Spring and Summer Trail Camera Tactics

Every hunter can relate to the excitement of pulling a trail camera to find out if they have a big, mature buck in the area. But have you ever stopped to think about what other information you can gain from trail cameras, particularly during the spring and summer months? Not only can trail cameras be useful in the fall, but you can also gain useful information in the spring and summer that will help you better manage and hunt your deer herd.  

Here are 4 things in particular that spring and summer trail camera tactics can reveal!

#1 What is There to Eat?

Outside of shed hunting in the spring, most deer hunters think about other things such as turkey hunting, morel mushroom hunting, or maybe even fishing. However, running trail cameras in the spring can provide useful information that can better help you manage your deer herd. For example, one question you should be able to answer is what type of food are deer concentrating on in the spring? Are they still mostly using your food plots? 

Maybe they’re eating waste grain in big Ag fields or maybe they’re actually spending more time in the woods and are feeding on woody browse. Try spending some time on the ground to identify areas where deer are feeding and then set up your trail camera to see when they’re feeding in these areas. 

One great piece of information you can gain from this trail camera tactic is a better understanding of the natural browse that deer are feeding on. Finding woody plants that have been browsed and setting your camera up on those areas will also tell you when deer are feeding. You might find out that deer feed more often in the woods during the day or you may even find out what types of plants deer spend more time browsing. This can obviously reveal travel routes and patterns that might be able to be exploited during the fall.

PHOTOFinding woody plants that have been browsed and setting your camera up on those areas will tell you when, where, and even why deer might be feeding those areas.

If you find that deer aren’t browsing very often on woody species, then it may be time for you to consider doing some habitat management to increase the quantity and quality of available woody browse. It’s easy to assume that deer get a majority of their diet from food plots and Ag fields but in reality, natural vegetation still makes up a majority of their diet.

#2 Where are They Bedding?

One of the cardinal sins of deer hunting is bumping deer from their bedding areas, but that all goes out the window in the springtime. This is the perfect opportunity to not only walk your property and identify potential bedding areas, but to also set up a camera on these areas to document how deer are using them.

PHOTO: Springtime is the perfect opportunity to set up a camera on bedding areas to document how, when, and why deer are using them. Be sure to spray them down with scent eliminating spray. 

Again, there are several pieces of information you can gain from this tactic. For example, are deer consistently using this area for bedding or are they only sporadically using it? What direction are they coming from in the morning and what direction do they leave in the evening? This can particularly help you determine not only where deer are feeding, but also how they are getting there. Finally, is there a specific wind direction associated with when they are using the area to bed? All of this information will better help you understand how deer are using their bedding areas without you having to bother that area in the fall.   

#3 Biological Information

There are also a couple of pieces of biological information that you can gather during the springtime. First, you can start to get an idea of when fawns are first hitting the ground. Now you may not necessarily see newborn fawns at heel with their mothers as newborns are generally in hiding, but you can look at does to see if there is any evidence that they may have dropped their fawns. Generally, does tend to look much slimmer in their stomach and hip area and/or you may notice an obvious milk sack indicating milk production for the fawn.

PHOTO: Paying attention to antler development and fawn recruitment through trail cameras can tell you what action might need to be taken for next year’s deer herd management.

The next thing to take note of is when you first see bucks developing antlers. Neither of these pieces of information will tell you much on their own in any given year. Instead, you will need to record these dates for multiple years to get an idea of what’s going on. If you notice that does seem to be dropping their fawns later in the spring, then that might indicate that you may have too many deer or food might be limiting. The same goes for antler development and can be indicators that you need to do some habitat management or maybe even shoot more deer in the fall. 

#4 Buck Patterns for Early Season

Energetic demands and food resources change throughout the spring and summer, as such, deer will also change their diet. By summertime, high quality agricultural crops such as soybeans and alfalfa are becoming readily available. These highly nutritious plants provide a buffet for both bucks and does to round out the summer months. Bucks are still using their summer patterns by opening day of archery season in many states providing you with a prime opportunity to close the deal on your hit list buck early on.

PHOTO: Using trail cameras to identify travel corridors and the time of day bucks are using those food sources is vital information to be gained during summer.

Using trail cameras can help you do just that. Obviously, using your trail cameras to identify travel corridors and the time of day bucks are using those food sources is vital information to be gained but combining that knowledge with the information you gained during the spring will help you close the deal. Hopefully, you were able to identify where those deer are bedding during the spring and when they tend to leave their beds to feed. That, when combined with the most recent information you gained during the summer will help paint a clear picture of what those deer are doing. To take this one-step further, record wind direction for each day you have a picture of deer in their summer pattern. Are those deer only moving on certain wind directions? Do they tend to show up in the field earlier when wind is out of the North and West compared to a southerly wind? All of this information can go a long ways in helping you harvest a buck on opening day of archery season.

Conclusion

Although we tend to forget about our trail cameras until the fall, there is still plenty of information you can gain during the spring and summer months. Employing trail camera tactics year round will give you a better idea of what the deer herd is doing at any given time. This information also makes it a lot easier to be more familiar with a property’s layout and how the deer utilize it. Once the season arrives, this information will prove invaluable.   

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