In the first and second installment of this article, we discussed a general plan of attack for tackling new country under normal circumstances. This finale will cover a few new tricks for your bag.
OK, let’s say that a particular water source has some huge tracks made repeatedly by a buck that obviously lives in the area, yet the surrounding terrain is thick, flat, and tough to examine with binoculars. For this, I always keep several trail cameras at the ready on my scouting trips. They are invaluable to the Western hunter.
A picture such as this one proves the value of trail cameras as an effective scouting tool.
Often, the hardest thing about Western trophy hunting is locating an animal worthy of your hunting efforts, and trail cameras are a great locating tool. Having several trail cameras in use is like having several, reliable, buddies posted at different locations watching water sources 24 hours a day. I employ several cameras starting in the early summer and continue until the deer shed their antlers. There is a science to setting cameras on dirt tanks. Often these ponds are up to 100 yards across or bigger, and may take several cameras to cover.
Use Cameras Wisely
Usually, the deer sign is concentrated in a few different sections of the shoreline and cameras should be placed accordingly. Sometimes there is nothing on which to mount the cameras. You can drag logs over to use or even build rock piles to mount cameras. I have also simply propped them up on the ground with rocks, and had success when there were no other options. Beware though; cattle always wreak havoc on trail cameras! Their curious nature can be very frustrating. Even if you can get your cameras mounted out of their reach, they will still take up valuable memory space with portraits of their pretty faces.
There are no sure fire solutions, but here are a couple ideas. Purchase cameras that have a "time out" feature. Set it to operate only at the primetime daylight hours and through the night. The majority of cattle action takes place in the daylight hours and this will save hundreds of pictures for nocturnal game.
Setting the cameras on trails approaching the water is another way to cut down on cow pics. Always use the largest memory cards that your camera will accept. Therefore, if a P&Y Angus decides to take a six-hour siesta in front of your camera lens, you will still have memory space for several days worth of game pics. The bottom line is that trail cameras work and some of the largest deer harvested in the West in recent years were discovered with a camera.
Trail cameras placed properly are invaluable.
Every few years the West receives an over-abundance of precipitation that leaves every depression, road rut and rock hole brimming with water. This is a great thing and if it continues thru winter, spring and summer it can have an enormously positive effect on antler growth and fawn survival.
However, it will also scatter the resident game to the farthest reaches of available habitat. It’s like taking the haystack that your needle is hidden in and scattering it with an airplane. Dirt tanks and water catchments will be completely void of tracks simply because the deer can water literally anywhere that they want.
Finding big deer can get very tough in these wet times. Your success lies in how hard you are willing to work. Climb the highest peaks in your areas and spend long hours staring through your tripod-mounted optics. Burn the soles off of your boots. Bucks will still be leaving tracks, just not at established water. Hike huge circles through the best feeding areas that you can find. Discover where the buck sign is concentrated and set up your glassing time accordingly. Don’t discount tracking bucks to get a look at them also. Often, wet ground makes tracking a simplified task.
Successful hunts are often determined by a single preseason sighting of a big buck. Scouting time can be hard to come by and should be spent as effectively as possible. This plan of attack has worked for me for years, and it will work for you as well. As with all aspects of hunting, you will get out of it what you put in. Thank you for following and remember to enjoy every moment spent in deer country.
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