At this point, the majority of deer seasons around the country are either closed or in their last few weeks. As things wind down the majority of hunters reminisce on the past season, turn to waterfowl or predator hunting, begin thinking of spring gobblers, and start to “winterize” their deer hunting gear. Typically this winterizing process includes loosening straps to stands, taking down blinds, and boxing up clothing and gear- including those trail cameras. While there’s a time and place for all of this, now is not the time to send those trail cameras to the garage. Just because the season is over doesn’t mean trail camera photos are irrelevant and have little to no value. As sportsmen we must always be learning and improving, and in doing so postseason pictures are imperative. Let me explain.
Post-season pictures can show what bucks have survived the orange army. Many times mature bucks vanish for a couple weeks, especially following the general firearms season. Until these shell-shocked bucks come out of hibernation, you may find yourself thinking a neighbor punched his/her tag on your sought after buck. Confirming he’s still out there through just one photo is a wonderful feeling and will give you further motivation in the offseason to go the extra distance in bettering your chances of success.
Much like the early season, bucks are not moving a great distance with water and a quality food source prioritized as the rut takes its toll on a buck’s body and overall health. Additional considerations include security cover and bedding areas with wind and weather breaks. Highly sought after areas containing the above consistently drive bucks from miles away- so don’t be surprised if new bucks start showing up on your cameras! Paired with this information, every year we see bucks gravitating out of the wooded bottoms and thickets and closer to larger winter wheat fields and strategically planted winter plots. Taking note of these shifting patterns will improve your success through concentrating deer centrally in your property by utilizing plots and gives a good starting point of where to look when things get blistery.
Need I say more? Trail cameras are an absolute game changer when it comes to looking for brown gold. Every year we’re faced with a dilemma of when to begin- If we start shed hunting too soon then obviously many antlers won’t be dropped yet and we risk bumping and pushing those bucks out of their recently established core winter areas. On the other hand, if we start shed hunting too late then we won’t be able to maximize our covered ground before the greenup. This magical and refreshing greenup signals a change in the seasons from the unyielding cold to warmer temps and lively forest growth but is our enemy when looking for bone. Every day delayed boils down to one less ridge being picked apart and hopefully clean. Complicating this issue further is the fact that antlers do not always drop the same time from year to year, some bucks will drop before others, and some bucks will hold onto one antler for a couple days before it finally drops. Take for instance, this pictured buck.
“Squiggly Wiggly” dropped one antler on the 8th and the other on the 9th. By using photo time stamps we can clearly see he dropped his other antler between 2:45 and 4:45 am on the 9th. This not only tells us it’s time to lace up the boots but also that we likely won’t find Squiggly’s matching side in the far reaches of his core area as it’s unlikely he covered that much ground in two hours. Game on! As an aside, based on Squiggly’s one antler, he would have been a true mid 160’s buck with a 27” beam, 12” g2, and 10” g3. 2017 Booner watch!
Over the next couple of weeks as we wipe away our postseason tears, we’ll be continually and consistently pulling cards and taking notes all the while strategizing for the upcoming year. Moreover we’ll be sharing some awesome sheds found so stay tuned. Remember to keep those eyes out in the woods. Hunting seasons end but the hunt never does.