Before we get started, check your states game laws to see if using a feeder for deer is legal where you hunt. If it’s allowed, then it can be one of the best ways to get those valuable pictures of bucks you’d like to add to your hit list. If your state only allows feeding/baiting up until a certain time frame prior to season then utilize it prior to season to build your hit list.
A hit list is simply a list of bucks that meet the criteria set up by hunting club members or individual landowners. One of the key components of quality deer management is protecting young bucks so that they can reach maturity. A buck is considered mature at the age of 4½ years old or older. A mature buck has a fully developed skeletal system, which means that more of the digested nutrients go toward antler development. A buck can add a lot of antler mass and inches from 3½ to 4½ years old. That’s why it’s important to analyze, properly age and categorize individual bucks on your property. Once you’ve determined a buck is mature then add it to your hit list. Your hit list is simply the list of individual bucks that you and your hunting members have deemed acceptable to harvest this hunting season. All other bucks that don’t make the hit list should be protected until maturity.
The best way to age bucks is by looking at trail camera photos. When aging deer, you’re not looking at antler size. Instead, you’re looking at body characteristics. In order to properly age a buck, you’ll need to capture a series of high-quality trail-camera photos. One of the best ways to get these photos is to setup bait or feed stations throughout your property. Biologist recommend one feed station per 100 acres when conducting a trail camera survey, which is essentially what you’re doing to build your hit list. It’s best to start well before season in the late summer once antlers are close to fully developed. However, if you pick up a piece of new hunting land closer to season, don’t wait until next year, get your feed site going now to capture the photos you need (if state law allows).
Many of us live an hour or more away from our primary hunting grounds. This makes it difficult to keep feed on the ground in order to draw those bucks in for a photo session. That’s where automatic feeders can really pay off. You can stay away from your property for extended periods of time all while keeping feed on the ground and your camera taking photos.
Check out this video for tips on setting up a feeder to build your hit list.