By Alex Comstock
There are all kinds of ways you can hunt whitetails, and everyone has their own way of doing it. To some, summer might not be as important of a time frame. See Preparing for Whitetail Season with Brennen Nading for a good example. For others, summer can be a crucial part of the plan. In today's blog post, I'm going to hit on some of the important things that can be taken away from summer scouting and trail cameras if you still have work to do.
Inventory: Summer is a great time to figure out what bucks live in the general area. Whether you have an early opening day or not, by scouting and running trail cameras through the months of June, July and August, you can get a really good idea of the deer in the area. One of the most popular ways to collect an inventory of bucks is by running trail cameras over minerals (where legal of course). It's not earth shattering, but when determining a good summer trail camera spot, there's two things that are important to me above all else. Ease of access and high deer traffic. If I am trying to collect an inventory of the bucks in an area, I want my camera in a spot I think that a number of them will be using. I'm not neccessarily running trail cameras in exact spots that I'll be hunting. I think that can often be what gets people in trouble. You don't have to run your cameras way back deep on a property where you'll be hanging stands. If you can get a mineral site up on the edge of a food source, and get pictures of numerous bucks and identify which ones you might want to hunt, you can then make a game plan from there on where to shift cameras or where you might want to actually hunt.
Early Season Opener?: When summer starts to take a different meaning is if you have an early enough season opener where you can still hunt a buck based on his summer pattern. Depending on the deer, you probably have until about the second week of September until a buck shifts his home range and starts moving differently. I've consistently found in North Dakota, I've got roughly a week after a buck sheds his velvet before everything changes.
If you have the ability to hunt very early in the year, your summer trail camera and scouting regime could be a little different. Opposed to just collecting inventory, that summer movement is now a little more important. The best case scenario is you can get photos or scout from a distance and locate a buck using a food source in daylight. If that doesn't pan out, this is when you might have to rely on your trail cameras a little bit more. I won't be afraid to put them up a little further back in the timber if need be or in areas of a food source I can't see from the road, but I'll be very strategic about it. Only put your cameras up in perfect conditions with the right wind, and even on a rainy day if possible. And then I'll only check my cameras once or twice during the summer if it's a spot I think I'll be hunting come opening day. I want to get that intel to not only make an opening day plan, but at the same time you don't want to mess it up before you even get a chance to hunt.
Other Summer Factors: Let's say you aren't going to be hunting a certain property early in the season. Other than simply collecting inventory of bucks, there are other things you can still be doing. For instance, summer is a great time to be learning new access/exit routes, and opposed to just looking at those on a map, you can physically get out there and try to figure those out. If I've got a property that I know I won't be hunting until later in October or November, I won't be afraid to walk all around it during the summer. Summer can be a fantastic time to clear out or create trails for the walk in/walk out of a November stand. Another thing I like to do in the summer is to spend a little time looking to see what hard mast, or natural food sources are growing. A lot of times in the spring while walking a property you can identify things such as oak trees or apple trees, but you won't know if they'll be producing come fall. Over the summer, you can get out and check these natural food sources, which could help determine where you hunt in a couple of months.
I think we all know summer is important to a degree. Even if you own or have permission on property you've been hunting for years, there is something you can be doing over this time frame between scouting and running trail cameras that will leave you better off in the fall.