Careful Observation of Buck Behavior

July seems to be a tipping point for antler growth, and with the spotting of bucks carrying framed-up headgear comes the inevitable urge to scout. This is a great time to fight the deer flies and mosquitoes to watch bachelor groups through spotting scopes, but this is also a good time to try to truly figure out an individual buck’s patterns

This, of course, means it is time to get serious about trail cameras. I’m not talking about strolling out the edge of a soybean field or freshly planted food plot and hanging a camera. I’m talking about truly trying to figure out where a particular buck likes to travel after you’ve spotted him.

To do this, I try to figure out a couple of things. The easiest piece of the equation is identifying the primary food source, which is likely where you’ll lay eyes on him in the first place. Beyond the food I try to figure out what water source he uses to slake his thirst, and just where he likes to bed during the day. Figure those out, and things get much, much easier.

My process for this often involves hanging a camera on the water source closest to where I actually saw the buck. In some situations this calls for pounding in a fence-post and using an adapter-mount for your camera. I’ll leave it up for a week or two, and then check the photos. If I’ve got images of the big boy I take note of when he visited, where he came from, and where he seemed to be going.

If I can dial in a general direction of travel that seems to indicate he has just left, or is heading to, a bedding area, it’s time to look for tracks and trails leading into the thick stuff. A big track is my best clue, and if I find a trail that is pock-marked with a track that’s at least three inches long, I’ll brush in a camera along the trail. A week later I’ll check the camera. If it’s sans images of the buck, it’s time to look for a different trail. Eventually you can catch him sneaking through the timber. This means that you’re likely very close to a staging area, which is a great spot to hang a stand, especially because he’s apt to grow more nocturnal as he sheds his velvet.

It’s important to utilize some level of scent control when scouting with cameras because you do not want him to alter his patterns because of your presence. The goal is to figure out just what he likes to do naturally, without any negative influence. It’s a lot of work, and can be frustrating, but can also be very rewarding. Good luck!

Author: Tony Peterson