July 06, 2023
July Fourth has passed, and that means it is time to kick summer scouting and prep into high gear. Although seeing a shooter buck in a beanfield this time of year isn’t enough to build a complete game plan around, summer scouting and prep are still key to get you moving in the right direction if you want to punch a tag this fall. No matter how you look at it, July and August are important months for deer hunters, and below are a few things you should be doing now to ensure you’re ready when deer season arrives.
For taking summer inventory with trail cameras, I like to keep it simple and use trail cameras placed over mineral sites. That’s an obvious and well-known tactic, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before you start digging your hole to put mineral into. One thing to watch out for is so-called “mineral mixes” that are nothing more than packaged salt. North American Whitetail’s own Dr. James Kroll has advised hunters to read the label on mineral before buying it because of this. Unfortunately, many mixes are almost entirely salt; your mineral mix for whitetails should actually include less than 30% salt.
To ensure I’m getting adequate mineral levels for the best price possible, I use goat mineral from a local farm supply store. To make it more attractive to the deer, I add some apple-scented liquid. For more information on proper mineral use, click here and here.
Perhaps my favorite way to take inventory of the bucks where I hunt is by glassing food sources during summer evenings. This is a tactic that has been covered to no end in the past, so I’ll keep it simple. Remember this: keep the wind in your favor and be as low impact as you possibly can. During July and August it can seem like hunting season is still far off, but that isn’t an excuse to get sloppy with your scouting. Will a mature buck abandon your property if you bump him during the summer? Maybe. Maybe not. But why risk it?
On my family’s farm, my favorite place to glass from is the second upstairs bedroom of our farmhouse. Out the east-facing window, I can watch the long field that serves as the main vein of our property. To the west, I can see a soybean field that each buck visits in daylight at some point during the summer. This setup isn’t going to win me any awards on Instagram for trendy sunset photos showing me behind the glass, but it’s effective. For a deep-dive into summer inventory, checkout this article by our contributor Clint McCoy.
ESTABLISH MOCK SCRAPES
Many deer hunters view scrapes as a fall thing, and that’s true when it comes to scrape hunting. But for the deer hunter who uses mock scrapes, summertime should be a friend of yours. To properly make a mock scrape that deer will adopt as their own, you’ve got to intrude on their habitat to ensure your mock scrape is in the right location and you need to give bucks time to become comfortable with using the scrape. So, by doing it in the summer, you’re allowing enough time for your disturbance to pass.
There is literally no downside to starting your mock scrapes now. I would even go a step further and place a camera over the scrapes that you make in the summer as soon as you’ve finished establishing them. This will limit all your disturbance to the area to just one day, giving you the highest odds possible at a mature buck adopting the scrape. If you want more information on summertime scrapes, checkout The Complete Guide to Summertime Scrapes by NAW contributor and hunting guide, Steve Sherk.
SET SOAKER CAMERAS
The tactic on this list I’ve used the most is deploying soaker cameras. I began setting soaker cameras in the early summer, and sometimes even in the early spring, as a teenager when I was cutting my teeth on public-land whitetails in my home state of Pennsylvania. For me, my favorite way to gather intel with soaker cams is to go without checking the camera until all deer hunting seasons have ended. In the mountains, this allowed me to monitor an area of interest as food sources, weather and hunting pressure all changed and effected the whitetail landscape.
The nature of the soaker camera makes it easy to understand why you should hang them long before the hunting season begins. Most of the time these cameras are in deep, hard-to-get-to spots that are in or near the core of a buck’s area. So it is in your best interest to get these cameras up and get out of those areas until you’re ready to pull the card months later.
Soaker cameras are, in a way, high-risk high-reward. The risk can be great because, since you’re not going back to check the cameras until the season has ended, they’re prone to weather damage, varmints tampering with them and even theft. Also, if you make a mistake setting the camera, you could miss out on a season’s worth of intel.
To me the risk is worth it, because there is nothing better than pulling a camera that has been capturing intel for six months; it’s the best way to discover when the optimal time to hunt a new spot is. Just make sure to properly set up the camera, and you can click here for some tips on how to do that from Dr. Deer.
TREE STAND CHECK-UPS
Although this isn’t a tip on how to get within bow range of a big buck, it’s the most important prep work on this list. Tree stand safety is important, and when you climb into a stand this fall there should be no question as to your stand’s status. Take a day this summer and check each stand you have hanging in your hunting area. Check for signs of busted bolts or pins, torn straps, rusted-out parts or tampering. Another important thing to do on each stand is to break loose any ratchet straps and retighten them as long as they’re still in good condition; if they’re not in usable condition, replace them. Of course, do all this while wearing your safety harness. For more tree stand safety resources, check out the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation.
BEGIN SHOOTING CONSISTENTLY
I don’t care if you hunt with a compound bow, crossbow, traditional archery equipment or a gun: You need to start practicing now! You most likely won’t be “hunt-ready” the first time you hit the range, but consistency is key. If you establish your practice routine now and stick to it, you’ll be ready to make any shot inside your effective range when season opens.
One thing I do encourage whitetail hunters to practice is shooting in uncomfortable or inconsistent environments. For example, if you only ever shoot at a target in your front yard, you’ll only ever be proficient at shooting at said target in your front yard. Try shooting while seated, from a tree stand and at various angles. And there are a variety of shooting tips you can employ to make you a better, more consistent shot.
Good luck completing your summer prep; before we know it, deer season will be upon us!