3 Top Summer Spots For Trail Cameras

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I’ve had several Spartan cameras out for a while, but now in July 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: Last week we set 2 cameras on 2 one-acre clover plots hidden back in the woods. We set 3 more cams near larger food plots, but not aiming out into the fields. Rather, we pointed these cams 20 to 30 yards back in the thickets that rim the edges, on well-used deer trails. Secluded, thick pockets and bottlenecks like this are where you’re apt of get close images of a big velvet buck working the area.

Two: We put a camera on a muddy creek crossing a quarter-mile from a clover plot, and another on the edge of a beaver pond where we’ve photographed good bucks before. As summer deepens, bucks spend time hanging out in low-lying areas near water where it’s cool and shady.

Three: On one Virginia farm we hunt, there are 2 cornfields with a 40-yard-wide row of trees splitting and separating the fields. Within that row of trees is a flat, grassy gap where the farmer drives his tractor between the fields. On an old gate post in the gap is our top spot to set a camera now, while the corn is still tall and uncut.

Over the years, a camera on the gate post has been the most productive for catching bucks on natural summer movement (photo below). If you have a similar gap like this where you hunt, go set a camera there now before the crops are cut and the deer movement patterns change.

Va  9 point at round tower gap

Summer 2018: First Trail Cam Bucks

md dan june 2018 buckOur friend Dan says, “I’m keeping an eye on this one.” He just did his first card pull of the summer and has more than 1,300 pics from just 2 cams…”15 different bucks so far, this one is the biggest for now…3 others have potential with a lot of growing to do in the next 2 months.”

Dan says more bucks are likely to show up on their “summer range” soon in his area. Last summer, by mid-July, Dan had accumulated more than 10,000 images of deer, and 30 different bucks. It’s a unique and interesting situation, click here for details.

By Dan’s standards the buck action at my Virginia mineral/camera sites is minimal right now, though the wide rack below popped up on my Spartan Camera app last night, he’s gonna be a cool deer. Send me your trail cam images and stories to share, I’ll always keep your location secret.

va buck june

Deer Antlers: How They Grow in June and July

??????????????Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the summer days.

According to Missouri scientist Dr. Grant Woods, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most beam length will grow by late June.

Those are general rules, but Grant points out that the growth of individual racks varies. “Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack during July,” he says.

More interesting facts about summer antlers:

–Antlers are made of bone, consisting mostly of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals. Although some of the minerals needed for antler growth are taken from food, a lot of them are sucked from the buck’s skeleton, which may cause him to develop osteoporosis during the summer. Setting mineral licks for the deer can help.

–Throughout June and July, velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels that causes them to be hot to the touch. Dr. Woods notes, “There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers that even small antlers are easily detected by thermal imaging devices. Tines show up like neon signs when flying over with thermal cameras in summer.”

–Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make the antlers look bigger than they are. The hairs act as a radar system so the buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.

–Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on the hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also acts as an insect repellent to keep biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.

Now is the time to set out trail cameras and monitor the racks as they grow now through mid-August.

Photo above: This image of an Illinois buck is from July 4 last year, impressive antler growth!  

Deer Management How-To: Build A Mineral Site

30 06 minerals

Now is time to build new mineral sites (or start recharging old ones) on your hunting land.

“Licks” are easy and relatively inexpensive to build and maintain, and they serve 2 purposes: 1) provide trace minerals and vitamins for all deer, from bucks growing new antlers to does getting ready to drop fawns; and 2) they are top spots for you set trail cameras and monitor growing antlers all summer as you prepare your 2018 game plan.

Scientists note that whitetails use mineral sites most heavily from late summer until the first frost next fall. From personal experience and observation here in Virginia, bucks start hitting minerals whenever we set them out in early spring through the first 2 weeks of August, when our camera images of mature bucks at licks begin to taper off.

How many mineral sites do you need? Research shows that one site for every 50 to 100 acres of hunting land is about right. We maintain 8 to 10 licks an 800-acre Virginia farm every year.

Locate mineral sites strategically across your property. Twenty to 30 yards back in the woods from the corners and edges of crop fields and food plots are good spots. Most of our licks are located close to main deer trails, where bucks can veer over to check them with minimal effort. Two of our best sites are near creek crossings back in the woods.

To build a site, clear a spot 4 to 6 feet in diameter (or larger if you like) and rake away the leaves and grass down to bare soil. It helps to break up and loosen the dirt with a shovel.

There are dozens of minerals formulated to attract deer and to provide vitamins for better deer health. We began using Imperial Whitetail .30-06 from Whitetail Institute last year with great success, and now use them exclusively.

imperial minerals

Dump and scatter minerals into a lick. Whitetail Institute recommends you use at least 5 pounds in a new site.

We use 10 pounds to an entire 20-pound bag the first time we re-start an established mineral site in the spring, and then use half a bag in each lick after that.  We refresh our sites every 3 weeks to a month throughout the summer.

Look for a good tree for a trail camera within 10 feet or so of every mineral site you create. Start running your cameras in June and watch the bucks’ antlers grow. By August you’ll have thousands of images of deer at licks, and a good inventory of the size and age class of bucks on your land.

Side note: It’s fun to watch how the most active mineral sites grow. As deer dig for minerals in the same sites year after year, the holes get bigger and deeper. I’ve seen licks deep enough to hide half a buck!

I end with this important note. Here in Virginia, using minerals is legal during spring and summer, but not permitted from September 1 through the end of hunting season. State laws vary, so check your game regulations.

Pennsylvania Bill: Increase Penalties for Trail-Camera Thieves

trail cam theftLancaster Online reports that State Representative Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill County) recently introduced House Bill 484, which would increase penalties for any low-life who would steal another hunter’s trail camera.

Under the proposed bill the theft of a cam would be added as a specific crime within Pennsylvania’s Game and Wildlife Code. Moving trail cameras to the wildlife code would allow a hunter to report the theft of one to state a wildlife conservation officer, who could then investigate the crime. Currently, the theft of a cam in Pennsylvania (and most other states I assume) must be reported to local or state law enforcement, who as Lancaster Online rightly points out “certainly have lots of more pressing issues to deal with.”

The bill introduced by Mr. Goodman, who must be a deer hunter, would make the theft of a trail camera a first-degree summary offense, which carries a fine of up to $1,500 and potential jail time of up to 3 months. Also, and this is the best part, anyone convicted of stealing a trail camera would have his hunting license revoked for a year.

If it were up to me, I’d go with a mandatory 3- or 5-year hunt license suspension. Nothing worse than stealing!

HB 484 has been referred to the Penn. House Game and Fisheries Committee, where it awaits legislative action. I cannot imagine any push back, but only support for it.

Have any of you had a trail camera(s) stolen by some scumbag? (Tip of the hat to the hunter who wrote the sign above :)