The rut is but a memory. The weather has decidedly turned, and, in many areas of the country, winter has reared its icy head. Where should your trail cameras be right now? Here...

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1. Active Scrapes

The “second” rut is not a myth. Each year a certain number of adult does will come into heat and not be bred during the November(ish) rut. Those does will then come into heat again about a month later. Additionally, some yearling does will come into heat for the first time in December. This short-lived, limited rut doesn't carry the same intensity but it does carry some of the same traits and tactics...including the targeting of scrapes.

When the second rut starts to trickle in, bucks will revisit and reopen scrapes. When you find an active scrape, get a camera on it. You will not find a more reliable location to capture images of bucks during this time of year.

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2. Hidden Food Sources

Keep in mind that the late season means dealing with deer that have seen some level of hunting pressure. Gun seasons are all but over and weeks of bow season are behind them. Even in areas with limited numbers of hunters, most bucks will have experienced at least some measure of hunting pressure. This means those deer are not likely to be hitting big, open ag fields in daylight. Sure, when the temps get cold enough and as hunting pressure dwindles, you'll start to see daylight activity on destination-type food sources. But it's those hidden, out-of-the-way food sources that will likely see the most action. And that's where you should have your cameras.

Hidey hole food plots located near security cover, patches of greenbrier or other native browse near bedding cover, late-dropping oaks...all are outstanding options for December game-camera action.

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3. Inside Corners

When major weather fronts approach and truly brutal temperatures arrive, deer will focus on high-calorie, high-energy food sources. Often, the best options are corn and soybean fields – standing fields, of course, take priority but even harvested fields will draw plenty of deer.

These are tough areas to hunt (see the note about hunting pressure above) and even tougher to monitor with trail cameras. I always up my odds of capturing images by focusing on the inside corners of big fields. More often than not, the majority of deer will enter and exit a large field by utilizing an inside corner. If you have snow cover, this can be a huge help as it will make it much easier to determine exactly where deer are moving in and out of a field. But when snow cover isn't available, placing your cameras near an inside corner will help you pinpoint prime entry/exit routes more quickly.


About the Author: Tony Hansen manages for and hunts mature whitetails in his home state of Michigan, where sweating the details is the only way to succeed. When not hunting his own properties, he can be found pursuing deer on public land throughout the whitetail’s range. Tony’s writings have appeared in Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, and Bowhunter.