Bow seasons are coming up, and since deer are still locked into summer feeding patterns, now is the perfect time to get out there and do some last-minute scouting. For me, that begins with hanging trail cameras. Among my favorite spots to hang them are in pinch points just off major food sources. Such areas may include a saddle between two ridges; a hardwood edge alongside a pine thicket; or a narrowing in a creek bottom. Anything that funnels deer movement near the food is worth checking out.
Be discreet. The last thing you want to is to alert deer this time of year. Find a buck’s hideout, but be cautious. Do your camera work in the heat of midday. If you have any worries of bumping deer from an area, it’s best to avoid going in there.
Finally, when you go to actually set your camera, be sure you set it in the right spot. A mistake I often made in the past with trail cameras was that I set them up too close to the area where I expected to get the deer’s picture. My shots would often consist of more deer butts than deer heads. Some cameras have a second or two delay, and that can be all it takes to miss that deer in the frame. How close is too close? These days, I usually set my camera up about 10-15 feet away from the location where I’m trying to catch deer crossing, and it works pretty well.
During the early season, deer will usually stick to a fairly set routine. But those routines vary from year to year. Crop field rotations change, and even heavy spring rains can alter food sources. White oak acorns are a top bet if they’re available. Fields planted in clover, beans or alfalfa are top choices as well. If you’re hunting over beans, be careful, because by the time the season opens the beans may have already turned brown or have been harvested. That will cause deer to move on to something else.
It’s hot, and as mentioned, those bucks are going to bed close to food. Hang your early stands accordingly where you see deer entering a field or food plot, and avoid walking around deeper in the timber. There’ll be time for that later in the season. Glassing different fields, if you have them available, on multiple evenings only increases your odds.
Hopefully these tips will help you pinpoint those mature bucks you’ve been after. As the season nears, I’ve been busy gathering my gear and shooting my bow in the afternoon. Also, I’ve been getting trail camera photos from our farm here in Georgia and lease up in Nebraska, since those will be my two hunting destinations in the early season. I already have a good idea of where I want my first few setups of the season to be. And I can’t wait!
Shoot straight and God bless. — T.J.