Putting Together The Pieces
column and photo by Josh Boyd:
There is something richly unique about the moment when a hunter sits down in front of his or her computer with the intent of checking their trail camera photos. As you insert your SD card into the drive and open the photo viewing software, a level of youthful excitement overtakes you. As you click from one photo to the next, the anticipation builds, knowing that the proceeding photo could potentially be that of a true monarch of the whitetail woods.
If you talk to any dedicated deer hunter today, in a matter of minutes the conversation will likely turn to something closely related to a show-and-tell session pertaining to trail camera photos that they have captured. It is a riveting experience to know that when heading to the woods, the buck that you have on camera could make his appearance at anytime. However, each year many of these photogenic whitetails fade without a trace like a lifting fog, leaving only photos as proof of their existence.
Once a particular buck's existence is made known, a hunter's job has just begun. How do you turn photos into a filled tag? What must take place to turn an SD card full of images into fresh venison in the freezer? These answers are often times right under our nose, as pieces to a puzzle in the form of the very photos that initiated these questions.
When attempting to form a thorough strategy to hunt a particular buck based on trail camera photos, details must be recognized to yield a pattern. Does the buck in question make his appearance at a particular time on a daily basis? Does the buck appear to be traveling in a set direction on numerous occasions? By knowing the time of day that a deer travels through an area, as well as their direction of travel, a hunter can begin to pick apart a deer's travel patterns.
An observed travel pattern, along with any pre-existing knowledge of heavily utilized food sources and favored bedding areas on a given property, allows a hunter to connect the dots and further chip away at pinpointing a buck's tendencies. This knowledge better allows an individual the ability to predict when, where, and why movement will take place.
Once the rough details of a deer's bed to feed and back again pattern are established, it is advisable, if possible, to employ one or two additional trail cameras in various strategic locations where you feel that the buck is likely to frequent. This allows a hunter the ability to confirm, or rule out certain areas of a property as being included in a buck's core area and home range. With additional photos from various locations, the information that you have gathered will begin to tell the buck's story.
At this point, the collection of data that you have received, and continue to receive, from your trail camera monitoring serves to keep a hunter informed of any effective shifts in a buck's pattern. The varying of food sources, excessive pressure from human intrusion, and other environmental factors can all be reasons for a buck's variance in their day to day travels. Your continued monitoring will allow you to shift your strategy to compensate for slight variances in a buck's travels.
With a timeline of a deer's daily movements established with a certain degree of confidence, stands can be placed in a way to utilize your new found knowledge. Deer, especially of mature nature, tend to become quite nocturnal with time. The patterns that you have established during your late summer trail camera checks allow you to place your stands in areas with a higher prominence of daytime movement, therefore bettering your odds of an encounter during legal shooting hours.
Trail cameras are a tool of extensive benefit to today's whitetail hunter. With the opening of Kentucky's archery season now less than a month away, summertime scouting begins to give way to pre-season strategizing. By taking stock of your collection of summertime trail camera photos and searching for the clues to a buck's whereabouts that they provide, you will be well on the way to tagging the buck of a lifetime.