4 Ways to Pattern Monster Bucks with Trail Cameras
September 18, 2013
During the past two seasons, I have had great success patterning and, ultimately, killing mature bucks. I never would have thought this possible before I started to use trail cameras. This tool has allowed me to systematically learn the behavior and decipher the personalities of the bucks I've hunted. Here's how it works.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Look for mature bucks that are killable. To qualify, a buck must satisfy the following criteria. First, he should ideally live in an area that you can sneak into and out of without alerting any deer. Second, he should have a small range. (You can identify this by noting how often he shows up on your trail cams and which cameras he shows up on.) Third, he should display some daylight activity.
Bucks like this are a blast to hunt! There may not be many of them, but they're definitely out there.
CAST A WIDE NET
Start by running cameras over as many acres as possible. You can move the cameras around to maximize coverage with just a few cameras. It's a numbers game. Some years, you may not have bucks in your hunting area that exhibit the ideal traits. But, the more ground you cover, the better your odds of finding one.
In states where it is legal, place your cameras over bait so that you can find the bucks as quickly as possible. I only place bait in areas with natural food sources. This way I'm not actually changing the bucks' patterns, just concentrating them in front of the camera. You need to learn as much as possible, as fast as you can, to quickly narrow the pool of candidates so you can then focus on patterning individual bucks. If you can't use bait in front of your cameras, the process becomes more difficult. In this case, you have to focus on setting your trail cams over funnels and food sources.
Pay attention to the direction from which bucks approach the camera on the first photo you get in the evening. That is likely the direction to his normal bedding area. While not foolproof, this is a valuable piece of information.
NARROW THE PROCESS
Once you have identified a killable buck, bring in any other cameras you have (it is nice to have at least three total) and place them in strategic locations around the fringes of the buck's likely core area. Place them in spots that you can approach (ideally by vehicle) without alerting any deer. It is best if you can check them at midday, driving right to the camera.
I stop using bait once I start patterning, but if you are going to hunt over bait, there is no reason to stop putting it out. My preference is to use a feature on modern cameras called 'œField Scan' or 'œTime Lapse' mode. Using this feature, I set my cameras to take a photo every minute for the last 90 minutes of daylight. The camera will still take a photo if triggered by movement, so using this mode has no downside.
Place cameras on the edges of feeding areas and overlooking well-used funnels. By checking the cameras often, you can stay on top of what the deer are doing, adjust your camera locations if needed and quickly jump into a stand when the buck you are after shows behavior you can exploit.
Have you bagged a monster buck that you'd like to show off? Share your photo with us in our Camera Corner!