Hold Off on Those Trail Cameras!

It seems like social media has been abuzz in the last week or so with deer hunters putting out their game cameras. I understand the strong desire to get out and have a look at the racks this year’s bucks are growing. Making your move too soon however might come at a cost.

I probably do less “work” in terms of my deer hunting in June than any other month and every year I fight the same battle – I want so bad to get my game cameras out in the woods to see what the bucks I am following are growing on their heads and yet I know I need to wait. I have been at this game long enough now that I know the likely perils of rushing out too soon with my cameras.

I always wait until about July 1st to start putting out trail cameras. In fact for as many years as I can remember I have spent much of the 4th of July holiday in the woods putting out my cameras. There is a huge reason why you should also bide your time and wait a few more weeks before hitting the woods with your cameras.

In early July a bucks rack is far from being fully developed but there is enough growth to give you a good idea of how big he will be. A month earlier in June is too early to know what caliber of buck you are looking at.

I am currently running around 50 trail cameras and I cover a lot of territory with them. In the process I am watching or trying to track down leads to numerous mature bucks. Without a doubt, trail cameras have allowed me to take my hunting success to new levels and along the way I have learned that often a mature buck is only going to allow his photo to be captured one time at a location. Granted, some of them don’t care and will waltz past the camera day after day but there are some that just won’t stand for it. Just like when actually hunting them, one shot is often all you get. We all know that the first time a hunter sits in a particular stand is his best chance to tag a mature buck there. The same principal applies to trail cameras.

When I do get a photo of one of those super reclusive bucks, I want to make sure it is a photo that gives me the most information possible. A buck’s rack in June is often not grown out enough to allow you to see his full potential. Sure, you can tell the great bucks from the mediocre ones but it is often difficult in June to tell whether a buck will end up with a 160” rack or a 180”. That 20” to me means the difference between a shooter and just another buck that I hope survives another season.

I set out this camera last summer early in the morning on July 14. A few hours later the first photo I captured was of the buck I was looking for. As you can see he was running past the camera but he clearly smelled my ground scent and came back to investigate. I got a series of 24 great daylight photos of him. These were the only photos I got of this buck from that camera despite leaving it at this location until March! When dealing with wild mature bucks you often only get one chance!

When I put out a camera for a specific buck I am pretty confident that I will get his photo at least once at a given location. After that he very well may never walk in front of that camera again. I want to be darn sure that he is carrying a nearly fully developed rack when I get his photo that first time. For the deer hunter just looking to have fun and see what photos he may get there is certainly nothing wrong with putting out trail cameras in June but for the hunter looking to take his game to the highest level by targeting bucks 5 ½ years old and older, there is little room for error. Just sit tight for another month and when most deer hunters are watching fireworks and partying at the lake, get out there and get those cameras set.

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