What Do You Do When There Isn't a Big Buck on Camera?

What Do You Do When There Isn't a Big Buck on Camera?

Don’t think there’s a big deer in the area? Here’s what to do about it.

This season has produced the fewest target bucks I’ve had on camera in almost a decade. Where I hunt, it’s been a rough year for finding big deer. That said, there are things you can do to make it happen. Here are 10 of those options.

1. Move Cameras Around
The first thing you should do, especially if you’re in a hurry, is relocate your cameras. Or purchase more and place those in new areas. Use maps and apps to find potential hotspots.

2. Glass from Afar
Use those binos and start glassing in areas that you haven’t been spending time. Cover spots you haven’t monitored with cameras. Glass areas where deer might be skirting cameras or doing something slightly off base from what you expect.

3. Hunt Observation Stands
This is like scouting from afar, but you’re hunting while doing it. Sit in areas that allow you to watch as much ground at once as possible. Then, if you spot a big deer, move in on the next hunt. But do so quickly because patterns will change as the rut gets closer.

4. Scout New Places
Generally, we don’t scout every square inch of the properties we hunt. Instead, we get stuck in our old ways and focus on the same old spots. That’s complacency, and it can keep you from killing deer. Try those spots you never think about.

5. Find Hotter Food Sources
If deer aren’t in the area, it’s likely that something is drawing or pushing them elsewhere. If it’s the former, find the hottest food sources around. That’s where deer will likely be located.

6. Find Better Bedding
Cover Habitat and hunting pressure change over time, influencing where deer sleep during the day. It’s possible that better bedding or security cover is pulling them to different areas. While it’s best not to invade these spots, if you haven’t already scouted the perimeters, perhaps give that a shot.

7. Find a New Property
If there just aren’t any big deer in the area, and that’s what you’re after, it’s possible you might have to move on. Not all properties produce mature deer every single season. That’s why I try to retain access to multiple hunting properties each year. This maximizes the odds of having target bucks to pursue.

8. Wait Them Out
Some properties peak at certain times of the year. One property I hunt is best during the early season. Another peaks during the rut. Another during the late season. If you have history with an area, and the best historical timeframe is yet to come, just be patient. Deer will show up.

9. Shoot Some Does
If you’re willing to wait on finding a target buck, perhaps spend some time filling doe tags. If you hunt areas with higher deer densities, this is needed anyway. Help the herd out and fill the freezer.

10. Just Have Fun
You don’t have to hunt big bucks to have fun hunting. Hunting is fun in its own right — not just when pursuing bigger, older bucks. If that’s the only enjoyment you get from it, you’re hunting for one reason alone, and you’re missing all the other things this tradition has to offer.

Not having a target deer or two on camera with season underway can make your season feel like it’s over before it begins. The most important thing you can do is remember that as we march through autumn and towards the rut, the deer move more than any other time of the year. Some of this is natural, and some of it is forced on them as they get bumped by hunters making last-minute changes or the gun-only hunters pushing deer out of what had been sanctuary during bow season.

Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up. If you hunt smart, keep your eyes open, and stay diligent, there’s still a good chance for you to tag a deer you can be proud of this season.

Article by Josh Honeycutt

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