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August 18, 2008

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Countdown to Deer Season: How Do You Kill the Time?

I cursed at a trail camera the other day. Had it out for five days in an area where I knew a good buck lives and, when I plugged the memory card into my computer, 34 of the forty images were black. I spent a day being mad at the camera. Checked the batteries, banged my card-reader on my desk. Even tried to photo-shop a couple of the black holes into visibility. Nada.

Then I realized I hadn’t programmed the thing correctly. I’d accidentally programmed it out of flash mode, a move that naturally renders a trail cam useless when deer are most likely to show. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Deer season is a little over a month away and I’m a wreck. Doing lots of busy little prep-things that don’t amount to squat; counting tree steps, taking a stand inventory, marking arrows that need repair….Just lots of busy work I convince myself is important, but what amounts to little more than pacing the floor. And, as the camera-thing illustrates, probably not doing much of anything very well.

So what about you? How do bide time as you count the days? Last weekend, I accepted an invite to take a deer drive with one of my buddies on property he manages for his employer. The place resembled a whitetail zoo; we glassed close to 50 bucks (including some real studs) in one four-mile stretch of road. I was jazzed at the time, but the next day my illness was worse. And then my buddy sent me the trail cam pics below. “These are a couple we didn’t see,” he joked in his email. “You should come back again and see if we can find the real toads.”

Well, maybe. Until then, I’ve got a trail cam to set out again. This time, I’m gonna let my kids program the thing….




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I understand the value of scouting cameras but many of the people I know that have them are using them almost year round and checking them frequently (like a kid shaking a package under the tree before Chrismas).

On small properties (like most of us hunt) I have to wonder how many times you can pull that stunt without the deer getting tired of being intruded upon and moving elsewhere?

Just wondering?


Mike Diehl

I don't use a trail camera because I only hunt public land. After February I pretty much weather the hot months by going to the range and daydreaming about autumn. Starting in August I begin scouting in earnest, looking for dove flights in the morning and deer sign as I hike. After the dove season starts, I combine AM dove hunting with more deer scouting after the dove have all roosted up. And although it will still be rather hot in September, it's all good because hunting season will again be upon the land.


Mike, that sounds like a heck of a plan. I may have to implement that pretty soon. So far I've been shooting arrows in my backyard and waiting for the local public shooting range to open up so I can check my muzzleloader and some slugs in my shotgun.


I do welding and fabrication for a living, so I've spent my time building ladder and hang on stands, painting them, and waiting for a nice evening to go hang them up. I don't want to hang them too early for fear of someone stealing them. I've been trying to shoot alot more also, but you can only check the accuracy of your rifle so many times, needless to say my season doesn't start till october but I"m gonna make the squirrles fear me by then so maybe they'll leave me alone in my stands!

Scott Bestul

Jim: I think you're right to be nervous, but a lot depends on what the deer use the property for.

Bedding areas are sensitive and shouldn't be messed with. Feeding and transition areas are less touchy, but it depends on how well you manage scent, sound, etc on your intrusions.

Many guys stick a camera in a small tract and only check it once a month or so. It's worth trying. Just make sure you get your camera set up right (he said, speaking more to himself)!



It also depends on what the deer get used to and if they consider you a life threatening intruder.

I run a half dozen cams on my place and check them about every 4 days. I also run them like a trap line using my Polaris Ranger. I don't get too far off the beaten path so to speak, but the deer consider my activity very routine. Kind of like farming activity which goes on around them every day. I would agree that stomping around in there core bedding area is not a great idea.

But I ride in on my Ranger right up the gut of my property and run my camera line and continue to get some great buck pictures.

The word "habituation" come to mind.

By habituating to less important signals, an animal can focus its attention on the most important features of its environment. A good example of this is species that rely on alarm calls to convey information about predators. In this case animals stop giving alarm calls when they become familiar with other species in their environment that turn out not to be predators.

In this case, my bi-weekly trail camera run is not being viewed as a threat to the deer.

scott bestul

Very interesting!

Reminds me of a cousin who always swore he'd never use an ATV to reach his stands..he'd seen so many deer spook from them.

Now I hunt a farm that the farmer patrols daily (actually, multi-daily!) inspecting livestock. The deer there barely lift a head when they hear a 4-wheeler. In fact, the best way to get to a stand is drive your ATV as close as you can get!

Glad you brought it up Ghost!

Raymond Shaffer

Glad to know I'm not the only one counting the days. I've been spending my weekends cutting and plowing foodplots, checking existing stands (for wasp nests), dodging BIG rattlesnakes, and putting up some more stands (in a couple of pretty sweet spots). Our Archery Season in SC comes in Sept. 15 and it can't get here quick enough. Sadly, it goes by too quick and it's Jan 2 and time to wait again. Reading these posts helps pass the time and keeps the fresh, cool, clean autumn air just around the corner.

NH Philosopher

I spend my time with my family. Deer season is only one of my passions and when I'm on stand I like to think of the camping, fishing and scouting I did with my wife and kids before the season. If it ever came down to hunting or my family - my family wins every single time.

On those long cold days, when your toes are numb and the woods is quiet - and you question whether or not you should hang in there - I like to know my family is well taken care of and that we've had some yucks together.

Now - if I get the itch really bad to go out and spend some "me time" in the woods - the bushy tails become my prey of choice.

I can't wait for my son and daughter to start hunting with me. Right now - they are just too young.

Field Dress

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like good 'ole sit and wait scouting. Of course, I've been fortunate to hunt the same land for many years and the wife likes to get me out of the house. Probably have over twenty stands throughout, so just go from tree to tree.

Field Dress

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like good 'ole sit and wait scouting. Of course, I've been fortunate to hunt the same land for many years and the wife likes to get me out of the house. Probably have over twenty stands throughout, so just go from tree to tree.


We will be killing bear in our killing time before deer season here in Maine,lol..headed up near Canada to spot & stalk hunt a few bruins:-)

greg howland

i' trying to find a game scouting cam that you can view pics in the field. does anyone make one ? is there a way to interface with cell phone to view pics in the field?
thanks for your help.


" Pull out your Clothing & check
to make sure it still fits , check , your Stand{s} for Servicability, & safety, check your, Bow, Rifle, & Trail Camera
thats how I spend time getting

P.S. don't forget to put in for
time off from work for opening
season ,



hey ... deer season is just around the corner ... killing time by searching the web is cool ...

try .....



i like to go out whenever i get the chance to scout the bucks when they are still in their batchler groups when they fead alot in the summer. the mosquitos can be a reall pain though. also whenever i can i read north american whitetail. it has great stories just about big bucks that avg hunters like us shoot. and i spend prolly way to much time watching deer hunting dvds lol

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