An Illinois Expert’s Method for Patterning Big Early Bucks

by Scott Bestul Most of us are happy if our trail cameras do nothing more than snap a buck’s picture. … Continued

by Scott Bestul

Most of us are happy if our trail cameras do nothing more than snap a buck’s picture. Most of us are not Marc Anthony. A Goodfield, Ill., whitetail expert who has killed four net B&C bucks, Anthony forsakes traditional trail-cam locations, such as food-plot edges, mineral licks, and mock scrapes. Instead, he moves his camera along the travel corridor of a trophy buck until he nails down the deer’s exact route and finds the perfect place to stage an ambush. Here’s his four-step plan.

#1 – Scout at Home
“I study aerial photos and satellite images at home to determine generally where to place cameras,” says the Bear Archery pro staffer. “I use what I call the Two-Hundred Rule, which basically states that any area where a big buck doesn’t have to travel more than 200 yards for prime food, bedding, and water is a great starting spot.” He identifies and marks the most likely spots on a map or GPS, and then he moves in for a closer look.

#2 – Check It Out
Anthony scouts each site carefully to figure out precisely where to place his trail cameras. “I don’t worry too much if there’s not terrific sign,” he says. “Big bucks are often loners and simply don’t leave heavy trails, and because I’m scouting in summer, there aren’t rubs or scrapes.” He usually starts close to the best feeding area, looking for faint trails that connect the food to water sources and potential bedding and security cover.

#3 – Wait and See
Anthony lets his cameras sit for two weeks before checking them. “I make a minimum disturbance,” he stresses. “I carry a card reader in the field and look for two things: if a good buck was in the area, and if so, his direction of travel. I set my cameras to snap multiple exposures of each event, which usually gives me a pretty good idea.” In the evening, for example, the direction from which a buck approaches typically points to his bedding area.

#4 – Close In
When Anthony marks a good buck, he moves the camera 30 to 40 yards along the trail toward the buck’s bedding area. “Then I wait another two weeks,” he says. “If I’ve got more pics, I keep moving the camera up, until I’m as close as I dare get to the buck’s lair. As I study the pictures, I’m also nailing down the best places, times, and conditions to ambush a buck. When it’s time to hunt, I feel almost certain that he’ll show up in my bow sights.”