In this post, I explain how to scout deer in July. Hunting preparations in July can mean the difference between success and failure this fall. It’s important to understand whitetail movement throughout the year in order to be ahead of the game. Whitetails transition between summer and fall habitat. Knowing how to scout in July with the transition in mind makes all the difference. By applying the tactics in this article so you know how to use information gathered in July but still be in the right spot during the fall.
Uncertainty Of Scouting Deer In July
Did he get shot? Did he get run over? Did he make it through the winter?
These are the kinds of questions I ponder with impatience in the spring of each year. After antlers drop in winter questions like these will remain largely unanswered. That is, until I start scouting in July.
Uncertainty. This word accurately describes my feelings towards July as a whitetail hunter. For me, excitement for me comes from the unknown. Anticipation, optimism, and possibility are sometimes met with disappointment.
A lot of work goes into putting myself into a position to shoot particular bucks. The reality is there’s never a guarantee that the big bucks I’ve been after will make it through to see another year. All that hard work could have been for “nothing”. But, after all, that’s what makes hunting big bucks fun. If it was a guarantee, it wouldn’t be exciting
Emotional ups and downs experienced in July make it one of my all-time favorite months of the year when it comes to whitetails, possibly more than the actual hunting season.
During early July in Maine, bucks are just starting to have enough velvet growth to be individually identified and by the end of the month, velvet takes the shape of what hardened fall antlers will look like. The pictures below show the development of antlers. However many factors can play into the growth of antlers each year.
Antler transformation during this time of year enables me to take further actions for the first time of the year. These steps have improved my odds of shooting big bucks over the years. Below I describe how to scout deer in July. These the steps I take in order to increase success for fall.
Whitetail Velvet Antler Growth by Month
How To Scout Deer In July
At this time of year you can finally start to identify individual bucks, so I put my trail cameras out in July at the latest. I have a dozen or so trail cameras and add to my collection every year. These trail cameras will be placed both in newly scouted areas and in previously determined hotspots from year’s past.
I start putting them out at the beginning of June. Trail cameras are one of the best ways to scout during July. This gives me adequate time to get all of my trail cameras out by the 4th of July. The cameras that are set out before the month of July are only to identify any camera malfunctions that may be occurring. In my experience, this has worked very well for me. Trail cameras that have been out for about a month will be checked around the 4th of July. This will ensure cameras are running properly and that there are no obstructions for the rest of the all-important month of July when real data collection begins.
Newly Scouted Areas
In newly scouted areas where I have no previous data my main goal is to determine the caliber of buck/bucks that made the previous year’s sign. If it is a small buck making sign more typical of a big buck, than I will keep that buck in the back of my mind for future hunting seasons and move my camera to a new location where I have determined through previous scouting missions to potentially hold a big buck. I repeat this process until I start getting pictures of a target buck. Once I start getting pictures of a target buck I will leave the camera in this location, checking the camera at most once a month.
Previously Scouted Areas
In areas I’ve historically seen, or captured big bucks on trail camera I will attempt to re-capture them to see if they made it through the season and are using the same core area as the previous year. If they are still using the same core area this will likely be a good place to hunt in the fall. Additionally, I will be able to see if new bucks have established in the area. Trail camera pictures are extremely addicting but once I start getting pictures of a big buck I make a point to keep invasions to a minimum. Big bucks will catch on quickly, I don’t want to ruin a spot before the season begins. I will check cameras at most once a month.
High-Quality Bedding Areas
It is important to note that the cameras I am placing are almost always near high-quality bedding areas. High-quality bedding areas often hold particular bucks in their core area until the rut. Pictures of these bucks in July means they will likely still be in the area come October. Big bucks not in close proximity to high-quality bedding areas are less likely to stay once the hunting season begins. A previous post Mature Bucks – Placing Trail Cameras For Success goes into more detail on high-quality bedding areas and will really help you succeed in trail camera placement.
The movement will likely change as hunting season approaches. Pictures in July will often reveal many daylight pictures of bucks when compared to the hunting season. Daylight pictures are never a bad thing, but I am not so much interested in the time of day bucks are showing up on camera. Instead, I am looking for the frequency. This tells me how close I am to a buck’s core bedding area.
Boots On The Ground Scouting
In some instances, boots on the ground scouting during this time of year has impacted my hunting season negatively. Let me explain; whitetails in July have established summer ranges. Often, bucks will stick around into the fall in these summer ranges if they have high-quality bedding habitat and remain undisturbed. Repeated invasive scouting may spook big bucks out of the area altogether. Likely resulting in the buck relocating to a new summer range, thus a new fall range. For this reason I try to do most of my boots on the ground scouting in spring.
