Every fall I try to learn something from one season to take into the next year. Of course many of the best lessons come from some deer behavior I’ve actually witnessed. But this year trail cams provided the take-away.

Normally, I’m pretty lax about keeping my trail cams out in the woods during hunting seasons. But for some reason this fall, I managed to keep a couple out there, and they revealed something I found fascinating; the best time to see a great buck in my area was much later in the rut than I thought. In most years, it’s been my belief that early November was the prime time for seeing good day-time buck movement here. Well I hunted that time frame pretty rigorously and I was quite disappointed.

Then in early December my hunting buddy Dave and I pulled a couple trail cameras. Dave called me a couple of days later and said “You need to look at these cards and see some of the daylight photos I was getting.” So I did, and Dave was right; nearly every buck he “shot” that week appeared during legal shooting light, and his photos included some very nice deer. So, taking a cue from my buddy, I checked my cards. Though I didn’t have as many photos as Dave, I had two pictures of the buck above. Obviously in full daylight and, even more interesting, during the same week!

The timing of all this activity was particularly fascinating. Minnesota has two 9-day shotgun seasons, and all this activity took place during the five days separating these split seasons. Archery season continues through the firearms hunt, but for many bowhunters it’s tempting to not go at it too hard until the gun seasons close. Those photos prove that attitude is a big mistake!

So next fall I’m making a “note to self” that will have two items. First, keep the darn trail cameras out! And second, I’m going to keep hunting just as hard, regardless of the supposed pressure exerted by gun hunting. I’ve said (and written) it before, but the rut is going to occur whether there are hunters in the woods or not. The only way to take advantage of that activity is to be out there and working a game plan!