Right around the month of July each year, I reminisce on prior hunting seasons and how so much has evolved with each passing season. What typically prompts this trip to the past is when I begin to turn my focus to pre-season scouting. Frequent morning walks in the field, glassing for growing velvet antlers and hanging motion activated trail cameras become what seems like a daily activity. Then I recall when times were different, a little bit less product based and a whole lot more wisdom based.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I am an absolute advocate for technology in the hunting world. We’re incredibly fortunate to have the access to so many great pieces of equipment that we never had in the past. I’m not even just talking about trail cameras and Google Earth, but also range finders that factor in shot angle. Things have come a long way and that’s a great thing for hunting. However, when it comes to scouting tactics, it can be easy to get caught up in solely relying on technology to give you answers without marrying that information with your own findings.
When trail cameras were first introduced to the hunting market many years ago, it seemed like we as hunters had just landed on the moon. I remember speaking with my father and my uncle about these incredible tools that “take color pictures with film when it’s triggered by an animal”. Who knew that something so revolutionary would become such an addictive tool used by hunters across the globe in just a few short years after its inception. My first trail camera was about the size of an iPad and weighed nearly as much as a gold brick. I remember it taking D cell batteries and regular film. The anxiety of waiting for the camera store to develop your latest roll of trail camera photos was a stress filled time. I’m not even sure I waited to get out of the parking lot that first time that I had film developed and of course what did I have photos of… trees and lots of trees.
But as with all new products, it took a few years to refine and retune in order to meet the demands of the people using them in the fields, primarily whitetail hunters. Improved trigger speeds, infrared flashes and digital memory cards were just some of the major improvements that helped take trail cameras to the place where they needed to be. Then after several seasons of relying on these great tools for information on where to hunt and when to hunt, I realized that I let them practically replace the way that I scout and that is incorrect.
(Yeah... always make sure your dates and times are right when you put new batteries in!)
Other than the rut, pre-season scouting is my favorite time of the year. Bucks are growing, blinds are being moved and an opening day plan is in the works. Before all of the technology that we have access to today, we all got out there with binoculars and a folding chair during the summer and sat in anticipation while we waited for deer to emerge from the brush. As the season approached, we looked for bedding areas and rub lines to help piece together the puzzle to pattern specific deer. We didn’t solely rely on one means of information to dictate our plan.
As a whitetail addict, I’ve made a promise to myself to continue to scout like I did in the past, in-person with the goal of gathering a new piece of the puzzle each time I leave the field. I also continue to run trail cameras, many times year round to help my knowledge of what deer have made it through the winter and how many bucks are in the area. But the biggest thing that I hold myself to, is making sure that I have balance in my scouting tactics. Relying on one device, type of information or technology is not going to make me a better deer hunter and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all trying to be, better hunters.