By Mark Kenyon:

Rain dripped down my face, and water was up to my waist. I was soaked, exhausted and seriously questioning what the hell I was doing this all for.

I had waded chest deep, down a creek for over 500 yards, with each step taking me knee deep in the silty mud bottom. All just to swap out the SD card on a trail camera. Having just returned from my honeymoon on Sunday, my first priority was to check the trail camera that had been out for the past month on one of my best hunting properties. I was just dying to see what was on that camera, even more than usual.

Why? Because this would be my first set of September pictures, and September pictures are in my opinion the most important you’ll get all year when it comes to identifying the bucks you’ll be hunting each season.

Why September Pictures Are So Important

So what makes a September picture so important? It’s simple really. These pictures are so important because they are the first you’ll get of bucks that will actually be living on your property during hunting season. Yes, yes, I know. You’ve gotten trail camera pictures all summer of great bucks using your property and you’ve got a hit-list already figured out.

That’s all well and good, but unfortunately it’s kind of worthless. At least partly. You see, each year, at the end of August/beginning of September, bucks go through a change in which they start behaving slightly different, and this results in a relocation to a “Fall Range”. For about half of bucks this fall range will be the same or near to where they spent the summer, but for the other half this move could be much more drastic. Deer will also move ranges depending on food sources, and these typically change at this time of year as well (think beans drying up, and acorns dropping). Between these two changes, by the time you’re into the heart of September, the faces you see on your hunting property can be very different than what they were just a month earlier.

That said, these are the most important faces, as these will be the bucks most likely hanging around throughout the hunting season.

How To Check September Pictures Properly

Given the fact that September pictures are your first look at the bucks that will be on your property during hunting season, it’s obviously important to collect these photos. Having these images will help you identify shooters during the fall, help you age the bucks you might want to target, and may even help you understand how bucks are using your property. As important as all of that is, what might be even more important is HOW you check those trail cameras. 

Given that many bowhunting seasons open in late September or early October, any time you enter your hunting property at this time you are at risk of pressuring deer and hurting your chances of hunting success when the season opens. That said, you must check your trailcams at this time with great care. The key here is to do as much as possible to limit the impact your put on deer. Said more simply, you need to make sure that as few of deer as possible know you ever set foot on the property.

To do this I recommend a few things:

1. Only place/check trail cameras on the edges of cover. Never enter a bedding area to check a camera at this time.

2. Be completely scent free. And if possible, wait til a rainy day to check your camera, as this will help wash away some of the scent you’ll inevitably leave behind. Also be sure to wear gloves when handling the camera, and spray it down with scent eliminating spray when you’re done.

3. Be aware of the wind direction and make sure your wind isn’t blowing into an area where deer will be present. Even in September, a face full of human scent can be enough to keep a mature buck from hanging around in daylight when the season opens.

The Results of my September Trailcam Pull

So all that said, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, on Sunday I spent over an hour wading down a creek, all just to check one camera. In the end though, it was worth it.

When I finally arrived home, I slipped the SD card into my computer and started cycling through the 2,000 or so images that had accumulated over the past month. I’m excited to say that three of the top four bucks on my hit-list for this property were still spending time in the area into the month of September. That’s a great sign, and makes me even more excited for the upcoming year.

Pirate, Unibrow and Leaner, all seen below, will be on my mind pretty much non-stop for the next 15 days. After that, the hunt is on!