Summer is fraught with anticipation for bowhunters. With deer season still weeks away, pursuing whitetails with trail cameras is the next best thing. It’s fun and educational to track antler growth and deer movements throughout summer. Plus, summer scouting with trail cameras gives bowhunters many advantages when hunting season finally arrives.
Deer focus primarily on feeding, not breeding, during summer. Rubs and scrapes – which are good trail-cam locations in fall – won’t appear until after bucks shed their velvet in late summer. Food and water sources get the nod until then.
A little scouting ensures your cameras monitor optimal locations. Drive around in the evening to see which fields deer visit. Keep in mind, bucks will likely be hanging together in bachelor groups. They’ll often be visible, but they might not use the same fields as does and fawns. A little glassing helps you fine-tune your trail-cam locations.
Once you find an active field, you still must find the “X.” One option is to place a camera along a heavily used trail where deer enter a field. Trails at field corners are good bets. Again, though, bachelor groups might not use the same trails as does and fawns. If you’re not getting buck photos, move your cameras to other trails.
Another option is to place a camera on a T-post or other stake out in crop fields, away from bedding cover. Your camera will be among feeding deer, but you usually must rely on moving deer to trigger the camera’s shutter. That’s why some cameras include a field-scan mode, which trips the shutter at programmed intervals.
Field-scan mode really shines in food plots, where deer might congregate in relatively small feeding areas rather than across entire fields covering hundreds of acres. It’s a great way to get a broad look at a field to see which deer – and how many – are feeding. However, if you want detailed looks at a buck’s rack, a better bet is placing your cameras trailside.
Speaking of food plots, summer plots featuring clover are excellent for getting photos. As with crop fields, you can place cameras along trails or in the middle of food plots.
Water sources also provide excellent camera setups during summer’s heat. Getting a camera into just the right spot might be challenging on ponds or streams, but it’s much easier on small waterholes. Where water is scarce, consider making a waterhole by digging a pond or filling an old stock tank. It will help you get summer trail-cam photos, and provide deadly setups during early bow season and sometimes into the rut.
Mineral licks are also great sites for cameras. They attract a variety of deer, and it’s easy to figure out where to place the camera because licks are small, well-defined sites.
Placing cameras in bedding areas or other deer hangouts within cover is always possible, but setting up in crop fields or food plots keeps you out of steamy, mosquito-filled woods, and minimizes scents you leave behind.
During summer you’ll also be dealing with lush, green vegetation that moves in the slightest breeze. Therefore, place your cameras in open areas, or mow grass or cut brush that can trigger false shutters.
How often you check your SD card depends on its storage capacity, battery life, and whether your camera shoots video or still images. Checking less often reduces your intrusions into the deer’s world. High-end cameras that instantly send photos to your phone or computer keep you abreast of deer sightings, but they’re expensive.
Although monitoring a buck’s summer antler growth is fun, many bowhunters use trail cameras as serious summer scouting tools. If you’re savvy and pay attention to what your trail-cam photos reveal, you might just tag a buck during early bow season before bucks shift to their fall patterns.