This year my goal was to find a buck before the season, hunt it and kill it. I was hunting a 1000 acres piece of state land that was thick with nastiness and swamps. 2015 was a tough year of hunting and I knew it was going to be hard to find a few productive part of this state land and kill a nice respectable buck in Michigan. For the past couple years, I wanted to invest in some trail cameras and use them to my advantage. I received more out of running cameras then I thought I would.
In 2015 and 2016 I invested into 5 cameras and was given one for Christmas. I place the cameras in pinch points and heavily used trails. I was able to check them once every month or two. I had about 100 of the 1000 acres of the state land covered. In July I was able to check them and a nice 10-point caught my eye.
For the next month, I caught that deer on 2 of my cameras on the north side of the pond. He then disappeared starting August 20th. A nice 8-point showed up on a different camera about a half-mile away. So I set up a stand on a funnel along a thick edge of cedars and young oak grove hoping he would venture by. I found this spot by scouting the woods in January as soon as the previous season was over. With summer changing to fall, I thought for sure the big 10-point was either dead or had moved on. Halloween weekend he still didn’t know up. On November 4th, I checked my cameras while walking out of the woods. A weird looking wide buck had been on two of my camera with a nice 8 point.
On my 6th sit on this state land, I still had not seen a respectable shooter. On November 7th, at 9:30 I had a large buck come by at 20 yards but quickly b-lined away. At 10:30 here came a different buck. I was able to lay a perfect shot on him. I found him piled up 45 yards away and it was a 10-point. For 3 days I had thought I shot a smaller 10-point then what I caught on camera. Plus, he had been gone for over 2 months so I didn’t think anything of him. 3 days later when I got home I looked over my field camera pictures. I noticed from all my pictures that his buck had a little bend to his right brow tine and so did this buck. I was surprised he didn’t grow much after I last seen him. I then realized I had killed my #1 buck. If it wasn’t for my trail cameras, I don’t know if I would have killed this buck.
What I learned:
This past summer was a huge learning curve. Thanks to my cameras I learned how much bucks move and what time of year they are moving the most. On the state land, I notice these bucks move a lot more looking for food than a buck eating out of an agricultural field. They were much harder to pattern and very inconsistent. The smaller bucks moved even more and covered more acreage. I had a tall dis tintable spike that showed up on all my trail cameras all year long until the gun opener no matter where they were in the hundred acre area. I think he was shot during the gun season because I no longer seen him.
Thanks to my trail cameras, I learned there wasn’t a whole lot of deer moving in these woods and sighting would be limited. Starting October 1rst, I only had 2 bucks that I would like to shoot. I did not step foot near our stand till after Halloween. There were also certain times to be in woods. Summer was a great time to get the deer moving around and catch them on camera. Then it was slow Labor day weekend through Halloween. November 1-7 my trail cameras exploded in the morning. I caught several new bucks on camera. One spot that I had no bucks on camera during the summer lit up for 1 week in November. It was then empty the rest of the year. I never put a stand up due to no activity all year long. November 1 I got my first buck on camera. I’ll have a stand up there next year in that area.
November 22nd was my last big buck sighting on my cameras. I don’t know if they were all shot or where they went but they were gone. I think they all moved because the woods really opened up in December not offering them as much cover. I can use this data to save time next year by hunting somewhere else or not hunting at all starting in December.
Starting in November I knew the hunters would start showing up. I pulled cameras that I knew would get spotted from other hunters and moved them around. I took a huge gamble with them getting stolen but I think it paid off. I started getting hunters on camera starting around October 20th. I caught hunters on my cameras closest to the road but my cameras far in the back never got a photo of hunters. I never had intentions of using cameras to pattern other hunters. This helped me understand more where hunters were venturing to and how far back they were going.
I realize that cameras are expensive. However, if you are a serious deer hunter with not much time, I highly suggest you make the investment of buying them. Not only do they save you time on scouting but they save you time hunting. If you are looking for a trophy Michigan buck what is the point of hunting an area if there are no bucks of your interest? Cameras are able to scout the woods for big bucks while I was not able to be in the woods. When I got them on camera I had locations picked out during the winter that I would be able to hunt. I had never seen my buck until I shot him.
Next year I am going to use the same strategy going into the summer. However, I will spread my cameras out a little more hoping to get other bucks on camera. When I find an area with some nice bucks, I will move all my cameras closer to the spot to get a better idea of where his home range is. When I find a deer I want to hunt, I will put stands in between the two cameras where he is spotted the most and hope he shows up. It is a little bit of a gamble because he may move locations come fall time but that is a risk I will have to take.
Next year make the investment of buying as many cameras as your budget allows. You will save time in the woods by scouting less if you don’t have the time. If you pay attention to your data, you will also notice a trend when the bucks move the most in your area. This data will help for years to come. If you read the data correctly and you pick the right spots, hopefully, you will be able to enjoy more time in the woods knowing there is a nice buck in your area and not a bunch spikes
Do you use a lot of trail cameras to hunt? What have you learned from them that I may have missed?
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