Trail cameras have not only made my hunting more productive, but they have actually made it more enjoyable. Now I have a way to figure out which bucks are “killable” and which ones are likely to cause frustration, so I can focus my time on the right bucks. The cameras have also allowed me to learn the personalities of the bucks I hunt, making my deer hunting a true one-on-one experience that is much more engaging and rewarding.
Each season now feels like paging through a great novel or piecing together a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. There is always the feeling of anticipation and excitement that was sometimes missing in the past. When you are hunting two or three specific deer, and especially when you are getting regular daylight pictures of those deer, you are in the game—the season takes on a tangible sense of drama. In this short piece, I will offer a few tips on what I have learned about patterning bucks with trail cameras and about the cameras themselves.
Place your cameras over heavy trails, on the edge of food plots, over active scrapes or (where legal) over bait. When baiting the cameras, you can get an inventory much quicker; you can get in, get your photos and get out in a few weeks. However, if you put cameras over bait sites, you can’t learn the specific patterns of the bucks that show up. They may come from several hundred yards to hit the bait site. Once you stop baiting, everything changes. The only way you can learn a buck’s true patterns is to set your cameras over funnels and sign.
Actually, a combination of all of these methods is the best choice if you can legally do so. I like to bait the cameras to get a quick inventory, pull the camera and then move it to a different location. I generally run my cameras over a sack of corn, swap the card after four days, add more corn and then pull the camera altogether after four more days.
Using this strategy, I can quickly learn which bucks are in the area and if they are moving during the day. Because I am putting these cameras primarily in, or around, a food plot, I can assume the deer will still be in that area when it comes time to hunt them. More than likely, the food plot itself is one of their endpoints.
Then by placing the cameras over crossings, trails and scrapes I get a smattering of images each week that might give me some current information on the whereabouts of the bucks during the times when I am actually in the tree. Again, these camera locations should be reasonably accessible to keep from alerting deer.
Which Bucks to Hunt
Which Cameras to Buy
In looking at the reviews, consider: battery life, trigger speed (especially if you will be placing the cameras on trails), area of coverage and range of coverage (most important if you will be placing the camera next to a food plot). Again, you will see that you get what you pay for.
Trail cameras that rely on cell phone chips to upload images to a website or to text them to your phone are showing some potential. From my research, this technology is still evolving but I would guess it is here to stay. Other technologies will come along that will allow hunters to check their cameras remotely. I am not sure how I feel about this technology. I have not tried such cameras nor have I made any in-season decisions based on this kind of instant feedback, so I had better stay on the sidelines when it comes to opinions for now.
What I do know is that trail cameras can acquaint us with the deer on our hunting properties and that this adds another level to the experience.