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GRANT: July 31st, one of my favorite times of the year because we’re doing our annual trail camera survey. I get to see which bucks that we knew were here last year are still surviving and how their antlers are compared to this year versus last year.
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GRANT: It remains hot and dry here at The Proving Grounds. But that’s actually an asset for starting our trail camera survey. The quantity and quality of forage available is so limited that I think deer will readily come to the bait we’re putting out in front of our cameras so we can identify unique bucks and determine how many does and fawns are present.
GRANT: A trail camera survey is simply a very scientific, but fun way to see how many deer and how many bucks, does and fawns are using the property.
GRANT: I typically pre-bait for about 10 days to get the deer conditioned to coming to that site and then start collecting the data for 14 days.
GRANT: To do an accurate survey, you need some way to monitor the deer and that’s why I have my Reconyx camera and something to attract the deer to a specific area. Just taking a picture of this food plot I’m on wouldn’t draw enough deer right here to give me accurate results of our survey.
GRANT: I prefer to do a survey during August for a couple of reasons. The first reason is bucks are in velvet, but their antlers are about as large as they're gonna get for the year which makes them easier to uniquely identify.
GRANT: All the science behind a survey really comes down to being able to uniquely identify bucks. They're the marked animals of your population. And marked simply means uniquely identifiable. We have to have some portion of population that we can uniquely identify as individuals to be able to estimate how many total deer there are.
GRANT: We need a really good attractant to get deer coming to stations across the property – usually about 1 for every 100 acres or 1 to every 60 acres, depending on the habitat. For years, I’ve been using Trophy Rock and whole kernel corn as an attractant. And I've never found anything better that will attract deer to a specific area, especially during August. But all whole kernel corn is not the same. That’s why I use Record Rack’s Deer Corn. It’s twice cleaned. That means you're not finding weed seeds and other stuff in here that you don’t want to distribute on your property. Just as important, it’s certified to be very, very low in aflatoxins – a fungus that can be very harmful to birds and can really cause deer some problems. You don’t have to worry about that when you get Record Rack’s whole kernel corn because it’s been tested, safe and it will protect the deer and other game species on your property.
GRANT: Knowing that multiple deer will come to the attractant at one time, you're kind of looking for that middle ground. So I like my attraction about 15-20 feet from the face of the Reconyx camera.
GRANT: How much attractant you put on the ground depends on two factors: how many deer you think are using each camera station and how many days between when you get to check your camera. You don’t want the attractant running out and deer drifting off. You want them coming every day to the camera station so you can get each deer as many times as possible.
GRANT: The second important tip about your attractant is I like it centered to the camera – not off to the side and I like my corn spread out in a little bit of a U so if multiple bucks come in, I can see each one’s unique antler characteristics. We know we’re at the right distance from the camera so our pictures will be focused because we’ve got our Trophy Rock set already. It’s time to just put our corn out in a little bit of a U; make sure the camera’s programmed right and let the fun begin.
GRANT: The last step is to make sure I’ve got the camera programmed from just general scouting to collecting data. So I start off each camera survey – especially during dusty summers like this one’s been by cleaning the flash area and the lens of the camera to make sure I’ve got the best quality image possible.
GRANT: I love these little lens pencils from Nikon for this purpose because I want to just use the brush and remove the big dust without scratching the lens before I put any liquid on there and give it a really good cleaning.
GRANT: Just from experience on this property, I know that I want to take a picture a maximum of every five to ten minutes, depending on the station so I don’t get too many images of the same deer. So, I program my Reconyx to take a burst of three images at a 10-second interval. It senses the deer coming in, takes a picture, waits 10 seconds, takes another picture, waits 10 seconds and takes a third picture. And then I have a delay of five minutes or 10 minutes, depending on the site and the amount of deer in that portion of the property.
GRANT: A practical tip about doing camera surveys – make sure your stations are close to a trail because you're gonna be taking supplies and checking that camera every four days to a week for the next couple of weeks. Make ‘em close and you’ll get done a lot quicker and spook a lot less deer than lugging stuff over the mountain.
GRANT: Each week of our baiting and actual survey, I’ll share more of the techniques so you can follow right along at home and implement the exact same system as we do here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: …while we’re hunting. It’s not just our management. I mean, it really helps us. And it helps me identify the buck coming through the woods so I know ahead of time if it’s a shoot or don’t shoot.
GRANT: The Reconyx BuckView software makes it so easy to save and compare images of bucks from year to year that it’s interesting to go back and compare Giant 8 and other bucks from year one, two, three, four as we started tracking them.
GRANT: This is a shed from Giant 8 when we think he was a three year-old. This is a shed from Giant 8 when we think he was a four year-old. You can tell he added quite a few inches. Even though Giant 8 may not produce as big of antler this year, I’m very confident he’s five years old and he will certainly be on my hit list. Comparing these pictures side by side with the buck approximately in the same posture, it’s easy to see what we talk about as that neck starts getting larger and larger, even before velvet shed and now that neck is almost all the way down to the brisket.
GRANT: People often ask me, “How should I set the harvest guidelines for my property?” I don't think that’s a one size fits all answer. Different landowners in different neighborhoods/different cultures have different deer hunting objectives. And if where you live, most bucks are harvested by the time they're three or four, that’s probably the good objective. If you happen to be a very large landowner controlling thousands of acres, you want to push that to five, six or seven, that’s your blessing. But set realistic objectives for your hunting situation.
GRANT: Camera surveys are certainly one of the funnest parts of managing a deer herd and it’s also a great reason to get outside and enjoy Creation. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.