Trail cameras have simplified the art of scouting, but even they require some strategy to be productive, and avid hunter Beau Starkey of Madison has found one that works for him.
“Over the years, I have developed a camera scouting strategy I call my ‘3 Dub Method’ or the three W’s,” he said. “This three point method includes the ‘when, why, and where’ of camera evidence I collect during the pre-season just before the bow season starts, during the pre-rut period, and finally at the end of the season.”
“The when is the date and time data yielded by the cameras I put out,” Starkey said. “This vital information gives me an idea of what time the deer are moving in the area. Naturally I take a close look at any and all deer on the camera shots. How many antlerless deer are captured on the camera? How many bucks, what sizes, and can I estimate the age of these bucks? Over time am I seeing the same deer at the same times, or are any new deer coming on the scene?”
Starkey said he asks himself a lot of question after he has gotten photos of good bucks in an area.
“The first question I ask is why is he coming through this area to start with?” he said. “Is he indicating any rutting postures or activity? Is he obviously pursuing a doe? Would he be coming from a bedding area nearby or from a food source, maybe a plot or a natural browse site close by? I try to match and coordinate these signs with the when factor.”
Starkey said where is the final piece in the puzzle.
“Where are the deer coming from and/or going to,” he said. “If I can nail down their travel routines, then I have a better idea of where and when to set up to hunt these deer catching them during their usual daily activities.
“Are they coming back to bed from feeding all night? If so, what is the moon phase or overcast conditions doing? Or, are they going to food sources to feed all night? This information can help tell me if I need to be hunting deer at the closing hours of the day and/or the first hours of the breaking daylight.
“Then I have to be careful not to over-hunt or be in a buck hotspot area too much on any given day. A hunter can sure press his luck hunting too much. I may need to let an area cool down a while.”