Cruising Summer Bucks Deserve Your Attention
I started running trail cameras years ago. All we had then was the 35mm cameras that would burn out AA batteries in 48 pictures. At the time, the biggest concern was to get a full roll of deer pictures. Not branches and grass blowing in the wind. Now we can take thousands of pictures at a time and only go in every couple of months to maintain the cameras. As the trail camera industry evolved, the hunter evolved with it. A lot of hunters think it is not necessary to run cameras until the cruising summer bucks switch to their fall ranges. While those guys have some very valid points that I listen to, I have another theory of my own that I have seen play out several years in a row.
Where Did That Buck Go?
Lots of hunters will call me crazy, and you may to, but I have learned to pay attention to bucks cruising in the middle of the summer. Most bucks will have a summer range and stay in a bachelor group up until their testosterone levels rise. At that time, they shed their velvet, and they can’t get along with the rest of the group anymore. That is when they disperse into their fall ranges and begin to establish dominancy in new area. But what about that one nice buck that shows up one time in the middle of the summer and never appears again until fall?
In 2014 I got a picture of an old, wide buck in the middle of the hot summer. It was in the middle of the day, and I had never seen him before. My first thoughts were, “He’ll leave in September,” and I never saw him again all summer long. My next pictures of him were in the middle of the night in the first week of October. I got pictures of him periodically until November 6th when I killed him with a bow. I remember thinking that it wasn’t very common to see a deer in the middle of the summer and kill him in the same spot in November, but that got my wheels turning.
Cruising Summer Bucks May Be in Their Fall Range Already
My cameras didn’t produce much up until July 31st in 2015. I remember my best friend and hunting partner, sitting at my kitchen table, going through a card that had been in a camera for about 6 weeks. “Oh yeah!” he said. “We’ll call this one ‘Ten Ringer’ because he’s the cleanest ten point I’ve ever seen!” To my knowledge I had never seen that buck before. Again, I didn’t put too much thought into him because I figured he’d move to a fall range somewhere else. I started getting pictures of him again toward the end of October. On the second day of rifle season my friend and I doubled up with two handsome bucks! The one I killed was “Ten Ringer!”
My 2016 buck has been my biggest to date. Though I had pictures of him right before he shed in late February, I never dreamed he would put that many inches on in one season. On the 18th of July he showed up in daylight and gave me some awesome photos. Due to my previous two experiences, my gut was telling me to leave the area alone and see what was around in the middle of October. Sure enough, my mid-October camera check produced some spectacular nighttime pictures of him just five days prior. After that, he was all over the farm and killing him became an obsession for me. On the second day of rifle season, he followed a doe into my crosshairs and the chapter ended.
That Cruising Summer Buck Is In My Mind
Over those three seasons I noticed a couple of things. Most of the bucks that were very frequent throughout the summer would wind up switching ranges in the middle of September. The ones that cruised through one time during the summer would usually end up rutting close to where the cameras were. Do some bucks sometimes venture out beyond their summer range? Definitely something to think about. I know that it is only a coincidence that I had this happen three years in a row. I also know that every buck is different and the hunter needs to make the perfect plan on a case by case basis. One thing I can tell you though is that I will always look for that one summer picture, and I’ll be keeping that buck in my mind come fall.
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