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.

Buck with Massive Stomach Growth (Hernia)

growth 1Hi Mike: I found your website and see that you have a lot of knowledge about deer. I’m not a hunter, but love the herd of 9 deer that frequent our yard on most days.

I saw on your blog a post about a deer with a massive growth. I am sending this email and pictures of a huge growth that is on one of our bucks. Have you ever seen anything like this? As you can see it is a huge growth/tumor/abscess hanging from his abdominal area.

I am hoping you can give me an idea of what this might be. It has been there for about 3 weeks…started out much smaller and over the weeks has continued to grow. He is still mobile, doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and has his usual appetite. Thank you for any insight!–Addie

I immediately suspected the buck has a hernia. I ran the pictures by QDMA biologist Kip Adams who said, “I think you’re right, this is a hernia.”

growth 2In deer a hernia occurs when internal organs or tissues pop through an opening in the muscular wall that surrounds the abdomen, but are still covered by skin. Potential causes of a hernia include trauma (being hit by a car) or in the case of a doe, giving birth. Bucks have been known to get hernias as they push and fight violently in the rut.

While Addie says the buck is still mobile and does not to appear to be in pain, the prognosis for this deer is not good. The protruding organs and tissues are unlikely to go back to their normal position in the abdomen. The mass will impact the buck’s ability to move and survive.

“I believe it will be the demise of the buck, likely in the next 6-12 months,” says Kip. “If there was more of a constriction associated with the hernia he would die much quicker.”

Trail Cam Monday: The Pictures Begin

zach cam2

Our friends Zach and Ellie sent this great buck, first time they have ever seen him on their farm. Double beam, can’t wait to see how this rack turns out in full.

va cam buck 1

Good looking 8-pointer growing on one of the farms I hunt.

fox rabbit cam

Got a lot of red foxes in our VA county, they have long been protected here because “the hunt” chases them on horses and with hounds, a long-standing tradition. This fox grabbed a late-night snack of juicy rabbit at 2:28 a.m. one day last week.

danny 1

Another look at a split-brow buck our friend and blogger Danny has eyes on.

Send me your pictures to share ( I’ll always keep the location of your target bucks top secret.


Summer Deer Scout: Set Your Trail Cams Now

trail camera bach group deanThis is the weekend to go to the beach or pool, do a little fishing or hiking, play golf, grill out…

And if you’re serious about your hunting, drive to your spot, lather on the tick and bug repellent, set some cameras and find some bucks to hunt in 3 or 4 months.

I’ve had a few cameras out for a while, but now around July 4th is when I start my recon in earnest. Velvet antlers are up and growing full bore; when you get an image of a buck with potential, you’ll know it and can start tracking and patterning his movements.

One day this weekend I’ll set 2 cameras on 2 half-acre clover plots hidden back in the Virginia woods. I’ll put 2 or 3 more cams on larger plots, but not aiming out into the middle of the fields. Rather, I’ll set these 20 or 30 yards back in the thickets that rim the edges, on or near deer trails. Secluded, thick pockets and bottlenecks like this are where you’re apt of get close images of a nice velvet buck working the area.

I’ll wind up by hitting a couple of creek bottoms and beaver pond edges where I’ve seen bucks moving before, and set a couple more cams on trails and water crossings there. As summer deepens, lazy bucks spend time hanging out in low-lying areas where it’s cool and shady and a jungle of cover.

If you set your cams in the right spot this weekend, you can find out not only the fields or plots where a big deer is feeding, but also where he’s bedding by the water. Although that intel will indicate his summer habits, he will still be on that pattern when bow season opens, and in all likelihood hanging nearby later in the fall.

Recently I read a QDMA article on setting trail cameras. Good info, and two tips jumped out at me.

One, make sure your cameras do not face directly east or west, into a sunrise or sunset, to prevent white-out or silhouette images from the summer sun’s intense glare. Point your cameras north whenever possible.

trail camera setting up.jpg compressed

Two, a new thing to try: Set cameras as high as your head and tilt them slightly downward. All of us set cams like the guy in the picture above s doing, but the point this hunter/writer makes is that deer are less likely to notice (and perhaps then avoid) cameras placed 6 feet or more off the ground.

Have a great weekend and remember to honor our troops for their service and for allowing us to live large and free.

NOTE ON BUCK PHOTO ABOVE: The gang of 6 bachelors was taken by blogger Dean Weimer a few years ago and is one of my all-time favorite summer images. In this post, I mentioned that now you can easily tell the bucks with good rack potential…this illustrates that to a tee.