Creating a Hit List

Creating a list of bucks that I would be glad to harvest versus bucks that I would like to see get another year older is something I enjoy almost as much as hunting. Yes, it’s true that I’m not really surprised by a buck when he shows up in a field because I already have him on trail camera, but that’s ok with me. I would rather know the identity of every buck I might encounter over the course of the hunting year, than try to make a hasty decision as he is walking into my shooting lane. Having a “Hit List” also helps calm my nerves, because as soon as I recognize that it is one of my shooter bucks, I can stop looking at the antlers and concentrate on the shot.

Every year I have used trail cameras throughout the summer, I am disappointed when a buck I thought was a shooter loses his velvet and his mass isn’t what I thought it would be. Some hunters do not run trail cameras over the summer, but I will sometimes pick up a few pictures of bucks during the summer that do not live on my property in the fall, and if I encounter them on one of their random rut excursions I would have never known they were in the neighborhood if it weren’t for that summer picture. I’m not saying I will never see a buck that I don’t have on camera, but my chances of seeing such a buck are much less when I run cameras on the property throughout the summer.

Right now is a great time to run a herd survey to re-census the herd as the bachelor groups are starting to break up and the velvet is falling off. Bucks shift their home range at this time and you could be picking up bucks that you haven’t seen all year. You could also lose bucks, but if you provide quality nutrition, cover, and water on your property, you will typically gain more often than lose.

As for making the Hit List album, I need multiple pictures of a buck to confirm his status, so when legal, I like to pour out a bag of Ani-Supplement GOLD in front of my cameras. When bucks come in to eat the supplement, they usually stay in front of the camera and turn their head, so I get a great assortment of pictures which I can use to judge the antlers (see pics below). If I had a trail camera on the edge of a field, I would only get the same side profile picture as the buck walks past going one direction or the other.

Once I have decided which bucks I will harvest, I make folders of each individual buck and look at all the places I have him on camera. Sometimes I have bucks on almost every camera while others will only visit 1 or 2 cameras. I also know which direction they come from, as well as which direction they are going, to help me try and figure out if a pattern exists. Obviously the pattern will not be the exact same when the season gets here and hunting pressure starts dictating some of their movement patterns, but it’s nice to have a general idea where a certain buck is spending most of his time. I also use this time to name the bucks I have on camera. If you need help naming your Hit List this year, check out this former blog I wrote on the topic. Good luck hunting this fall!

– Tim Neuman, Wildlife Biologist 

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