel, plant a food plot, or dig a water hole. Also, talk to the farmers and landowners. Ask them where they see the most deer. Hanging a camera in any of these areas will be a great place to start.
When hanging a camera, we recommend hanging them high in a tree. Climb with a few sticks or steps, attach the camera, and then use a broken stick behind the top to aim it down. By having the camera sit high in the tree it will help prevent any game from getting spooked, and also keep it out of eyesight of dishonest hunters. Be sure to face it north or south to avoid direct sun in the lens.
We can’t stress this enough, check local regulations! Where legal, attractants like bait or mineral sites will really attract game from all over the area. In the summer months bucks and bulls crave the precious antler-building minerals found in many supplements. Also, if nothing fancy is available, plain old salt works. A lot of Western hunters will hike back into their honey holes with 40-pound bags of water softener salt. Elk will travel for miles to get a taste of the salty mineral that they crave.
Another option is simply putting out shelled corn or other baits. During these same summer months, bears are starting to fatten up for winter, and deer and elk are still always hungry. The animals won’t be able to meet all of their nutritional needs with these tasty treats, but they will keep them coming back for pictures. When baiting, don’t dump it all out at once, but rather a little at a time, to keep the scent fresh and the animals interested. Every two to three days should suffice to create a popular photo destination.
This particularly pertains to deer and so much has been written on the topic, so we’ll just scratch the surface. Game animals communicate through a variety of ways. Whitetails in particular are famous for their fall scraping activity. What some don’t realize is that many scrapes are started and maintained throughout the summer. These long-term scrapes are usually an annual event, and are made by the most dominant of bucks. Scent control is a must in this situation. The most important part of a good scrape is the licking branch. It needs to be hanging down over the scraping area, and accessible to the buck’s mouth. He will chew and lick it and rub his forehead on the branch. He’ll also dig up the dirt below, urinate and defecate on it; all with the intent of making his presence known and declaring his position in the breeding order.
What is the easiest way to make a mock scrape? While wearing rubber gloves, find a tree or two with decent licking branches; preferably living branches, but dead will work. Break them down so they hang toward the ground. Then, dig at the dirt below and apply Scent Shield Still Steamin’ products such as doe or buck urine. Still Steamin’ also bottles buck semen and doe in heat urine, but now is not the time to use them. The point of a summer mock scrape is to create a high traffic area where several bucks will make an appearance and try to declare their dominance.
That being said, many a mature buck are duped each fall by a mock scrape that was started in the summer months. Check out this amazing story from our friend Ren Arietti about the monster buck he shot last fall and his mock scrape regiment.
Hunting is supposed to be fun. Summer trail cameras are a great way to get outdoors and enjoy God’s creation. If they get too stressful, or the bucks seem to be disappearing, then quit running them. When handled properly, with a strict scent control program in place, summer trail cameras will be a great scouting tool to get a jump on the season. If it’s not working out, then hang out in the backyard and shoot your bow!
Image courtesy Jason Herbert