If you are a serious hunter, chances are that you use trail cameras quite a bit. These awesome tools can be used to watch deer and collect whitetail knowledge throughout the year. You can track and inventory what bucks made it through hunting season. There is something truly satisfying about trail cameras and how you can monitor deer without them ever having a clue. Combine these tools with other methods of scouting and the buck you are after is in serious danger next hunting season! There are a few simple things to remember when you use trail cameras, however, and how you use your cameras could mean the difference between quality scouting images or wasted time! Utilize our whitetail deer trail camera strategies to take your game to the next level.
Grunt, Snort-Wheeze, and Rattle this to your buddies!
Anywhere that deer eat is a great place to try a camera. Deer need a lot of calories in the spring and summer to replenish from long winters and to grow new antlers for the fall and are always on the hunt for food. If you happen to be hunting an area without a lot of available food, a food plot could be an excellent way to attract deer to a small area in order to take inventory of the animals. Not only that, but you can also help them pack on the antlers with high-quality feed!
When it comes to larger agricultural fields, the best locations for cameras are generally the field edges where the deer come in and out. Deer are creatures of habit, and many times they will use the same paths and entrances to the fields. Putting your camera in the right spot along the field edges should produce some great pictures of every deer that comes and goes while feeding.
While deer feeding areas are great places for cameras, my personal favorite is bedding areas. This is a reliable place to put a camera. As deer will generally spend the majority of their time in these areas. Deer love to bed in thicker areas that provide them plenty of cover and protection. A little bit of hiking and scouting is needed in order to find some good bedding areas. Once you do find a solid bedding area, place your camera on the fringe of it and try to not disturb the area as much as possible. You can easily capture images of deer at any time during the day or night in good bedding areas. Seeing the action on the fringes of bedding areas will help you to decipher a deer’s daily schedule.
When deer are not actively feeding or in their bedding areas, they are usually traveling between the two. So, it’s always smart to place a camera or two on any deer trails or travel corridors in order to see what is moving along these paths. A good tip to use while putting cameras on trails is to avoid placing them perpendicular to the trail itself. Unless you have a very high quality camera with an extremely fast trigger speed, you will most likely miss pictures of deer unless they are moving very slowly. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you got a picture of a buck, only to be able to see his rear end since the camera triggered too late and he had already walked too far by. To combat this, try placing your camera at an angle, looking up or down the trail. This will significantly help to get better pictures of deer, especially their heads and antlers.
Just as all deer need to eat, they also need to water. Water can be a great place to put a camera, especially if you are in a dry or arid climate. Look for any streams, ponds, or water holes that deer seem to frequent the most, and place your camera facing the water’s edge where the deer would stand to drink. During a hot summer, a good water source could easily be the most active and productive area to place a camera.
Once you find some good spots and hang all of your cameras, now you have to wait. But for how long? Most people all have their own opinions on how long to wait in order to go check a camera, and it all comes down to personal preference. The less you check a camera, the less invasive your presence is in the area. The less you will pressure any deer there. On the other hand, the more you check your camera the more you will be able to troubleshoot any problems with it and you will be more up to date with deer information. There are few things worse than leaving a camera out for an entire month or two, only to return and find that for some reason or another, it has not been taking pictures the entire time.
Deciding on when to check a camera comes down to a few different things, such as the camera location, deer activity, and the camera itself. Some cameras have batteries that seem to last forever, while others need to be changed quite a bit. In areas where my cameras are easier to check, I seem to check them much more often than the cameras that require more of a hike. Think about your goals for you and your camera and decide on when you want to check them!
I prefer to run multiple cameras throughout the year, but do what your budget will allow and nothing more. If you have read any of our stuff, nothing in the hunting world is worth going into debt for. Now, with multiple cameras what am I trying to achieve? The list below is what my whitetail deer trail camera strategies revolve around and what I want to learn.
I want to understand heading into early archery season exactly how the buck I have been watching prefers to travel. This will give me a leg up when the bucks start traveling more scent checking does. They won’t completely lose their minds until a little later in the fall and will still prefer their established travel routines. This gives you an opportunity to ambush your target buck.
If you talk to 10 different veteran hunters, they will probably give you 10 different ideas on how they like to position their trail cameras throughout the year. What I will give you below is what works for me, but everyone and every property is different.
Position #1 – Around Staging Areas Just Outside Of Known Bedding
Position #2 – I like to map out Bedding areas and then connect them to known food sources. In my area of the midwest this leads me to agriculture fields. I then place a camera along these travel corridors in a strategic spot such as a pinch point or where a trail Y’s.
Position #3 – When the trail terminates at an agriculture field, I want to understand which direction they prefer to travel. I will utilize the closest corner of the field to place a camera. This ends up being a bit of trial and error, and this camera ends up moving quite a bit to really nail down the preferred travel around the field, but I prefer to start in a corner.
This is my strategy for when I begin to monitor and track a new piece of hunting ground and it allows me to unlock a depth of whitetail knowledge that is otherwise out of my reach. You can build this strategy out as time goes on, adding cameras at other points of interest. This is my basic strategy when starting to unlock a new hunting ground. Knowledge is one of the keys to being successful as a whitetail hunter and running multiple trail cameras will only expedite your learning curve.
Scouting with cameras is not only fun, but it is a great way to learn about whitetails. If you take the time to prepare properly and adhere to these few simple tips, you will no doubt have plenty of pictures of big bucks this summer to get you ready for the hunting season this fall! Use our strategies or create your own whitetail deer trail camera strategies based on your experience and hunting ground.
Note: The two deer in the trail camera pictures I never saw on the hoof during season. I knew they were there, but we never crossed paths. Without trailcams, I would have seen the sign but not known how mature the deers were.