For a decade on a Virginia farm I hunt, we’d start refreshing our mineral sites in June, set cameras near each lick and get thousands of images of deer over the next 8 weeks. While we might not have captured every buck that summered on the farm each year, I bet we got pictures of 80-90 percent of the bucks. Every year we’d get pictures of 3 or 4 top-end stud bucks on the farm.
If your state allows it, using corn and/or minerals to attract deer to your camera sites is the very best way to inventory the bucks on a property, and to watch their racks grow to their full potential in August.
But a couple of years ago the Virginia Wildlife Department banned the use of all bait and minerals to attract deer. Their thinking was that this would possibly help stop the threat and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
I’m for doing everything we can to fight CWD. That aside, the mineral ban threw a huge hitch in our summer trail-cam strategy and scouting, so we’ve had to adapt.
Here are 5 spots to set your cameras and get images of bucks if you hunt in a state or county that does not permit the use of food or minerals to attract deer.
Fence Gap: An open gate or hole/gap in a fence in or near a corn or soybean field is my favorite place to get bucks images when you can’t use minerals.
Water crossing: Walk a creek or shallow river until you come to a spot where a deer trail crosses, and there are lots of tracks. Hang a camera within 10 feet of the ford.
Convergence point: The spot where 2 or more small drainages or fingers of timber come together. Hang cameras near these bottlenecks and you will find a buck or two. Then cross-reference the photos with aerial maps, consider fresh sign on the ground and hang tree stands for ambushes in the fall.
Old mineral sites: Even though we can’t refresh them, we still hang a few cameras on old licks where we got the best pictures years ago. The local deer have been conditioned over the years to come to the licks in the summer, and we still get some pictures there. Not nearly as many as we once did, but some. I suspect in a couple more years, the licks will dry up for good.
Make a scent post: This summer I’m trying scent, especially the new Active Cam. It’s a non-urine-based curiosity scent designed to pique the interest of deer and other animals and bring them over for a sniff.
I’m experimenting with Active-Cam two ways. First, in place of minerals, I’ll pour large rings of the scent around each old lick, and then hook a trail camera on a nearby tree to monitor it.
Second, I’ll hang a few cameras on natural edges and bottlenecks, and set wicks soaked with Active-Cam within 10 feet.
Get you cameras out there this weekend and keep them running up to and throughout deer season.
In Illinois, old licks require a fence or insure they are covered up.