You take a drive down some back roads near your hunting property. It’s 7:30 in the evening. The sun is setting, temperature dropping, and all the bean fields seems to start to fill up with deer coming out to feed on the lush green leaves. In about a half-hour or so and you’ll start to see some heavy racked velvet bruisers make appearances. At that moment that you begin to salivate, oozing with excitement for the upcoming deer season.
One thing to remember, however, is that the summer months are much different in terms of climate and whitetail deer behavior. In October when the leaves change to vibrant orange, red, and yellow hues, the deer will change their daily routines as well. The pre-rut and rut are not far off; the time you’ve been waiting to hunt! Don’t discount the early season, though, as a prime time to hunt big mature bucks, though.
Bucks often have different regions for their spring and summer ranges compared to their fall and winter home areas. Just because you don’t have a bean field on your property and the deer seem to be on all of your neighbor’s land right now, do not despair. They WILL move into your area once the rut hits and bucks start cruising. Likewise, if you have a buck showing up in a bean field on the property you hunt, don’t just assume he will stay there come November. The first few weeks of the season, deer will still be showing up in those bean fields for their evening meal, making those spots killer places to hunt!
Using binoculars or spotting scopes can be an awesome way to find out what types of bucks you have making their way to those food sources from a distance. However, if you really want to learn the travel routes of those bucks, trail cameras are definitely the way to go. A system of 3 cameras is the perfect combination for gathering this information. Space them out evenly between the food source and where you think the buck might be bedding. You can determine this with areal maps by locating the densest, undisturbed blocks of timber and thickets close by.
From there, be patient. Deer are smart animals and if you go in to check your trail camera every 3 days, you leave behind information in the form of scent and noise that can alert deer to your presence and make them prematurely change their habits. Leave that camera go for a couple weeks. It will do its job.
Starting this process in July allows you enough time to change the location of the 3 trail cameras you have put out. If the buck only shows up on one camera, reposition the other 2 until you’ve found the direct path he walks from bed to food. Now you have enough information to hang a stand and give yourself the best possible opportunity to put that crossbow to use and harvest that buck of a lifetime in the early season.