By: Heath Wood
Typically, game camera use begins during mid-summer and peaks from September through November. During this time, most hunters use game cameras to estimate what bucks are in the area, where they spend the most time, and where the best place to hunt them should be.
Using game cameras during the early summer months may seem crazy to some because bucks are only sporting a few inches of antlers during the first stages of antler growth. If one can not tell how big a buck is, why should they use a game camera during the early summer?
No matter what time of year you are using cameras to observe deer activity, the main goal is still the same for most hunters. That goal is to gain enough information to give the hunter an edge at harvesting a mature buck during the hunting season.
Camera use is still essential in the early part of summer; when bucks have not grown enough to gain any information, there are still many ways that using game cameras can help hunters for the upcoming fall season.
A few years ago, I had the deer season blues the moment the spring turkey season ended. I felt the need to start scouting, shooting my bow, watching hunting videos, and everything else that revolved around the upcoming hunting season, even though it was still a long four months away.
With this eagerness to get in deer mode, I found myself hanging cameras in late May and early June. During that summer, I learned that there are several things that hunters can learn by starting to scout a couple of months earlier than previous years.
The latter part of May and the first part of June are also recognized as a time when fawns make their arrival. Having cameras already in place during this time, I was able to take an inventory of the new fawns that would grow bigger as the fall season came around. It also helped to confirm the population of my deer herd and that the wildlife management efforts are paying off.
Regarding wildlife management, camera use during the peak time of fawns' birth will also capture an increased presence of predators, specifically coyotes. By having cameras in key deer movement areas, you will also see if you need predator control.
Many serious whitetail hunters who are trying to manage deer are believers in predator control. However, one of the biggest mistakes is that most predator control efforts occur during the winter months.
Taking a few coyotes from your property during the winter months is a good thing. Yet, most serious predator hunters will tell you, after a coyote is killed, another one will move into the area to replace it within a few weeks. If you have a solid number of deer on your property, you will see a few more coyotes move into the area when fawns begin dropping as well. This means, even though a few have been taken care of, you still need to eliminate more.
I am a believer in hunting coyotes year-round, specifically when they are harming wildlife or livestock. When I see coyotes on my cameras, I immediately try to coax them by calling them into gun range. If you take care of the coyotes when they are the most harmful to your deer herd, it will undoubtedly help your management efforts. You will see a better survival rate in fawns and less stress on does by using your game camera as a green light to call for coyotes.
When using game cameras in the early summer, I often get asked where the best place to hang cameras is; the answer is that deer only think of two things during this time of year: water and food.
Those are the two places that I focus on when hanging cameras. Whether it is to cool off in increasingly warmer temperatures or the need to eat more to feed their young, deer must have food and water to survive. I get the most activity on summer cameras near water sources such as ponds, creeks, and even livestock tanks. No matter if it is a buck or a doe, all deer must have water. The best way to get an inventory of your deer herd is to go to an area where they will spend time to survive.
Another great place for camera placement during the early summer is on a food source. Food plots or an area where crops are growing are great places to see a lot of activity. Most generally, I like to find an area that is close to a bedding area. For example, the edge of heavy timber and a field or food plot are perfect areas for deer to feed. Deer move as least as possible when temperatures begin to warm. Bed to food travel routes with the shortest distance between the two are ideal.
Finally, the easiest way to see deer movement and help the deer herd in the process is by feeding and using minerals. I love making up three to four different sites using Big and J Headrush or Deer Dig It Apple in the early part of the summer.
Deer have a craving and a need for minerals during the early part of the season. By giving deer what they need, you establish healthier deer, and of course, a head start on better antler growth.
By having mineral sites, you will encounter more significant deer for inventory purposes and see what deer need and crave in their diets.
The use of game cameras doesn't always have to be a month before the season or during the hunting season to gain information. Using cameras throughout the entire year, especially during the earlier parts of the summer, will help hunters better understand what, when, and why deer do what they do. Plus, the longer the cameras are up, the more time you can record and enjoy the growth of fawns, your deer herd, and of course, the growth of mature bucks.