As hunters, we work hard year-round for a chance of success to fill our tags. Summer scouting is a priority when it comes to finding and harvesting a mature animal. Depending on what tags you have and how familiar you are with the area, trail cameras can make all the difference. Trail cameras give you the opportunity to have eyes on animals at all time in desolate areas. When setting trail cameras, I like to get as far away from any roads as possible. I like to believe that if I can get an animal on camera consistently that I could get a chance come hunting season. Depending on what state you live in and their laws you can use certain tools to help lure wild game to your trail camera. Salt licks, scented gels, and other salt products really help with wild game consistency on your cameras. Here’s a trick: water softener salt that goes for $5 for a 40-pound bag works just as well as the name brand hunting salts. Salt precipitates naturally in the wild and the wildlife crave it!
After finding wild game consistently on your camera it’s important to start setting up for the hunt. If you know that the buck or bull you’re after will be by your camera at least a couple of times a week, I recommend setting a blind or tree stand. As boring as this type of hunting can be it can be extremely effective. In 2017, I shot this 177” mule deer after living in my blind in the desert for 5 days and nights. As uncomfortable as it was, it assured me a clean 22 yard shot with my bow and it was worth the long, below freezing nights sleeping in the dirt! I like to set my blinds at least 2 weeks before opening day. This gives the wildlife some time to familiarize themselves with seeing your blind and knowing it’s not a threat.
My Experiences Scouting This Summer
This year I did not draw a Utah deer tag, so I put my efforts into prepping for future deer hunts and an over-the-counter cow/spike elk tag. I had 4 different cameras out for deer, some with salt and some on popular trails that I’ve found over the years. There are some up-and-comer bucks on my cameras which gives me hope for next year!
For elk, I naturally like to go to the most rugged areas possible that are far from any trails or roads. I’ve run into people on public land many times that have set back my efforts during hunting season so I try to be as far away as possible. This year those efforts proved to bring me to big bull land rather than good cow areas, which is all I can hunt!
Overall I had about 6 different cameras on the mountain looking for cow or spike elk. Mostly big bulls and bears turned up on these cameras. One camera in particular had some cows, but it wasn’t until a week before the season that I stumbled upon a heard of cows in a new area.
It is important to be flexible when it’s time to hunt. I’ve never had only one blind or tree stand set up to hunt. I like to have at least 2 blinds or tree stands set up with cameras right next to them so you can constantly check where the deer or elk are. This makes it easy to follow their change in movement that comes along with season change and the pressures from hunting. The most important thing is to get outdoors with your friends and family and work hard to put organic, free-range wild game on the table. I highly recommend putting the work in during the summer so that when the season comes you have confidence and an easier route to success. Good luck to everyone on their hunts, shoot straight!