Don't be Fooled by Summer Trail Camera Results
Summer trail camera pictures featuring monster whitetail bucks have been populating every corner of social media for a few months now. It seems like everyone who owns a trail camera has an interesting picture or two. Providing endless amounts of hope for the season to come.
I'm not the guy who enjoys raining on anyone's parade, but let's have a quick conversation about the reality of summer trail camera pictures. This is a conversation that we need to have.
Whether it's from us here at Affiliated Outdoors/MPTV or elsewhere, the excitement is palpable when someone posts a picture of a giant velvet buck. That should always be exciting. It's one of the sure signs that we are turning the corner and heading toward deer season. Good trail camera results also let us know that we're doing our job when it comes to management and conservation.
With that being said, I think that far too many eager hunters take those awesome summertime trail camera results and think that the hay is in the barn. I've got a giant buck or even several on my trail cameras, so I should be sitting pretty once opening day rolls around. Not always.
You have to understand just how different a whitetail buck is during the summer versus just about any other time of the year. A buck with velvet on his rack has no problem rolling with several other bucks, or a bachelor group. He's at ease for the most part and simply focused on bedding and feeding.
Fast-forward a couple of months to the opening of most archery seasons in the United States. It's September or October, and that buck is a completely different animal than the one who was practically smiling on your trail camera every night in the summer heat.
Bachelor groups will slowly begin to disband as the summer turns to fall. Bucks become weary and territorial. You find yourself sitting in a treestand every Saturday wondering where all of the big boys went. It happens to all of us.
This is where charting and logging your trail camera results is a critical step. You have to determine if that velvet giant is going to be a regular on your property or a summertime star. Only time and your trail camera picture files will tell. You just can't write home on a couple weeks or even months of sensational summer trail camera pics.
You also have to understand that whitetails will almost always have differing summer and fall or winter ranges. Just think about how much the landscape changes from July to November and beyond. Deer are following the resources per the season. Booming agricultural fields get harvested, native browse goes dormant, and the need to obtain thermal cover becomes critical when the weather goes cold.
Meaning that the guy flaunting all of those awesome summer trail camera pictures could lose out on that buck of a lifetime to the guy who had absolutely nothing all summer long. It happens every single season, and that's just deer hunting.
Could you photograph a monster all summer long and then harvest that same deer on opening day or sometime after? Absolutely. That also happens every single season. As we know, the biggest bucks are often the biggest homebodies.
We would all prefer to have sensational summer trail camera pictures to get ourselves fired up for the season, but I'm just here to tell you that it's not a requisite. Far from it.
I'll finish with the perfect example right from our boys Alex and Mike on the northern shores of Ohio. What happened to them last season illustrates the point perfectly.
The guys had solid trail camera pictures all the way through the fall portion of the 2018 season. It wasn't until after the first week of January 2019 that they crossed paths with an absolute giant of a whitetail that seemingly materialized out of thin air. My phone started blowing up with trail cam pictures while we were on the show floor at the 2019 ATA Show, as a matter of fact.
This giant buck obviously moved into their property due to the winter resources available there. It's a property with some insane thickness and cover that lasts throughout the winter. That is exactly why that deer was around. In September, October or November, that deer had what he needed elsewhere. That changed in January.
So, the moral of this story is to stay grounded in your summer trail camera results. Whether you are swimming in pictures of velvet giants or getting minimal pics, things can change. Summer trail camera pictures can be very deceiving.
Keep moving and let the thing play out.