By Mark Kenyon
There aren’t many things more exciting than those moments just before checking the pictures on a trail camera. And there are few things as disappointing as finishing up your SD card review and not seeing a single “Shooter” buck. It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened to you too. But what’s even worse is going week, after week, after week with no sign of a “biggun”. If this is happening to you this summer, you might be getting worried. Is there even going to be a buck worth hunting this year? The question is probably just starting to whisper at you from the back of your mind, and while I know you’re dreading it, it’s something you need to consider.
So, if you’re in this situation, what can be done? What should you do if you’re getting no big bucks on trail camera this summer?
Trail Camera Etiquette
The first thing to consider is that you might be the reason you’re not getting pictures of quality deer. How so? If you’re being slopping with your cameras, you might be spooking those bigger bucks away from your camera locations. Be sure to be as scent free as possible when setting up cameras, avoid pushing into bedding areas or other likely deer hot-spots, and be careful not to check your cameras too often. I try to wait at least two weeks before checking cameras in the summer. If your visits become too frequent, you can be sure that big bucks will learn to avoid the area and your camera. (Here’s a link to more tips on how to keep from spooking deer with your cameras – 4 Ways To Spook Less Deer With Your Trailcams)
Move Your Cameras
If you find yourself in this situation late in the summer with no good bucks yet on camera, but you think you’re being careful with your camera and presence on the property, the first thing I’d recommend is to move your cameras around. I’ve had trail cameras set just a couple hundred yards apart on the same property, and have had completely unique bucks on one or the other. For some reason, some bucks will never venture into certain areas, and if your camera just so happens to be outside the usual area of a given buck, you may never know he’s there – despite the fact he’s hanging out just down the way. That said, it’s a good idea to refresh your camera locations, get them in some new spots, and see what might show up.
Wait Til September
Another important thing to remember is that many bucks have a different summer and fall range. Even if you have no summer bucks on camera, disaster is not imminent. There is a good chance a new buck or two could move into your area in September, especially if you have good fall/winter forage and cover. Make sure you’ve got a good number of cameras in the woods for the beginning of September, as this is when most bucks will relocate. You might also want to do some long-distance scouting to try and confirm the presence of a “shooter” buck at this time.
Look For Other Options
Finally, if you’re still not getting pictures of the bucks you’re looking for, and you’re not wanting to wait til September, it may be time to look for other options. Get out scouting fields in the evenings and find new areas with the quality of bucks you are looking for. Once you do, it’s time to start asking for permission. (Here are some tips on getting permission – “5 Tips for Getting Hunting Permission“)
I personally have been pretty disappointed with the trail camera pictures I’ve been getting so far this year, but I’m not in full blown panic mode yet. It’s important to be patient and then to be smart about how you place and move your cameras. That said, you also need to be proactive. You’ll never kill a big buck if none live where you hunt, so do your best to survey your area, and then look into other options if you need to.
Best of luck this summer finding the big one!