Trail cameras can be a hunter’s best friend when chasing after a mature buck. Watching your target buck on camera can help ease the frustrations of not seeing him in person throughout the season. However, when your target buck stops showing up, things might start to get a little stressful. Although you may be thinking worst-case scenario, there are a handful of reasons why your target buck has gone missing. Let’s discuss the most likely reasons your buck stopped showing up.
Reason 1: Food
Typically, deer will spend the summer months grazing on greener foods, and will spend lot’s of time in fields and open areas. When bucks are in velvet, you will often times find them spending lots of evenings grazing on clover, soybeans, and other browse.
When the fall starts approaching, your bucks will start expanding their home range in search of acorns and other fruits. So if he stops showing up on camera come September, he may just be on his fall range in pursuit of his favorite meal. Here in Mid-Missouri, if you want to find your target buck, look no further than the White Oak acorns.
Personally, I walk through the woods before season starts in search of large patches of White Oak trees, so I know where to be whenever the bucks make the switch to their fall ranges.
Reason 2: The Rut
The second likely reason your target buck stopped showing up on camera comes at the scariest time. Once the hot does start coming in, and more and more hunters are in the woods, target bucks go incognito it seems for weeks at a time. I’ll be honest, this is the one that makes me most nervous. You can’t help but think that the neighbor has your buck hung up in his garage, when odds are, he’s probably just bedded a couple hundred yards from your camera with a doe.
I feel that a lot of hunters rely a little too much on the camera during this time of year. Some even go as far as not hunting at all when their target buck hasn’t been on camera for several days or even a week. This is absolutely not the right move to make without any convincing evidence that says to be somewhere else. I have had many times where I continue to hunt the same spot, even though my buck hasn’t been on camera and end up seeing him just out of range of the camera.
Now, on the flip side of that, if the buck is out on the search for a doe and doesn’t have one locked down, then you may consider moving to a different spot. Having multiple cameras on a property help with this tremendously, and looking for fresh rub and scrape lines are also key for this particular scenario.
Reason 3: Hunter Pressure
Ah, the dreaded human pressure topic. This is one that many fail to acknowledge, or even refuse to consider at times. Unfortunately, it’s a real thing and we must give it some thought as hunters. Doing things like hunting a bad wind, and having your target buck smell you from the bedding area can be a huge mistake in your success in a spot. Along with that, checking your trail cameras too often, or at the wrong times can also lead to pushing a target buck away from an area.
Some bucks are more sensitive to human pressure than others, but nonetheless deer are affected by human interactions. My suggestion to avoid this is to check your cameras less frequently, and do so at a time that you see the least deer movement on the camera. One can also purchase a cellular trail camera to avoid having to walk into your spot unless you’re hunting, or changing batteries.
As far as hunting pressure goes, choosing to hunt that spot on days with a good wind is crucial. I will argue that the number one way to ensure that your target buck does not show up is by hunting with an awful wind direction. I discussed this in a prior blog, you can read that here: 2 Ways To Become A Better Deer Hunter
If you believe that you or another person has pushed your target buck out of an area, start resorting to your other cameras if you have them to give you intel on where he has moved in at. I also like to use satellite maps to make educated guesses at where I think he may be hiding.
Keep Positive, and Keep Hunting
Now obviously there are many more possibilities as to why your target buck stopped showing up. The ones I have listed are all reasons that aren’t the end of the world, and can be adjusted to. So, if you find yourself down in the dumps about not seeing your buck on camera, don’t give up. Open up your mind to new strategies, and new spots. You never know, you could find yourself learning that the best spot on the property has been a couple hundred yards away this entire time. Hopefully, the neighbor filling his tag isn’t the reason why your target buck stopped showing up.