I've been hunting deer from the ground for decades, way before the idea of trail cams came into existence and I've always wanted to know how to locate big bucks before the season opened. I've done all sorts of weird things but something I've done with great success happens to involve sewing thread. I've written several articles regarding this method and as my techniques evolved, I've updated that info to reflect that.
Here's basically what I've done:
I would gather about 1000 yards of white or black sewing thread and head off to the woods. My objective was to catch mature bucks on their way to and from their bedding areas/feeding areas without disturbing either of those places. By tying sewing thread about 60" - 65" high and across trees, only the big racked deer would bust them. With the threads being busted, a person can follow the busted threads and see the "silent" paths the monsters were taking. Over the years, I've refine this method by tying thread 10 - 20 yards up from the bottom of the gullies and 10 - 20 yards down from the tops of the gullies as big bucks more often use these areas as means of travel as opposed to the bottoms or the tops. Last year I set out to tie my strings in late August only to realize that the woods were filled with spider webs, like they usually are that time of year, so the idea came to me to follow the path of broken webs that had been broken at that aforementioned height. In August, spiders are constantly spinning webs, so anything busted would be a relatively fresh path. One nice thing about early season buck habits is the fact that whatever path you find in August, will most likely be the same path he'll use in October. I've had great success with this "Poor man's trail camera" and thought I would share this info to anyone who's interested!
"A fool learns from his own mistake but a wiseman learns from a fool's mistake "