Trail cameras as a tool for scouting the land you hunt on has been around for a pretty good while but the thrill of checking out the pictures from those units is always an exciting moment. If you have never utilized this method it can be a fairly inexpensive way to figure out what size deer you have on your property and which areas they are routinely using. As a result you will have a better chance to pattern the deer and then position your stand where you have a greater chance of success.
In the off season you can photograph nearly every deer in your area as they come to mineral licks and feeders. Once the season begins you just change the cameras to places in close proximity to rubs, scrapes food plots and game trails. As a bonus you will probably also get pictures of other animals like bobcats, raccoons or coyotes and you might even get an up close look at a trespasser.
Trail cameras are not a guarantee of success but they make your hunting more enjoyable, especially when you know that there is a quality deer using the area that you are hunting. It is a pretty good bet that if you are getting regular pictures of a particular deer that animal is going to continue to hang around the same area; assuming that the food and water supply stays the same and that the area has a good population of does (especially during the rut). In talking to expert hunters and preserve managers they seem to think that mature bucks don’t visit the same scrapes every night but will continue to come back to those areas once or twice a week. A lot of big deer will be harvested within two or three hundred yards of a scrape that is being used regularly and within about ten days of a trail camera picture being taken of the deer.
In order to have the best scouting report possible it is a good idea to run your cameras all year long. In the winter after the season is over is a good time to get a picture of your mature animals because they will probably still have their antlers and since the food supply is low they can be lured to feeders. Just prior to the season (August) is another opportune time to get pictures. With the hot and dry conditions deer will be on the move to find high quality food thus plenty of chances to get a photo. Right before the rut you can put your cameras on the scrapes and get a pretty good idea whether your trophy is still nearby.
Cameras that sell for around $100 may not give you the type of performance needed. You can purchase good quality cameras for between $150 and $275 and get the best pictures for your money. The typical problems you have with these cameras are battery life and reaction time. There are plenty of other cameras that cost upward of $400. These units are technologically superior but you also have to remember that you are leaving an expensive piece of equipment out in the woods where it can be stolen. Whether you are in a hunting club or have your own land, this is a consideration that should be discussed and decided upon. Some of the brand names that seem to be favored by hunters and game managers are Stealth, Moultrie, and Bushnell in the medium price range and Leaf River and Cuddeback in the upper price range.
A couple of helpful hints on trail camera use: Make sure you have played around with your camera enough to know how it works. Many cameras will trigger when facing direct sunlight so you want to avoid that situation. You will also want to make sure that you don’t have branches, weeds, etc. in front of the camera. When the wind blows it can create movement that will trigger the unit.
Get to work with this great strategy. You probably have a trophy deer on your land that you have never even seen. Your hunting season is going to be a lot more fun when you head to the stand knowing that today might be the day when he shows up and you bag the deer of a lifetime.