This past turkey season, I was fortunate enough to be able to find several shed antlers from bucks that I have hunted over the past couple of years.

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Even though I was focused on turkey hunting, finding these antlers made me start thinking about deer hunting. At this time, I began making mental notes of where I found the antlers.

This is the beginning of a several month process to preparing for deer season.

As the summer months roll on and the temperatures heat up, it’s hard for hunters to think about deer hunting. But again, this is actually an ideal time for hunters to get ready for fall.

Summer is the perfect time to start thinking about deer health. A lot of hunters start in the spring by planting food plots, putting minerals out, etc., and this type of prep is mostly directed toward bucks, in hopes of increasing antler size.

The idea of doe and fawn health needs are usually pushed to the wayside and we, as hunters, need to be thinking about them just as much. The whole deer herd being healthy will make for better hunting in general when season approaches.

The first step to accomplishing a healthier deer herd is to see what you have to work with. This is a perfect time for game cameras to come into play. I like to run cameras in multiple locations to take an inventory of how many deer I have, including does and fawns, not just bucks.

I start my camera setup in mid-June, because by this time, all of the new fawns are up on their feet and moving around with the does. May and June are also the months when bucks start growing antlers. As the bucks grow into summer, I try to keep an inventory of them.

Keeping an inventory of how many deer you have year after year will help you know if your deer herd is improving, as well as help you be a better hunter when fall season finally rolls around.

If a hunter has scouted using trail cameras and knows that they have 8 to 10 different bucks on their land, they are more likely to be patient if they are in search of a trophy buck.

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The second step is all about location. Placement of a trail camera is one of the most important things a hunter can do, followed by what the hunter puts in front of the camera.

During the summer months, deer need minerals to help antler growth. So, how is this helping does and fawns? When putting my cameras out in mid-summer I make several different mineral lick sites. Deer instinctively seek out the nutrition they need. When they find it they will revisit the same area often. I like to put these lick sites near trails and/or water sources.

So, my camera setup is going to be over my lick site. I use a product called Vita Rack Lick Site. It is a blend of premium quality vitamins and minerals essential to balanced nutrition. This product is essential to a deer’s health. It even improves a does milk, which makes healthier fawns and provides deer with a better immune system. A healthy immune system, plus a powerful blend of B vitamins, allows deer to thrive all year long.

Deer will visit the sites often, making it ideal for getting several pictures from your game cameras. Another favorite setup for taking pictures is a location in which I have been using a food source attractant such as apple, acorn, corn, etc. I have even used products that are flavored in powder or liquid forms.

When using such products, I will pour them directly on the bare ground, or if in liquid form I will pour on a stump and/or log. Pour it on something that it will stick to. Deer will lick on the stump, or actually chew on the pieces of wood that are soaked with the irresistible taste of apple or acorn flavors.

This type of product improves body weight and antler growth in deer and is perfect for getting several pictures, especially bucks

Besides all of the minerals I like to have a few food plots growing as well. Clover is an excellent choice for a summer food plot. A combination of several sweet tasting clovers are ideal and will keep deer coming back. Having both food plots and minerals out at the same time give deer a perfect balance of all the nutrition they need to thrive.

The third step is scouting. Now that the hunter has food plots and mineral sites out they need to start breaking their game camera pictures down and start scouting.

I begin in late July or early August by walking around looking for signs to start hanging my tree stands. I try to start patterning deer, by looking back on my game camera pictures. I try to determine which way the deer are coming from and where they’re headed. I then get out early in the mornings or evenings and try to watch as many deer as I can.

After I figure out the travel routes that deer are using the most, I begin hanging tree stands in August. In Missouri for instance, archery deer season opens on Sept. 15. This gives me close to a month for my area to calm down before hunting.

So, with a little extra effort to get your deer herd the healthiest that it can be, you are improving your chances of seeing a lot of deer and bigger bucks when it’s time to start hunting.

By Heath Wood