Deer Hunting: 3 Must-Do Trail Camera Tips

1469461495469_3589023095From our good friend Zach:

Hey Mike, I finally got around to setting out another camera and these are the bucks that showed up in just one week. All three are new on the farm and can’t wait till they are out of velvet. For the past two years I’ve been watching this certain piece of property that’s only about three acres and has a creek running through it. Last week I decided to set up a camera and, well, these are the bucks that are hanging in there. Can’t wait to get a stand up!–Zach

This is the most recent proof of 3 things I’ve been writing and blogging about for years. I hope you have been heeding this advice, but if not do it now and you’ll find and pattern more bucks to hunt in a few months:

–It doesn’t take a lot of land to hold big bucks. In this case, only 3 acres. While it’s unclear whether all or most of those bucks will hang in the vicinity come bow season, it’s a good bet that at least one of them will be around for Zach to hunt. Don’t overlook small parcels of land for cams and tree stands.


–In late summer and early fall, bucks LOVE to hang in cool, shady thickets near a creek or river; hang a camera in these areas and you’ll find bucks like Zach did.

–There are places on the land you hunt where for whatever reason you have never scouted or hunted. (My theory is that we are habitual creatures, and once we get comfortable hunting a certain area, we keep going back and back and neglect other spots that might actually be better.) Well, right now pick 2 or 3 small ridges, bottoms or pockets of cover that for whatever reason you have never investigated before, and hang cams in those spots. Bet you’ll find some bucks, and maybe a good one.

Send me your trail cam photos to share, I’ll never reveal the location of the bucks.

Iowa: Put Name Tags on Deer Stands

tree stand hunter compressedFrom The Des Moines Register: Hunting blinds and tree stands on public lands would be required to have a metal identification tag with the owner’s name and address under a bill approved…by an Iowa Senate subcommittee.

Lawmakers agreed to strike a provision that the tag include a hunting license number.

The Iowa DNR is neither for not against it. Some Iowa hunting and outdoor groups are either neutral or have expressed no objections to the proposal.

Me? I don’t like it as a precedent that could spread to other states that I hunt.

When I started hunting many years ago, mostly on public land and leases with lots of other hunters, I never wanted other people to know where I was hunting. I didn’t have anything to hide, but every day I tried to sneak in and out of my stand without anybody seeing me. It is hard enough to scout a good buck and find a secret ridge or bottom to hunt him on public. Back in the old days, I looked at other hunters as my competition. I have mellowed on that with age, but to this day I like to keep a low profile and do my own thing in the woods.

If you or I had to hang a name a tag on a stand, it’s advertising to everybody in the area where we’re hunting. Humans are curious, most of the time too curious. If stands had to be tagged, most every nosy hunter that ran across an empty one would climb the steps just to see whose stand it was.

It’s a privacy issue for me. Our every move is already tracked these days by our smartphones and apps. It’s one thing to be tracked to the store, but it’s nobody’s business where I’m hunting.

How this tagging bill came about is unclear, but I guess it could help solve one potential problem—some stranger moving in and taking over your stand. For the life of me I cannot understand how anybody could climb up and hunt out of a random stand they just found in the woods, but it happens. And sometimes an ugly confrontation occurs. Maybe if stands were tagged, it would act as a deterrent to put an end to stand squatting.

The subcommittee approved this bill back in January 2016, and it was to advance to the Iowa Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee. No updates on when or if that will happen, so perhaps the bill has been tabled or quashed. This late in the summer it seems unlikely that name tags on stands would be required for the 2016 Iowa deer season, but be check the regs.

What do you think about name tags on stands? Make sense, or silly?

How To Build Cheap, Awesome Food Plots For Deer

velvet buckToday’s guest blog from Wisconsin hunter Kim Redburn, a good friend of BIG DEER:

If you own a lawn tractor and have some small and accessible clearings on your land, putting in some food plots does not need to be expensive or physically taxing.  I am 52 years old and have some physical disabilities, and I was able to make a few plots for under $150.

Other items you will need:


–A tow-behind lawn spike aerator; this Brinly 40” model (about $80) works great.

–Seed. For ease in planting I use seeds that do not need to be covered with soil: clover, chicory, brassica, oats, beans and peas. Antler King No-Till Mix ($14.99 Amazon) is great, and I also like BioLogic Winter Peas ($19.99). One bag of either of those covers 1/4-acre. I seem to spread the seed a little thick and usually need to purchase a second bag.

plot mix

Keep in mind that most places need a PH soil test, and then possibly lime spreading and/or fertilization. This is a simple application and not expensive. I didn’t do any PH testing, as I have extremely good soil thanks to the glaciation thousands of years ago in my area of northwest Wisconsin. Heck, here the deer even consume it and its diatomaceous nature.

First step in your plot build is to watch the weather. Look for a forecast that will bring a couple days of rain. It is tough to sit and hope for rain, so just wait until a forecast is favorable.

Second step is to mow your clearing as short as your mower will allow.

Third, connect your aerator to the back of your tractor, place weight upon the aerator (cinder blocks, etc. which help to push the aeration spikes deeper into the earth). Now go back and forth and across your small clearing until it is well aerated.  The clearing should be mostly cut up soil when finished.

Fourth, simply hand sow your seed, or you can use one of those hand-crank seeders if you’ve got one.

My camera caught the eager buck above shortly after I planted a plot, and I also had several waves of turkeys come through. The peas I planted were easy pickings, but I over-seeded like I normally do and there was plenty left for sprouting, which occurred 5 days after the planting with the 3 days and nights of rain we got. Another food plot success!—Kim

Have you shot a big deer with a unique story? Seen something weird and wild in the woods? Got an awesome trail camera image? Have some great how-to advice like Kim’s that you’d like to share with other hunters? Send your stories and pictures to: and if we post them you’ll receive a BIG DEER cap and sticker.  

