pre-rut camera placement

Food, food, food. That’s what’s on the minds of bucks right now, and that’s precisely where your cameras should be. Sure, early-season scrapes are popping up, and you shouldn’t hesitate to put a camera over one. But the best, most consistent results are going to come at prime food sources.

Of course, in farm country, those food sources can be a bit tough to cover.  It’s not easy capturing every deer using a 100-acre soybean field, so use some woodsmanship. Most deer — particularly bucks — enter a field from an inside corner. When trying to cover a large crop field, I’ll post two cameras about 40 yards out from the point of the corner—one along each edge. This will capture the majority of deer that enter or exit the field from that inside corner.

Food plots, of course, are top-notch options not just because they are generally smaller in size than true ag fields, but also because they usually consist of green forage still. In late summer and early fall, there is a transition in food sources as crops brown down and dry out. When that happens, those green plots become deer magnets.

Don’t Sleep on Scrapes

don't sleep on scrapes

As mentioned, the first scrapes of the fall are popping up, and they can be dynamite for camera placement. They can also be single-use duds. The key? Location.

Scrapes located along the edges of fields (not on an inside corner) won’t often see repeat use. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, if a field-edge scrape is near an oak dropping acorns, hang a camera. That scrape will likely see heavy use because deer will frequent it for the mast and, in turn, the scrape will be active. If oaks aren’t dropping acorns yet, they will be soon.

Inside field corners are also prime locations for community scrapes where numerous bucks (and does) will pause to paw and scent-check the scrape before entering the field to feed. Find one of those scrapes and you’ve found a prime area to hang a camera right now.

Go to Beds

put camera near bedding areas

Another place you should have at least one camera right now is a bedding area that you suspect a target buck is using. This isn’t a camera you’ll check on foot until the rut starts in earnest, and even then only when the wind is perfect. This is where cellular cameras really shine, as they allow you to gather images without disturbing the area.

Locating a buck’s bedding area now is critical for tagging that deer when the rut starts and he’s on his feet more during daylight hours. When a camera image clues you in on a buck’s primary bedding area, you can take full advantage of that information in those days just prior to the first does coming into heat. During that time frame I’ve found that bucks often hang out later in the mornings before heading to bed and are up a bit earlier in evenings. Knowing which bedding area that buck is using can put you in the right spot for those key opportunities. —Tony Hansen

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.