Nowadays, Best Trail camera has become a vital tool for hunters looking to identify particular bucks and gain insight into deer movement on their property. Yet, according to wildlife consultant Neil Dougherty, most hunters haven’t even begun to realize the full wealth of information these tools can supply.
“Trail cameras are being used mostly to see how nice this or that buck is”, says Dougherty of North Country Whitetails. “Most people don’t realize you can actually use the pictures to determine what kind of behavior deer are exhibiting, which tells you exactly how you need to hunt them.” Dougherty provides the following examples.
THE LONE DOE
What You See: This doe, captured on a camera set in the woods, indicates she is close to being bred, as her fawns have likely been chased off by an aggressive buck. I had seen this same doe with a group of five does and fawns, but now she’s alone, feeding at 11:20 a.m.
What You Don’t See: She is eating woody browse at 11:20. A typical feeding session will last about a half hour, after which the deer will sit for five hours until her stomach is empty. The deer will move again at around 5 p.m.
Action Plan: The deer was likely on the hoof five hours earlier, just before sunrise. Her pattern gives you a window of time in which deer are feeding and moving on your property.
2. THE PURSUING BUCK
What You See: This buck passed by the same camera, nose to the ground on the doe’s exact trail, four hours later. The buck has a gore wound beneath his eye.
What You Don’t See: Bucks have largely disappeared from the camera’s view. That means they are locked up on estrous does and that the breeding phase of the rut is underway.
Action Plan: You’re not going to kill this guy on a food plot. If he hooks up with the doe, he’s going to be with her for days. Better to set up downwind of where you believe that doe is bedding. If he’s not big enough, be patient. Perhaps the big boy that roughed him up will show up to spoil his party again.
3. THE RELAXED COUPLE
What You See: Deer are feeding in a larger food plot during daylight hours. It’s still an hour and a half until darkness falls. The buck and doe are feeding together, yet he’s not harassing her in the least. They are both relaxed. It’s early in the pre-rut, but this photo shows that the bachelor groups have broken up, yet this buck is still more interested in food than sex.
What You Don’t See: Other frenzied bucks.
Action Plan: Pattern him using the camera and bust him on a food plot before the rut goes into full frenzy. You can bet this buck will be working scrapes around the field. You’ll know when the frenzy is on because you’ll see lots more bucks.
4. YOUNG BUCKS
What You See: Yearling bucks can be some of the best deer to study when you’re trying to learn deer behavior. See the one on the left? He’s demonstrating aggressive behavior, with his head held high and ears laid back. His tail is also held high and his hair is bristling, more signs of aggressive posturing. The second buck is submitting to the other. His head is lower and his ears are forward–both signs of submission.
What You Don’t See: These are little guys, but bigger bucks behave the very same way.
Action Plan: Hunt the buck on the left with aggressive calling and rattling. If he was older, you could even snort-wheeze. The buck on the right would be better called using soft doe grunts or bleats.
5. POST-RUT DOE FAMILY
What You See: This photo of a doe family group feeding in a food plot right around the traditional breeding phase of the rut indicates that most of them have already been bred.
What You Don’t See: As the rut approaches, doe families will break apart in order to avoid the constant pressure from bucks. When they start to break up, breeding is usually about one week away.
Action Plan: I knew from my cameras that does on this plot had already been driven apart a good week and a half earlier. The fact that they are back together means they’ve been bred, and you’ll be wasting your time hoping a buck is going to come to them. Avoid this stand until the second rut rolls in.
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