Beyond seasonal maintenance on your hunting property, such as mowing, trimming and spraying herbicide, there are two or three other critical things you can be doing right now that will pay off big time later.
The first item of business involves summer food plots. If you are already utilizing summer food plots, you might want to skip ahead; if not, consider the fact that deer are slaves to their gut.
Consistently successful deer hunters follow the seasonal food sources. If your property is not located in an area where adjacent farming operations provide such food stuffs as soybeans or corn, you might consider putting in summer food plots yourself.
A food plot crop such as soybeans can be literally mowed down over the course of a few days by the local deer herd if the acreage planted is too small. One way to get around a lack of adequate acreage for a summer food plot crop is to utilize electric fencing to selectively exclude deer from browsing. There are commercially available electric fencing kits specifically designed for food plots that are easy to put up and just as easy to take down for reuse later. You can utilize one almost anywhere when a solar panel and rechargeable batteries are used.
One thing for consideration when using electric fencing is the strategy of fencing and electrifying the core area of a plot, leaving an unprotected outer band of planted area around the plot perimeter.
Yes, the deer will hammer and eat down the unprotected portion of the plot, but that is by design. Using this method, even though a large portion of a given plot area is protected from browsing, the deer will still become accustomed to eating at the plot, and it will give you a great spot to place a camera or two to keep an eye on buck antler development.
When the early fall bow hunt is about to kick off, simply open up a section of the electric fencing that is within range of your bow stand and give the deer access to this new luscious food source that was protected all summer. The deer that have been excluded from the protected plot area during the preseason will readily move through the fence gap that you create and provide you with a harvest opportunity.
Regarding trail camera surveillance, I highly recommend having cameras out and active around the first week or two of July. By this point in the summer cycle the older bucks in your local herd should be well enough along for you to be able to begin identifying individual bucks by their unique antler characteristics.
On average, bucks are usually expressing half to two-thirds of their seasonal antler potential by about mid-July. Of course the term average, by definition, refers to an arithmetic mean of a range of values, from lower to higher. Some deer are early bloomers and others tend to have a big growth spurt in August, but this general time frame for initiation of summer preseason surveillance should work well for you.
If you have trail cameras with time-lapse capability and they are situated on a growing summer food plot, consider placing the cameras higher than normal in order to see over your growing food plot crop. I sometimes even use an extension ladder to place the time-lapse cameras 8 to 10 feet above ground level for a more panoramic view.
This configuration will allow you to evaluate where deer are entering and leaving a food plot. Once you nail down the main access and exit points of a food plot, move your cameras down to about the 4-foot level at the identified deer access points to get your best view of bucks growing antlers.
There are additional schools of thought on camera locale and setup during the summer, but I will outline for you one particular method that has proven to be dynamite year-after-year for me.
My best success this time of year has come from establishing or re-establishing mineral licks. A camera placed over a properly located mineral lick can yield great results.
In Mississippi, salt/mineral stations, blocks and/or licks can be established and used year round, as long as they do not contain any corn or grain products. My mineral lick sites are visited by every age classification of deer from spotted fawn to mature — buck and doe alike — during the July through September time frame.
Except during the core portion of the Mississippi rut through the post-rut time period, when corn can legally be used for supplemental feeding, I have otherwise gravitated away from the use of corn feeders as sites for camera surveillance. The reason that I use corn only during this one particular legally allowed time frame is really due mostly to current economics: Corn prices have sky rocketed in recent years to levels that have discouraged the use of corn during the mid-summer through early fall period.
If you do use corn or complete pelletized ration as prescribed by Mississippi law, remember that "feed may only be provided from above ground covered feeders or stationary spin cast feeders."
I highly recommend that the reader carefully look over the regulations for "Supplemental Feeding of Wild Animals Outside of Wildlife Enclosures" in the most recent copy of the Mississippi Outdoor Digest, as published by the MDWFP, or go to the agency Web site.
As previously mentioned, my best preseason method has been the use of mineral licks for my camera surveillance sites. My lick sites are established using a combined mixture of liquid, powder and mineral block product at each site. When I make my rounds every week or so to change camera cards, check batteries and replenish the mineral lick material, a large shoulder bag is ideally suited to carry my mineral powders and liquids.
This method is considerably easier as you move around from site to site, whether by ATV or foot power. Just experiment and see what works best for you on your hunting property.