Although I do most of my scouting in spring I have found great hunting spots in July. No matter what time of year I am scouting I focus my efforts on finding big buck rut sign in the shape of big rubs and scrapes and their proximity to a high-quality bedding area. I refrain from going into bedding areas to keep stress levels at a minimum in July. When I find this evidence I know at least one big buck has felt comfortable enough to use this area to some extent.
If the property has good sign and I want to prepare a tree I do it that day. Accomplishing everything in one day eliminates repeated invasions which keep stress levels to a minimum.
Scout For Bucks In July By Glassing Fields
Bucks are taking in as much nutrients as possible to put on weight and antler growth in July. Glassing fields during this time has proven to be a pretty successful tactic for me in recent years and is one of the best ways on how to scout deer in July. Bucks are much more relaxed from the lack of hunting pressure and increase in cover from summer foliage. I try to capitalize on bucks having their guard down. On roads that don’t get a lot of traffic dawn and dusk seem to be the most successful times for glassing. I like this scouting tactic because it requires little effort and can produce a big reward.
Scout For Deer In July By Shining Fields
I prefer shining fields at night over glassing fields at dawn and dusk. Both can work well but in my experience, the biggest bucks seem to like having the cover of darkness. Mature bucks know from experience that when they show themselves during daylight people/hunters driving by stop to check them out. Being the weary creatures they are, mature bucks will only tolerate so much of that stress. I have found bigger bucks learn to avoid that stress completely, opting to only enter fields in the dark. I have had a lot better luck seeing big bucks at night than daylight or dusk. Sometimes they are not far from the road and when I pick my flashlight up I am surprised how close I can find myself to a big buck.
You’ve Located A Big Buck In July, Now What?
When I see a big buck in a field whether glassing or shining I will mark the location in my phone on a GPS app. When I get home I will analyze the surrounding landscape and see if I can identify any key features that may point me in his direction. To learn how I do this check-out Google Earth Pro – Five Tips to Scout More Efficiently. To keep stress levels at a minimum I will do a quick but precise scouting mission to see if I can figure out this buck’s pattern. If I like what I see I will hang a treestand and place a trail camera and wait a month before returning to check the results.
July Is For Practice & Preparation
Not knowing any better, when I was younger I used to only give myself a week or two to prepare for the upcoming season. Being out of practice going into the hunting season cost me a few deer. When I got tired of failing I adopted a routine that works for me. My routine leaves me feeling confident with my equipment for the hunting season and confidence is key.
I start my routine once there is enough daylight after I get home from work to shoot my bow outside. My routine consists of shooting at least a dozen arrows or so every day after work to keep my focus and strength up for the hunting season. Many times I end up shooting 50 or more arrows because shooting my bow is one of my favorite activities. This works very well. During the hunting season, I try to do the same thing. Admittedly, all my free time is generally allocated to hunting so I miss some days.
During firearm season I always check to make sure my rifles are sighted in properly. If everything looks good I will use this time to shoot a box of 20 cartridges to re-familiarize myself with shooting my gun. I don’t spend nearly as much time practicing with my rifle. I feel the majority of my practice time is best spent with my bow because it requires more discipline to see results.
Gear Preparations In July
This is the time of year to start thinking about gear. When I think back at the previous hunting season I ask myself; what worked? What didn’t work? what do you wish you had?…etc. Asking these kinds of questions and making the improvements sooner rather than later allows me to make the upcoming season less stressful. For me personally, when things don’t go as planned I tend to get stressed out (like metal clanking metal together when climbing up a tree in a bedding area). I like to enjoy myself on the stand, after all, it supposed to be fun! Making sure I have the right equipment and gear adjustments completed early has helped me to create a less stressful and seamless hunting experience.
Boots on the ground scouting is a great tactic during July. However, I usually only attempt this if I am lacking a sufficient number of properties/big bucks to hunt. My preference is to let my trail cameras, binoculars, and flashlight do the heavy lifting. While these are doing the heavy lifting I focus my efforts on getting in shape and preparing for the upcoming hunting season and fishing! I hope this post has helped you be more effective scouting deer in July and in the summer in general.
Many of the concepts for scouting deer in July apply to the other summer months as well. Check out the next post in this series: How to Scout Deer in August.