Yamaha Outdoors Tip - Scouting by Trail and Error

By Bob Humphrey

Having trouble filling your deer tag?  Are you Stuck in a rut during the peak of rut?  Have all of your hotspots gone stone cold?  You can continue to do the same thing, hoping for a different result, or you could go back to square one and start anew.  You probably did a fair amount of scouting before the season, but things have changed since then, perhaps significantly.  A little in-season scouting might be just the trick, and the job is made that much easier with trail cameras.

A lot of folks are using trail cameras to scout for deer nowadays.  Most of their effort however, is directed to the pre-season.  Once the season starts we’re too busy hunting to check our cameras, or we’ve already pulled them all.  But in-season scouting can be a huge help, especially when things slow down.

Deer change their movement patterns (if they even have a pattern) throughout the hunting season based on changes in food availability and stages of the rut.  If you don’t keep up with those changes, you could be wasting a lot of precious hunting time in the wrong location.

A classic example is the so-called October lull, when deer, especially bucks, seem to suddenly disappear for a week or so.  The fact of the matter is, they’re still out there, and probably moving just as much.  They’ve just moved to a different location.  Soft mast is about gone and they’re shifting to hard mast.  Carbs become more important and they shift from clover fields to corn fields.

Another prime example is the rut.  Bucks that have been regular to a specific area suddenly disappear.  Meanwhile, “strangers” show up.  And when the does start coming into estrus, a previously slow area can become a hub of buck activity.  You can’t be in the woods 24-7, but your cameras can.

The down side is, you have to check them regularly if you want to stay up to date on what’s happening.  One way is to use transmitting cameras that send images either to your smart phone or e-mail account.  That’s expensive, but you get the most current information with the least disturbance and effort. 

Another method is to hunt while you scout.  Walking or still-hunting from one camera location to another.  It’s more time consuming and labor intensive, but still fairly unobtrusive.

A third option is to ride from camera location to location via ATV.  This is often a better option if you have a trail system in place, particularly if the area receives any type of regular ATV use.  The deer will be used to the sight, sound and smell of ATVs, and you can get in and out of the area, visiting all your sites in a relatively short period of time.  Once you find where the action is, you can shift your attentions where they’ll yield the best results.

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