Summer, a time to prep for fall hunting season

A Great Blue Heron watches over the beaver pond looking for a meal. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

Summer is normally thought of as a time for picnics, fishing on the lakes, camping, and family vacations; not necessarily for preparing for this coming fall’s deer season. However, preparation and scouting now can mean early success and getting that trophy buck.

For me and many others, it’s hard to believe that August is already here. Summer for me means it’s time to start scouting for this coming fall’s deer season and getting the food plots ready.

Scouting has never been easier with the availability of trail cameras. They have certainly come a long way as far as technology, reliability, and quality of images. My first camera used standard 35 mm film, 6 C batteries, and it provided black and white photos.

Those old cameras have been replaced by cameras with higher trigger speeds, which means as critters come into the field of view, the camera starts recording images immediately. There was nothing more frustrating than waiting for photos to be developed and getting only the rear of a deer and not seeing the head because the camera was slow.

Today’s cameras start recording either photos or video immediately and you can see the entire animal and know whether it’s a doe or a mature buck, a huge improvement. The quality of the images has greatly increased as well. Cameras now can record up to 16 megapixel so the photos are clear and detailed.

A hen wood duck pauses on a branch to dry off. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

My older model Bushnell cameras have worn out; I was in need of new ones. Going on-line revealed many models and price ranges. To stay within budget, $100, and because of a few features I like, I selected the Cabela’s Outfitter 14MP IR HD Trail Camera. This camera, for the price, had everything I wanted including the option to select either photos or video, infrared lights for night time and low light conditions, decent range (85- to 100-feet), and a 2-inch LCD screen so I could review the images in the field. I can view the images and delete photos in the field rather than waiting to get the SD card home and look at it on the computer.

The cameras were easy to set up and program. I set the cameras up on some trails where I could tell deer were travelling. Both were on or near beaver dams. After a week, I checked the cameras and was happy to see that they captured a variety of animals such as deer, great blue heron, raccoon, house cat, beaver, wood duck, a hooded merganser hen with eight chicks, and various song birds. The images were all clear and crisp and I was happy to see so many critters using the beaver pond. I assured my wife that the cameras were worth the price.

A few years ago I took a small fallow field and turned it into a food plot for deer. The plot was fun to make and the deer loved it. This year, I noticed a lot of weeds had overtaken the plot so they needed some attention. I mowed the field down to get rid of the weeds, I then used a roto-tiller to turn the soil.

To check how fertile the soils were, I tested the soils ph and organic content to see what fertilizers would be needed and if the soil was acidic or not. Most soils in the Adirondacks are acidic, so it had to determined if lime was needed and/or how much to use make the seed mix to grow properly.

To test the soils, I used a basic kit from Agway. The results of the test said the soils were slightly acidic and some fertilizer was needed. After a second tilling of the soils to loosen the ground and kill the weeds, I spread the proper amount of lime and Triple 10 fertilizer. To make sure I had the right seed mix for my soils and ” planting zone” (elevation, geographic location), I selected a food plot mix that was designed for dry sandy soils and higher elevations with a short growing season. It contains a mix of clover, brassica, and chicory which deer love. Once the plot was seeded, I mulched it with straw. Now, all there is to do is sit back and watch the grass grow. I’m good at that.

A doe crosses the beaver dam at night and is curious about the camera. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

Now that the summer prep is done, I am looking forward to this fall’s hunting season. The ability to scout locations 24/7 and all year with remote cameras is a huge advantage, come hunting season. The trail cameras are tons of fun for the whole family. There is always great anticipation to see the different species of wildlife on the camera. Once the food plot starts to grow, a camera will be positioned to capture anything feeding on them, hopefully, a big buck.

The food plot is tilled and seeded. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

This young buck was captured on camera. Not a shooter just yet, he has some growing up to do. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)