Bucks battle on trail camera: When the hunter’s away, the boys will play

Ever wonder what the deer are doing when you’re not in the woods, sitting in your stand?

Two young male deer battle near one of hunter David Baker's ground blinds. (David Baker photo)

Two young male deer battle near one of hunter David Baker’s ground blinds. (David Baker photo)


Are they tromping past — in broad daylight, no less — and thumbing their noses at your absence.

Forget the fact that deer have no thumbs. The answer, of course, is “Yes. That’s exactly what they’re doing.”

Nowadays (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how good your sense of humor is), we don’t have to guess how many deer are congregating in the woods when we’re home, or at work.

A simple trail camera can give us all the proof we’ll need.

One buck paws at the snow where he'd left a scrape. (David Baker photo)

One buck paws at the snow where he’d left a scrape. (David Baker photo)

And sometimes, that proof is pretty stunning.

Just ask David Baker of Glenburn.

Baker, you may recall, has been featured in this blog in the past. The avid outdoorsman has shared his love of hunting with his sons, and has in turn shared his sons’ stories with BDN readers.

He’s also the guy who figured out a way to catch a bass with a BDN Outdoors novelty key chain that we gave away at a sportsman’s show several years ago.

This year, Baker hasn’t filled his deer tag … yet. He’s still trying, participating in the state’s short black powder hunting season.

The battle continues. (David Baker photo)

The battle continues. (David Baker photo)

But he’s sure that there’s plenty of activity in front of one of his hunting blinds, and he’s got the photos to prove it.

“I have to say that the 2014 Maine deer season will be another one for the memory bank,” Baker wrote in a recent email. “So many chance encounters with wildlife in its natural habitat, each day a new front-seat show. Topping the list this year was the lesson on the birds and the bees given by a mating pair of barred owls as they chased each other from tree to tree and made sounds that reminded me of [Mutual of Omaha’s] Wild Kingdom.”

Baker admits that his hunting options have been limited a bit this year.

“I am still healing from a surgically repaired ankle fracture that prevented me from walking into some of my more remote stands,” Baker wrote. “Because walking is still somewhat painful, I relied heavily on trail cameras to do much of my scouting, and as always, I captured some pretty cool pictures. While I didn’t capture the elusive Maine cougar (yet), I did find a fair amount of fox, coyotes, raccoon, porcupines, rabbits, squirrels and deer.”

A third buck shows up to check out the activity. (David Baker photo)

A third buck shows up to check out the activity. (David Baker photo)

Early in the bowhunting season, Baker passed up on shots at what he assumed was a lone spike-horned buck that kept ambling by. He said he hoped the buck would show up on Youth Deer Day and that his son, Aaron, would get a crack at him.

That’s not what happened.

“As luck would have it, we didn’t lay eyes on an antlered deer the entire gun season,” Baker wrote. “As the season was winding down, and the doe activity was picking up on the trail near one of my favorite hunting blinds, I moved one of my cameras to see if any bucks had picked up on the ladies in that area.”

Baker figured that if there he did get photographic evidence of bucks in that area, he’d go buy a license to take part in the black powder, or muzzleloader season.

“Well, as you will see in the pictures I’ve included, there turned out to be three young spike-horned deer that have started two large scrapes directly adjacent to my trail camera and only 17 yards from my hunting blind,” Baker wrote. “This discovery also explained why  the [“lone”] spike-horn I was seeing in October was sometimes bigger or darker than the previous time I had seen him.”

Baker’s photos are fantastic (as you’ve likely already seen). They show a pair of young bucks sparring, vying for supremacy. Eventually, a third buck shows up at the scene and watches the activity.

As the time-stamp shows, the photos were taken on Friday, right around lunchtime. Unfortunately for Baker, he wasn’t in the blind at the time.

But that doesn’t mean he’s completely out of luck.

Baker decided to purchase a black powder license after all, and will head back into the woods. And he learned that the young bucks aren’t the only male deer prowling around his stand.

“Today’s camera check revealed a large-racked buck checking out the younger bucks’ scrapes,” Baker wrote on Monday night. “With any luck, I’ll be able to make a few more 2014 memories and fill my freezer with fresh venison.”

Follow me on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.