As summer quickly approaches I’ve got three things on my mind. Barbecues, beach and BUCKS!!! Yup, that’s right, BUCKS! The hunting season is still four months away, but the bucks are starting to grow antlers and I want to watch them grow and keep tabs on them. This is where the use of trail cameras come in to play. Trail cameras are becoming more and more popular as hunters and hunting clubs practice quality deer management. They’re not only useful in monitoring your antler growth and ultimately what bucks you would like to shoot, but also helping you determine the number of deer on your property. Working with your fellow club members or even with a local game biologist, you can determine your harvest numbers each year and keep your deer herd healthy based off of the carrying capacity of your property, but that’s a whole other blog discussion.
I don’t get too aggressive with my trail camera positioning during the summer months. High travel routes to and from a bedding area or a water source that creates the least amount of intrusion on my part is where I like to start. In WV and the parts of VA where I hunt, the use of ‘enticement’ or ‘bait’ is illegal even for running trail cameras so I have to be smart about where I put them in order to see as many of my deer as often as possible. Anywhere on a field edge where heavily used trails are coming into the field is a great spot especially since you can drive your ATV, tractor or truck right up to the camera. I guess that’s the lazy way out, but I put enough miles on my boots during hunting season so work smarter, not harder like my dad always said.
There are so many options when it comes to buying a trail camera, but from my experience the following features are important to me. Burst Mode: Making sure your trail camera will shoot in burst mode is a must. A deer could be walking through your setup or on a trail and having two or even three pictures of the same deer will get you the shot you need to determine its size, possible age and how many points he may have. Memory cards have come way down in price so get something 4GB or larger and you can take a lot of photos without having to check the camera as often. Video Mode: I love running my trail cameras on video mode, especially on scrapes or big rubs during the hunting season when I know a buck is using these areas to mark his territory or track down does. These 10, 15 or even 30 second video clips are fun to watch and can really tell you some cool characteristics about your deer. Field Scan or Plot Mode: I’m a big fan of Dr. Grant Woods and Bill Winke. These guys live off of field scan throughout the summer months and sometimes even during the hunting season. Positioning a camera 8 to 10 feet (or higher) off the ground overlooking a field can help you determine where deer are coming/going to and from the field and at what time. This information becomes extremely helpful during the hunting season and will show you where to position your stand or blind in an excellent ambush spot. AA Batteries: I can tell you from experience that the cameras that use the D or C batteries don’t last very long in the elements. I’ve had a few cameras that used each of these power sources and by far the AA battery operated cameras are definitely the way to go. With one of my trail cameras, I was able to go a full 8.5 months off of one set (8) of AA batteries. I had it set to burst mode and it was in a heavily used area which resulted in a lot of pictures and I was very pleased with the results. If you wanna save some coin in the long run, purchase the rechargeable batteries and you’ll have months if not years of use out of those batteries and your camera.
No matter what trail camera you choose to buy, I hope these few tips help make your choice easier. There are a lot of good cameras on the market ranging as low as $99 to as much as $600, but if you look for these features in your next camera, I promise you’ll have a blast looking at the photos or watching the short video clips. They provide excellent insight into your hunting areas and show you things you may have never even known were there.
Good luck & Shoot em’ straight!