These six trail camera tips are key to monitoring your deer herd this off season.
Trail cameras have turned the deer hunting world upside down. About a decade ago, the only way most hunters could key in on a big buck was from hours spent afield. Now, there’s devices capable of sending photographs of a Booner straight to your phone. Ah, how wonderful technology can be.
Of course, no matter how advanced technology becomes, these devices aren’t one-way tickets to success. You’ve still got to know how to strategically implement them into your overall hunting strategy. Here’s a few trail camera tips to practice this spring.
Trail Camera Types
The cheapest cameras on the market will likely only take photographs. A three photo burst after a short delay is a good option to start with. Several images of the same buck will provide different angles to study his rack.
Devices with video capability are nothing short of amazing, with some brands offering high-definition quality. Video provides insight a picture simply cannot. For instance, you can better gauge a buck’s age and assess his rack. Some models provide images and video. Time-lapse cameras will snap an image at certain intervals throughout the day, regardless if there’s an animal present. These are ideal for surveilling food plots to study deer movement over longer periods.
Most trail cameras are motion sensored, equipped with a flash or infrared. Flash cameras provide color images at night, but can easily spook deer. An infrared model’s flash is subtle, only emitting a dull, red glow. Data is stored on a SIM card and must be manually retrieved. A cellular model will send content straight to your phone after purchasing a data package through a cellular provider. However, these don’t work well in remote locations with spotty service.
Even though it’s the offseason, you still need to practice scent control when entering the woods. Use an odor-killing spray on your boots and clothes, and avoid brushing against vegetation. While it may be tempting to check your cameras every few days, wait two to three weeks – longer if you have a cellular model with long-lasting batteries, which brings us to the next point.
Alkaline batteries are relatively cheap, but they won’t last as long as lithiums. A good set of lithium batteries work better in hot and cold weather, and they’ll last three times longer. When purchasing your camera, pay attention to its expected battery life. Use a model that won’t require frequent trips to recharge it.
Food, Water and Trails
Targeting a food plot or bait pile is the best method to get consistent photographs of deer. It’ll also provide insight as to which deer are frequenting the area. Game trails, especially several converging at one spot, is another good location. Be sure to use a device with a fast trigger speed since most photo opportunities will be from deer passing through. In the late summer, deer will frequent water sources daily, so hang a unit near them as well.
The general rule of thumb is having one camera per 100 acres. However, multiple food plots, water sources or trails provide opportunities for additional ones. There’s no wrong answer here. Set out as many as your wallet allows.
Set up your cameras at least five to 10 yards away from your target. Any closer and you’ll only get close ups. Farther distances may not trigger the camera’s motion sensor. Position it so that it doesn’t face the sun, which can shine into the lens and distort your images. Wind blowing a nearby branch can leave you with a few hundred pictures of nothing, so clear any vegetation that could haphazardly set off the sensor.
Most cameras on the market are capable of being secured with a cable lock. But the sad truth is that if a thief is determined enough, he’ll find a way through. Heavy-duty lock boxes are also available to add some extra protection, against humans and curious wildlife like bears. Post “No Trespassing” signs throughout your property as an extra deterrent.
Once late summer begins to transition to fall, bucks will break out of bachelor groups and start extending their home range. The recon from the spring thanks to your trail cameras will prove invaluable. By then, you’ll have a clear picture of the health and scope of the deer herd on your property. Come hunting season, the continued pictures will help to pattern deer.