Deer How-To: Scouting Big Bucks

LukeStrommen2004(1)Excellent guest blog and advice from Montana traditional archer Luke Strommen, a charter member of the Big Deer Hunt Team:

To all the BIG DEER Bloggers:

Here is story and a lesson I have learned. Hope it helps you find a big buck and shoot him this season.

One time I spotted a gnarly 6×6 during my scouting and glassing routines in the summer.  The mature whitetail used his primary core area throughout July and August. I saw him many times and took some distant digital images of him from one of our tree stands. He would browse in an irrigated alfalfa field, and having completed his evening ritual, he’d sneak off to spend the night in a 20-acre corn field nearby.

spotting milk river compress

He continued this pattern into the early archery season in September, consistently passing by one of my stands, but late. I waited for the wind to be right and sat the stand three times in early September, only to have the buck come by on the 16-yard trail just after legal and ethical shooting light.

This “12-point” as my Eastern friends would call him wasn’t the largest buck I had seen that summer on the Milk River, but he was a much sought after 6×6. A clean 6×6 is hard to come by, especially for a recurve hunter like me.

As the season progressed, the buck’s pattern changed, and he became less visible and more unpredictable. He would spend a week or 2 in different “sub-core areas” in the vicinity as food sources changed with the late-fall weather pattern. Remember that, because any big deer you find now might do that in a few months.

velvet buck compress

But ultimately the buck came back to his familiar, primary core area where I had spotted him all summer, to the place where he felt most dominant and comfortable. I figured he would do that and I was right. I spotted his 12-point rack whirling and twirling early in the afternoon of November 1. He was warding off inferior bucks, posturing his antlers like weapons to the stubborn invaders of his domain.

Since I had scouted this area so much, I knew how the buck used the place, and where he liked to travel. It paid off. That was back in the mid-2000s when there were a lot of deer on the Milk River, and when I was guiding a few bowhunters on our farms.

I put a hunter from Texas in the same spot where I had spotted the 6×6 several times in low light in September. On the 2nd of November, with the pre-rut kicking into gear, the buck was a lot less cautious as he strode by the stand with 45 minutes of shooting light to spare. The hunter placed a sharp broadhead right through his oxygen tank.

The big lesson: Scouting your buck early and often in the summer pays off, even if you can’t connect on him during the first weeks of archery season. You might “lose” your mature deer for a few days or even weeks, but the rutting phases of the fall will generally bring him back to his primary core area, where one day he might finally make a mistake. One day in November or even December you might finally kill the buck from one of the stands you hunted way back in the first week. Good luck this fall.—Luke

BIG DEER TV 2016 Episode 3: Anticosti Island, Canada

anticosti blog 1

Bits from the script of tonight’s episode which airs for the first time at 7 pm Eastern on Sportsman Channel. Set your DVR:

So what’s the recipe for a grand adventure? A place that piques a hunter’s innate curiosity… is hard to reach… is far from the beaten path, where an isolated population of animals thrives in idyllic habitat where nature can take its course…

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On the border of New Brunswick and Quebec, crystal streams feed the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Anticosti Island, creating a natural wonderland.

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I’m here to hunt Anticosti’s resident and wild whitetail herd, which was introduced to the island 120 years ago by a man named Henry Menier, a chocolate manufacturer from France.

menier introduced deer

After two long travel days it was good to get out, stretch my legs and get my first taste of this wild, unique terrain.

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Finally, we hit the trail. I’m in good company with Dion, who I’d come to realize is something  of deer whisperer…

anticosti blog dion

With summer transitioning to early fall, the deer are scattered and unpredictable. We are gonna have to cover a lot of country to find a buck. I’ll be spending plenty of time sitting in cold stands and blinds later in the fall, and I’m looking forward to this spot-and-stalk.  It’s the best way to unlock the secrets of this mysterious place…

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2 years ago, the Gulf of St. Lawrence experienced a brutally cold and long winter, which stretched well into spring and really knocked back the deer herd. It takes several years for a population to recover from such an event. I’m gonna be in for a tough hunt…

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Designated a Provincial Wildlife Reserve, Anticosti Island is unrivaled with its natural attributes. Rivers cut through deep canyons…limestone cliffs tower over the sea…crystal lakes dot the sub-boreal landscape…

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Anticosti’s attraction is what it has always been:  unbridled wilderness and a unique coastal setting…

anticosti blog t shirt

T-shirt weather… it’s 8 am and already pushing 70 degrees… this is a tough slog, yet there’s something new and cool to discover around every turn.

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The abundance of prey such as beavers and grouse supports a healthy population of fox, who seem to have little fear of humans. They provide a constant source of entertainment on daylong hikes.

anticosti blog last

Whenever I hunt in new country, my goals are simple: to go as long and hard as I can, and experience all that the wilderness has to offer. I want to shoot a buck of course, a big one, but whether I do or not matters little in the end. The sights, the sounds and the memories of a magical place like Anticosti are enough to fill this hunter’s soul until the next adventure begins.  

Behind the scenes: I am biased, but I believe we have the best story lines and scripts on hunting TV. Shout out to BIG DEER producer Justin Karnopp, who consults with me and writes most of the final VO (voice over) that I deliver. Justin did an especially outstanding job on this one…. Kudos to videographer Neil Cowley, who filmed this episode, put his own spin on it and delivered interesting and beautiful footage…. Final  shout out to our editor Rachel Ambrose, who did another sterling job of putting this show together…. We hope you watch and enjoy.