Want More Trail Camera Pictures of Velvet Bucks?
While some folks enjoy the activities that summer offers, many of us are also keeping an eye on the horizon. We know full well what’s to come. Before we can kick back in a tree stand again, though, it’s nice to keep tabs on the local deer with trail cameras. The problem is that when we get the perfect trail camera picture of velvet bucks hanging around, it’s pretty much game over in our minds as far as summer is concerned. But what if you’re not getting any pictures of deer in velvet? Does that mean you have no bucks on your property and that you should just pick up golf instead? Not necessarily. Here are some tips for you to get the most pictures of velvet bucks without putting pressure on them or going crazy in the meantime.
Understanding Velvet Bucks
If you have a farm or are frequently on the property you hunt, it’s likely that you get to see deer fairly regularly as you go through various summer preparation steps. During the summer, bucks have one primary goal, which is to eat as much food as possible. All the extra calories in this time of surplus fuels body growth and antler development. Bucks often hang out in bachelor groups during the summer, which has a few advantages for them. Having more eyes helps detect predators, but it also helps bucks in velvet to learn their place in the social hierarchy before it becomes an issue worth fighting about in the fall. Bachelor group bucks are also nice for trail camera purposes because it concentrates their movement patterns and increases the chance of you seeing a few on camera. Whitetail deer antlers can look so impressive when they’re growing and covered in velvet, but it’s even better when you manage to get pictures of a few of them!
During this time period, bachelor bucks often hang around high quality food sources, such as big agricultural fields, lush food plots, or openings with lots of tender regrowth. You can often find them coming out to feed throughout the day rather than just at night like they did last November. Ideally, it benefits them to eat as much as possible and move as little as possible so they can devote the most calories (and ultimately energy) into body and antler growth. As a result, they also typically bed fairly close to food sources.
How to Target Velvet Bucks
If you’re specifically looking to get more pictures of whitetail deer in velvet, you will need to be a little cautious about how you do it. While bucks are much more forgiving this time of year than in the fall, they will still get camera-shy if you’re constantly out on their turf switching things up and spreading the scent of humans everywhere. Here are some tips on where to put your trail cameras, how to access those locations, and how to set up your camera so you get the best-looking pictures.
Where to Put Cameras
As mentioned above, velvet bucks spend most of their time feeding and loafing nearby. Soybean fields are especially attractive and nutritious this time of year, as are summer food plot mixes or young forest regrowth. If there’s a large sumac grove or some mature shaded woods adjacent to the field or food plot, all the better for a buck to escape the summer sun. And if you also have a natural water source (e.g., creek, pond, etc.) or a buried tub that holds water, you can bet that velvet bucks will work that location into their daily rounds too as they stay hydrated. When you get to the access point (discussion below), look for trails coming into field corners or going past shaded spots with water, and you should find some evidence of deer in velvet using that location.
How to Access Camera Locations
This is where many people often go wrong. Thinking they can do absolutely no harm to spook deer in the summer, they charge right out into some of these best spots and toss a camera up, while sweating profusely and touching every tree as they go. Bucks can be forgiving, but mature bucks aren’t stupid either. They can quickly put a pattern together and learn to avoid a spot if they feel like they are being pressured.
To avoid that issue, you need to be a little more covert. Start by glassing fields for a few nights. Try to figure out exactly where the velvet bucks are entering and exiting the fields. Once you get the general idea, go in during the middle of the day when bucks are likely resting nearby. Put on some rubber boots (yes, you will get hot) and avoid touching vegetation as much as you can. Try to be as quiet as possible since bucks might bed within 50 yards of the field edge in the right conditions. Then slip back out as quietly as you can. If you do this right, you can still sneak back in and adjust the camera if need be.
Trail Camera Tips
Although new trail cameras are capable of taking very high quality pictures (including the Ghost Cam HD 16 or Ghost Cam HD 20), you need to set them up correctly to get the best looking ones. Start by positioning your camera so it is not directly facing into the sun throughout the day. While you can get some cool shots at dawn and dusk, most of your pictures will likely look washed out. If possible, keep it in a shaded location just off of the field edge because pictures in the shade turn out much better. Also, position your camera so it is facing the direction of deer travel. For example, if you find a lot of tracks going into the field from the woods, try facing your camera away from the field so you can get pictures of deer approaching. This gives the camera more time to trigger than if it were facing directly perpendicular to the trail, and it gives you a better view of their velvet antlers than if they were walking away.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change
If you go through the steps above and still don’t capture any pictures of velvet bucks, there are likely two reasons. Maybe your property just doesn’t attract or hold bucks during the summer. It’s painful to accept, but it’s just true in some cases. If neighboring properties offer more food and security than your property does, the bucks might just be elsewhere. Or two, maybe you just haven’t found where they use your property yet. After leaving a camera out for 2 weeks and getting no velvet deer, try moving it to a different location or adjusting it to face a different direction. Repeat the steps above and see what happens. If there are bucks on your land, you should be able to get some good pictures to plan ahead for hunting season.
Consequently, if you’re dreaming of early season deer hunting and putting a new velvet buck mount in your living room, we hope you can use these tips to get the best summer pictures of them. If you can pattern them around their summer habits, you stand a chance of taking one before the bachelor groups break up and it’s every buck for himself.