Essential Outdoor Skill: Dial in Your Deer

Trail camera and photos courtesy of Bushnell

One of the best ways to learn individual bucks' travel patterns and habits is to organize and study your trail-camera photos--but there are some tricks to keeping all the information straight. Start by giving photos of each buck that meets your harvest criteria a unique file name that includes the buck's ID (e.g., "Wide Eight"), the date and time each photo was taken, and the camera location (e.g., "Creek Crossing"). This enables you to easily locate all the photos you have of an individual deer.

Today's game cameras record a wealth of intelligence, including the time, date, temperature, moon phase, and barometric pressure for when each image was taken. Print out the photos of your "shooter" bucks and write this info on the back of each. Include the wind direction (which you can get from an online weather source if you know the date and time) and the direction the buck was traveling. Next, record all this data in a table or spreadsheet (see below for reference).

For each "shooter" buck, spend time figuring out its habits and travel patterns. For example, you may discover that one buck comes through an area early in the morning when the wind is out of the southwest. Use this information to decide when to hunt each buck, and record that in the last column of your spreadsheet. To further home in on buck activity, get an aerial photo of your hunting property and record where and when each food source is available.