Mature Velvet Bucks and Cameras
By Jacob Miner
One of the most exciting times in my opinion to be a whitetail hunter is the end of July and August. All the sweat equity is almost done minus fall brassica plots and it’s now time to take inventory of what bucks are still around and what bucks are calling your property home during the latter part of the summer. I cannot wait for those last couple weeks of July because for me that is when the trail cameras go out on my farms. I happen to run cellular trail cameras so a couple days before I deploy my watch guards, I am replacing batteries, formatting SD cards and checking straps making sure everything mechanical is in working order. I am also looking at aerials of each farm deciding what food sources the cameras will go on, for me it is almost just exciting as climbing into a tree.
There are many ways to go about your summer velvet scouting using trail cameras. I will highlight a few key points and strategies that I have used that have played into my success getting the pics of the mature bucks I am looking for. Probably the most important tactic that I have implied to my trail cam strategy is waiting to put my cameras out till the end of July. Reason behind this tactic is plain and simple “intrusion”. If there is one thing that I try not to do it is to be intrusive to these mature deer. I’ve found throughout my years of bowhunting that your most mature bucks in your areas will tolerate very little intrusive behavior, they know every inch of their home so putting in my opinion unnecessary pressure by running your cameras too early in the summer will only give them more knowledge that you are there. An important aspect to keeping your pressure to a minimum is scent control, yes I know that these bucks tend to tolerate a lot more before the velvet comes off but staying invisible to these mature backs especially when it comes to scent could mean the difference of him leaving once the velvet is gone or calling your farm home for the remainder of the season.
Scent control in camera preparation for me consists of always spraying down the cameras before they are deployed into the field. I utilize ozone to kill human and foreign odors so I will put all the camera straps into my ozone tote prior to getting to the farm. Whitetail live and learn by their nose so I try to do anything I can to limit my presence. Another tactic I like to use in controlling scent is using rubber gloves when handling cameras, changing batteries and switching cards while the cameras are out running. Again, it is so important that they do not know you’re there even when the velvet still covers their antlers. It is important to pay mind to your ground scent especially if you do not utilize cell cameras and must visit your camera site frequently. Rubber boots and scent free pants are a must as that will be the main points of contact to the ground and foliage to and from your camera locations. It is debated whether scent control spray is effective in killing human odor, I use it regardless. Do not leave a stone unturned. You have worked hard all summer to get your farm to appeal to the mature animals so no reason not to dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
One of the most important tactics that I use to get pics of these deer are the use of cellular trail cameras. They are a great tool in my opinion for keeping your intrusion to an absolute minimum and for having real time MRI which can be the difference in putting the pieces together to hopefully harvest a mature animal when the season comes around. I myself utilize the Cuddeback Cuddie Link System. With this cell camera I can run multiple cameras back to one camera that sends me all my locations at one time. This is a game changer because this allows me to see what is happening all over my farms at once. Having the option of being able to run multiple camera locations back to one camera allows intrusion to be so minimal. This allows me to only visit one camera on the fringe of my farm if by chance I need to change batteries or refresh a card. Knowing what is going on in real time around your whole property can tell you a lot about how many and what bucks are using your farm.
Food sources play a huge role in where you will target these velvet giants towards the end of the growing season. Through the last part of July through August I like to target soybean fields near bedding areas. These green beans are velvet buck magnets as the bean plant is very palatable during this time of the summer. Alfalfa fields have also proved to be some of the best food sources to catch that mature velvet buck repeatedly. Secluded clover plots in transition or staging areas will also be hot spots for latter summer velvet bucks. These food sources coupled with their protein and mineral content as well as their moisture and palatability will be certain to draw that velvet giant out for a bite to eat in front of your trail camera.
During the last few days of August scrapes can also begin to slowly show up on field edges where many deer congregating continuously. If I notice a scrape has popped up in one of these areas, I will hang a camera over looking the scrape being very mindful of scent control and hone into that area seeing what mature bucks are using the scrape. A lot of times I find that with these early scrapes there are multiple mature bucks that will check them while they are at the food source.
A super reliable tactic for getting pictures of velvet giants is to focus camera placement in the shady corners of beanfields. Time after time it has been proven to me that these shaded areas are hot spots. It almost seems that they will use these shaded areas to stage up before feeding into the center of the ag field. They can stay tucked into the shadows of the setting sun and watch the early feeders to make sure danger is not lurking. Another aspect to getting great velvet pictures is the cooling aspect of the shade. These animals are just like people, when that sun is beating down and its hot, they want to be in the cool shady spot. Secluded water is another great spot to have your camera capturing late summer velvet. Often when a buck gets up from his bed, he will first relieve himself and then head straight to the closest water source to rehydrate before picking his food source for the evening. Water sources also will make for some beautiful pictures.
All in all, late July and August are some of the most exciting times for a bowhunter. We are counting down the days and trying to put a plan together on specific bucks we will hope to harvest in the coming weeks. Knowing how important trail cameras are to scouting and telling us information we would not obtain otherwise, it’s important to keep in mind your surroundings, your intrusion, your setups and most are importantly your scent footprint. Keep all these items in the forefront of your mind and you will be reaping the benefits every time you look at your photos.