Summer doesn’t need to be “down time” for dedicated hunters. A new off-season scent and a few trail cams can get your hunting season in gear today.
by Rob Reaser; photography by Therese Shaw
You’re probably a lot like we are. The prospects of turkey season, augmented by some late-season small game and bird hunting, keeps us fairly satiated early in the year. But that dry spell between the end of turkey season and the start of bowhunting — well, that’s sometimes tough to deal with.
We have found, though, that running trail cams during the summer has dual benefits. First, it allows us to keep check on who’s who in the zoo, tells us what bucks may have survived the winter, and if there are any new arrivals in the area. Second, operating scouting cameras when hunting season is but a wistful daydream helps satisfy our need to hunt…if only vicariously through pictures and videos.
Earlier this year, we visited with the folks at Wildlife Research Center at the Archery Trade Association show. Among the several new products on display was one that made us say, “Hmmmm…now there’s an idea.”
The product is called Active Cam, and as you can guess from the name, it was developed for use with trail cameras.
Pre-season scouting with trail cameras is often a hit-or-miss deal. Deer are not necessarily visiting the same trails and haunts that we’re accustomed to them frequenting during the fall and early winter. Since “scouting” implies looking for something, placing cameras to locate deer can be somewhat challenging. Depending where you place a camera, you may capture nothing but the occasional bird or squirrel.
The idea behind Active Cam is to assist in game inventorying by using an attractant to grab the attention of passing critters and bring them into camera range. Although some hunters will do this by establishing mineral licks or by putting out pounds and pounds of powdered attractant, that takes a lot of effort and money, necessarily limiting the areas you can set up. Since Active Cam needs only the supplied wick and can be conveniently and economically placed anywhere, it’s a solution who’s time is long overdue.
But what about using conventional deer scents, you say? Well…sort of maybe. Commercial deer scents aren’t the easiest things to find on the shelves in May, June, and July. Hunter’s aren’t buying them, so retailers aren’t stocking them fresh and in quantity. Then there is the practical side. Scents designed to trigger or mimic sexual responses are about as out of place in the woods this time of year as a penguin in the desert. In fact, such scents being used at the wrong time can be downright alarming to deer, so you want to avoid them. Deer urine is fine to use so long as it does not contain estrous, but since deer are not actively looking for biological information in urine right now, this is a weak option to use.
Active Cam, as the Wildlife Research Center folks explained it to us, is a general wildlife attractant scent that is intended to entice a wide variety of animals to investigate and stay in front of the camera long enough to get famous. Several of us at Shoot On have cracked open a few bottles this spring, and no one has been able to put a finger on just what it smells like. One of the guys said it had sort of a sweet scent. Another thought it to be extremely pungent with a hint of old-school buck lure lingering in the background. Whatever it’s made of, WRC is keeping the details under wraps.
Does it work? Sure seems to. We’ve had numerous deer come in to investigate, as well as possums, coons, and coyotes. No bears yet, but there’s no reason they wouldn’t find Active Cam worth a sniff.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
We are creatures of habit, and when it comes to trail cam placement we’ll bet that eight times out of ten, you’re probably setting up your cameras in the same area — likely on the same trees — that you do year after year. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, because deer follow their own habits and routines. That is why your primary hunting stands are primary. Deer can be counted on to be there from one year to the next.
What you want to remember is that wise, mature bucks are just as skittish about human encounters in the summer as they are during hunting season. If you plan to set up your cameras to see what’s happening in your hunting area, don’t forget to practice good scent management.
Big deer don’t let down their guard in the off-season, and neither should you. If they routinely pick up your scent around your hunting stand in the summer months, you can bet they will avoid the area or approach with heightened caution if they come around later in the year.
As when hunting, do what you can to minimize your scent signature when camera scouting. Wear clothing and boots that have been treated with a scent neutralizer before going in, and always wear disposable gloves while handling your camera and setting out any attractants, such as Active Cam.
Active Cam comes in a 4-ounce bottle and includes one of WRC’s Magnum Key-Wicks in the package. It’s just getting to market, but we found it at Lancaster Archery Supply for $8.99 a bottle. Our recommendation: get one bottle per camera. This will give you plenty of scent to refresh your wick each time you check your camera and allow you to operate several cameras to cover a broader area.
One important thing to know is that Active Cam contains no biological material from deer or other cervids, so it is OK to use where natural deer scents are otherwise prohibited.