Don’t just set your trail cams and forget them. Move them to the money spots as the season progresses, from August through winter. This month-by-month schedule will help you maximize the usefulness of your camera traps to track big bucks on your property.
Where: Summer food sources, mineral blocks, supplemental feeding locations (where legal), and water sources in arid climates.
Why: Summer bucks will visit these places routinely, providing you the perfect chance to take an inventory of deer, check out antler growth, and get pumped for the coming season.
**Tip: **Your cams will take lots of pictures now, so consider a secondary battery source.
Where: Trails leading to and from food sources and new rubs nearby.
Why: The evening feeding pattern is a buck’s most predictable routine as archery seasons begin. These pictures will tell you where to hunt.
Tip: Big bucks often hang back from field edges before entering. When you get pictures of a good buck near rubs 20 to 40 yards off the edge, hang a stand.
Sept. 25-Oct. 25
Where: Field-edge scrapes.
Why: As the rut gets closer, bucks will hit these spots to communicate and measure up rivals. These are great places to take a quick inventory of bucks after bachelor groups disperse.
Tip: Adding tarsal-gland lure or fresh urine to scrapes, especially later in October, can increase the number of buck visits.
Oct. 25-Nov. 5
Where: Primary scrapes and signpost rubs.
Why: Does are visiting scrapes, and bucks know it. Bucks are also hitting the biggest rubs to advertise their presence.
Tip: Look for primary scrapes in heavier cover; they often have rubs and smaller scrapes nearby.
Where: Doe bedding areas and trails leading to them.
Why: This is peak breeding time. Does will spend the majority of their daylight hours here–and bucks will find them.
Tip: Check these cams only when you need to make a decision on where to hunt. Too much scent in bedding areas is bad news.
Nov. 20-Dec. 1**
Where: Pinch points, funnels, travel lanes.
Why: Bucks are putting on miles seeking out the last hot does.
Tip: You’ll get more pictures of cruising bucks if you aim your camera down the trail, as opposed to perpendicular to it.
Dec. 1-Jan. 15
Where: Trails leading to prime food sources.
Why: With no rut activity, it’s like the early season with snow–it’s all about the food.
Tip: Cold weather kills both batteries and scent. Check your cameras more often.
From the August 2013 issue of Field & Stream